Ok – this is important for mission which is where we are headed with these blogs.
I said in the previous blog that, “more and more we hear talk of a churchless Christianity and a Christian less Church.” What I mean by that is that there is more and more evidence that some so called Christians believe that they have faith even though they don’t go to church and that others believe that they can go to church and not believe the “Word of God that endures forever”.
So for the first proposition that you can have faith in Christ but have nothing to do with his body which is the church is a none starter. The church is God’s creation not a man made voluntary amalgamation of like minded people. It is Christ’s body and it has marks – the Gospel and the Sacraments. Where those are Christ is. This isn’t my idea, it is God’s. Our confessions say pretty clearly, “The church is not only an association of external ties and rites like other civic organizations, but it is principally an association of faith and the Holy Spirit in the hearts of persons.” — Apology VII, 5. The church is the place where the Holy Spirit calls and gathers and enlightens us. It is God’s way of witnessing to the principalites and powers. It is the place where God’s plan of salvation is preached “so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places. 11 This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord” – Ephesians 3.
The other proposition is interesting and there is a lot of evidence that it exists. Years ago someone wrote a long article about the number of Democrats that are Catholic and yet are rabidly pro-abortion. The article finally got around to the point that “the great thing about the Catholic church in America is that you can go and participate and call yourself a Catholic and never have to believe a thing the priest says”. Since then we have seen among those who do go to church more and more evidence that they do not always believe what their church teaches and therefore the church shopping aspect of life together takes place. More and more are going to church for the social, entertainment, self – help aspect. They don’t necessarily believe what the church teaches because they don’t really know what the church teaches. They go their for friends, or family or the music.
There is the strange aberration we see among some “believers” that Christ is Lord and Savior but they do not believe in the sacrificial nature of Christ’s person and work. The idea of being washed in the blood of the Lamb is “gross” in the words of one of these folks. As Micheal Horton (no Lutheran he) wrote a few years back “not thinking that ‘Christ crucified’ is as relevant as ‘Christ and Family Values’ or ‘Christ and America’ or ‘Christ and World Hunger,’ we end up assimilating the gospel to law. When people ask for more practical preaching, for a more relevant message than Christ and him crucified, what they are falling back on is law rather than gospel.” (“Christless Christianity” page146 Baker Books 2008).
If the word of God endures forever that means that we witness to a timeless Christ that entered our time and space and shed His blood to destroy death and sin and hell. A “Christian” by definition then is more interesting in dying to self than reinventing self; in preaching Christ crucified than Christ the self help guru. That is what I mean by a Christian – less church. So we have folks that don’t go to church and still believe they are Christians and folks that go to church all the time thinking they are when they aren’t. Christian that is. The sad part of all this is that it really comes down then to me and Jesus and it is whatever I conceive or hope Jesus is. There is no mutual consolation and admonition of the brethren because they are busy trying to go through life with them and Jesus that you become a fellow traveler only as far as the therapeutic nature of your two faiths can take you.