The Postulant’s Screed

Several of my favorite blog reads have been especially concerned of late about how to do church … Brian Burkett, Wade Hodges, and bartender “thewalrus” at thesecondchance (don’t belly up to this bar if you’re easily offended, though; the virtual drinks are served full strength and the language can be as salty as a margarita glass).

Plus a couple of others – one of them is david u and I’ve misplaced the other – have dared to wonder if items like the Apostle’s Creed and the Nicene Creed are as out-of-date as we might think.

It makes me wonder if I should put words to my own version: The Postulant’s Screed, if you will … where “postulant” is defined as “someone making a request, especially to enter a religious order” and “screed” is defined as “a long and boring piece of writing” and/or “a strip of something set as an architectural guide to making a straight line (orthodox).”

Maybe it would go something like this:

  • I’m not sure I believe in the church anymore; after all, Jesus only mentioned it once or twice. But I do believe in the kingdom because He talked about it a lot, and so did the writers of the New Testament.
  • The problem is, I don’t know how much the church and the kingdom overlap and I don’t have a good feel for any solid preference – let alone command – about size, structure, or procedure expressed in scripture. So do those things matter?
  • I get the feeling that Jesus and his followers were much more concerned about persuading others to pursue a relationship with God through His Son … and right after that, taking care of each other’s needs as much as possible.
  • I can’t help but feel that worship began, at least, on a daily basis and was virtually indistinguishable from service. I mean right at first; right after Pentecost.
  • And something niggling in the back of my mind (it might be a verse of scripture, or maybe a song) convinces me that if I would just seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, that all the other things I worry about would be given to me as well.
  • I mean, I know what I’d like to have in worship and in church if it was up to me … and I don’t see a lot of “thou shalts” and “thou shalt nots” connected to it (except that it comes from my heart, of course) … so maybe isn’t it more important for me to serve the needs of others in those contexts? Won’t God see to it that my needs are met, and maybe even choose to meet them through my sisters and brothers in Christ?
  • Am I just crazy? Too simplistic? Need more scripture citations? (Well, the Apostles and the Council of Nicea didn’t cite book, chapter or verse!)

Okay, sorry that was long and boring.

But it just wouldn’t be a screed otherwise.

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15 thoughts on “The Postulant’s Screed

  1. I hope you guys are not the only ones in America kindling these flames. I used to think I was all alone when I had these thoughts, and now I realize there are others like out there.

    I would love to see the church come to this.

    I hope, however, these flames are not like so many of my boyhood campfires. I could light a match and touch it to the newspaper, but it always burned out before the log could actually catch on fire.

    We are going to need a lot of newspaper to light a fire under this gigantic, old, wet log.

    Baron

  2. Great thoughts Keith. Like you, I am still confused as to how we evolved into a people who are CONSUMED with all aspects of “church”. Especially when we have such little precedence for it in Scripture. The irony is we are the ones who say the scriptures are our ONLY guide. Go figure.

    I believe our calling is to be consumed with the same things Jesus was consumed with.

    Keep giving us your “Screeds” brother! 🙂

  3. It was neither long nor boring.

    I think church is important, but not necessarily the way it has evolved. Church is community. It is support, not an elite club.

    Jesus was livid with Pharisees who took God’s precepts and twisted them into a burden too difficult to bear instead of a way to ease those burdens.

    When our experience with Jesus bubbles up like a fresh-water spring, or when there is energy exuding out of us because we have been in His presence, our presence on this earth, our discipleship, our service will transform the world, because we will have first been transformed.

  4. I am not very comfortable with what you are saying. I like it. I think it is good. I believe you are looking to Jesus.

    But here’s the problem with me: I grew up a Pharisee. It’s in my blood. I know I talk on my blog like this, but when it comes right down to it. I’m scared of Jesus.

    His ways are radical. He ends traditions. He dismantles belief systems. He strips naked lies and shames them. He is not afraid to die.

    Who is this unstoppable force named Jesus?

  5. howdy!,

    i’ve read of you a bit through other folks blogs (ie brian burkett) and you have a lot of interesting thoughts, not to mention some sweet ramblings every now and then. 😉 if you don’t mind, i’ve already linked you on my own page. better to ask forgiveness than permission, as i say.

    in Christ,
    < HREF="http://iamnotoleska.diaryland.com" REL="nofollow">david oleksa<>

  6. If we don’t have “church” then we don’t have God. At least, that’s what I am supposed to believe. Can someone who works for a “church” question “church?

  7. papa bear, I work for a university and I question it all the time. But I don’t question higher education – not because I wouldn’t get an answer; but because I believe in higher ed. You can get it at a college or university. Or elsewhere.

    If it’s not the primary business of the college or university you’re looking at, I think you ought to look elsewhere.

