Monday, March 26, 2012

Who needs eternal life?

The institutional manifestation of the Church that pretty much all Christians experience is essentially stuck in a world view that is completely anachronistic; hence, rendering their witness to the world of marginal effect.

We have all inherited a form of church that comes from a world where everyone was "Christian" except the Jews and a few marginal unbelieving types or groups. That world has completely vanished, yet we cling to church structures (forms of ministry and real estate), activities (worship services and other programs), and modes of belief (religiosity, denominationalism) that allow the world of the present to marginalize us; hence, the supposition that we are in a post-Christian age.

None of this is to say that there are not churches or ministries that are alive in Christ and effective vehicles of the good news, but unless you set your expectations very low, such churches are few and far between. The majority of churches maintain their congregations and do next to nothing in terms of the commission to "make disciples of all nations." They just don't know how to do it, as institutions.

In my experience, it continues to be the individual Christian who is following the call of Jesus on a daily basis who is the primary witness for Christ. In the Orthodox Church, that is more or less how it is expected to be, but there is still a disconnect that often undercuts our personal evangelism: the growing attitude of clergy professionalism.

Once upon a time, and in some place even today, the thing that distinguished Orthodox clergy from those of other churches was their complete abandonment to Christ. This gave them the power and effectiveness to really anchor their churches, corporately and individually, in the Lord. Now, in the Greek church anyway, it is vanishing.

The Christian world has disappeared, and the world that has replaced it seems indifferent to the call of Christ, the need for salvation, and the claims of the institutional Church.

Just as modern man cannot face the fact of death but disguises it and distances himself from it as much as he can, he does the same with Christ, whom he knows about, sometimes knows a great deal about, and with the Church, which he cannot possibly understand from the outside. Yet human beings continue to be the same, in spite of their higher educational and cultural levels, their various attainments, and so on.

And while we debate, discuss and develop "new" and "relevant" ways to reach the lost of the new world, they are slipping away into the abyss, rejecting what, or rather Who, will give them eternal life, because they no longer even want it.

1 comment:

Aunt Melanie said...

The clergy as professionals--that is an astute observation. At worst, I have thought of priests as sacrament technicians. Yes, there is a lot of professionalism that goes into the training and duties of the clergy. How differently the average parish might function if the priest had spent a year in a monastery, or as a homeless person, or bending over and picking strawberries in the fields. I am not against the intellectual life and the preservation of doctrine and rites--but perhaps it is an imbalanced approach to ministry. There is that disconnect between real life and eternal life.