An understanding of the church that is all too common
February 6, 2014
church. No promises, mind you. Miller's two posts provide us with a rich source of understanding the bitter fruit of the consumer church. As such, reflection on this can be a fruitful endeavor. Miller's doctrine of the church is actually quite prevalent among conservative evangelicals.
Mike Cosper, author if Rhythms of Grace has written a helpful piece engaging Miller's thoughts on the purpose of the church's Lord's Day gatherings.
[It's] no small irony that Miller, a paragon of the "me" culture of memoir, has essentially said he left church because it didn't work for him. I fear that Miller doesn't have the self-awareness to see how narcissistic and condescending his posts are, and how consumeristic his critiques of church are.Read the entire article HERE.
I wonder, though, if Miller's thoughts don't say as much about our contemporary worship culture as they do about Miller himself. His description of a church gathering is two-dimensional: we listen to a lecture and sing songs that connect us to God. Miller says he stopped attending because he doesn't learn from lectures and doesn't feel like he connects to God through singing.
This description of the gathered church is anemic and shabby, but it's also the description that many American evangelicals would use to describe Sunday mornings. Rather than a robust engagement with God's people, God's word, and God's Spirit through interactions with one another, songs, prayers, scripture readings, and the Lord's Supper, we think of Sundays as merely preaching and music. Rather than an immersive, formational environment shaped by the physical architecture of space and the spiritual architecture of a Gospel-shaped liturgy, Sunday Morning is a platform driven spectacle, led by mega-celebrities at mega-churches and would-be-celebrities and smaller churches. Rather than a challenging and diverse diet of milk and meat, celebration and lament, confession and assurance, we're fed a pump-up-the-jams hype fest that culminates in a "You can do it!" sermon and a marketing pitch for membership. It's an environment that feels hostile to doubt and suffering, unless your goal is to overwhelm them both with enthusiasm...
I think Miller needs to be challenged and corrected. But I also think his comments reveal the tragic lack of spiritual formation in many of our churches today. They remind us that many Christians have no meaningful vision for why the church gathers; for why we sing, preach, and pray.
The solution isn't trying harder to please religious consumers and church shoppers. Instead, we need to look to the old paths, where the good way is, and keep telling the only Story that gives us a sense of ultimate hope in this tragic and broken world.