    So start at the Source. Lots of Old Testament folks had God without a church, many without a temple or tabernacle. Even without a Savior-King; just a hope. Not good enough; but God provided. Begin the relationship there, with the King, and go outward from it.

    Maybe I should add that I’m not sure I believe in the church anyless (coining a convenient new word).

    What I believe in primarily is God’s Son, Jesus Christ – and the advancement of His Kingdom. Sometimes the church is engaged in that. Sometimes it isn’t.

    Like Fajita, I’m not comfortable with that.

    And I’m convinced that I’m not supposed to be.

  8. I definitely still believe in the church as the worldwide body of believers…

    When I look in the bible, I am forced to believe in the church as the local body of believers…

    That doesn’t mean I should never question the practices and direction of either incarnation of said church. We have gotten so far off the 1st century path that it’s not even funny…

    Even in your non “seeker-sensitive” churches, it is still all about the people, not the God they are supposed to be serving. If they don’t like a lesson, they fire the preacher. If the budget isn’t being met, they ask for money in lieu of teaching the cross of Christ. If the nursery isn’t exactly as they think it should be, they find another church…

    We segregate our congregations because of racial prejudice, and we (even in Restoration Churches) make a “holy separation” between the “clergy” and the “laity”, instead of being the “priesthood of all believers”.

    Yes, I think we have a long way to go to “restore” what the church was called to be. And that’s not a social gathering… it’s not a time for entertainment… it’s not even a place for your self-help.

    It’s not even a “place” at all. It is a movement, a called out group of people who are supposed to know Jesus and make Him known. That’s it. no more, no less.

    I’m glad that people like Keith are questioning where we’re headed, and as one who “works for the church”, I’d rather ask these tough questions and make these hard challenges than let us wander aimlessly through our existence while the lost world needs us to reach them.

  9. But Keith, I do not read the walrus at the second chance to be saying exactly what you have laid out here in the Screed. I don’t hear him complaining that the Restoration Movement has been too preoccupied with Church rather than Jesus. Instead, I hear him saying just the reverse: the Restoration Movement does not have a Church at all precisely because it has cut itself off from the creedal confessions of the Christian tradition. As such, its understanding of Church has no rooting in history. The Walrus has, of course, not stated it thus, but this seems to me to be the necessary conclusion of his arguments. The Restoration Movement is, effectively, set adrift in a sea of infinite and meaningless subjectivity wherby “following Jesus” (which can mean anything we want it to mean without a tradition) determines everything that it means to be a Christian. The similarities to nineteenth-century liberalism are palpable here as is the concomitant social bankruptcy of that mode of thinking (which became so apparent during the two World Wars.) Without a Church – a real body capable of authorizing evangelical and theological speech – all you have is another peculiar way of construing political and economic discourse(s). I am one of the card-carrying Gen X’ers that everyone is so concerned to “Church.” And everyone seems to assume that reaching us means getting back to the simple “essence of the Gospel” i.e., the religion of Jesus rather than the religion of Christianity (cf. von Harnack.) But what is missed here is that it is precisely this way of thinking that Gen X’ers are reacting against. We want a real unity between content and form, and not just a relative form with a definite content. I believe that this is why evangelicals are leaving Protestant churches in droves to join Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. And, while I do not have statistics ready at hand on the matter, this appears to me to be particularly true regarding non-creedal forms of Christianity such as the Restoration Movement Churches. This is, at least, just how it appears to me.

  10. dante (hope you don’t mind if I’m so informal as to use only your first name), i didn’t mean to put words in the tusks of thewalrus or anyone else … just to point folks to their blogs to give some background for my screed.I have no argument with your comments; I’m not concerned just with GenX’ers (I know you’re not saying that I am) but with drawing everyone who will come to Christ.And while talking about style is nice, substance is what sells. It’s the Story. The creeds tell the story – and that’s great! – but they’re not the only way to tell the Story. They have meaning for some. They have no meaning for others.But Christian people taking care of other people is living out the story beyond baptism.I just perceive the way that most Christians – including me! – are “doing church” is far removed from what first drew people to Christ.

  11. I thank you for your response. No, I do not mind informality at all.

    I am just not completley convinced that we can get what we need without the creeds. I would want to say something like, The reason we are doing Church in the wrong way is because we (not just in Restoration Movement Churches, but most all Protestant Churches as well) think that the creeds are somehow optional for Christian belief.

  12. I.e., they are not a matter of style at all, but a genuine deposit of faith bequethed to us through the wisdom of the faithful who have gone before us. I really don’t think that it is possible for us to “get back” to anything beyond them. The Gospels themselves are already “theologized” in a variety of different (but coherent) ways; they are already interpretations of who Jesus is. The creeds seem to me to be the cementing of Christian consensus on that matter for later generations. I mean, we can’t have a doctrine of the Trinity without them!

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