This is the first part of my response to this list of questions I received in an email. I am posting the text here verbatim, as sent in my email response.
Thanks for your well thought out email – I know you poured your heart into it, and it is clear how heavily the burden of our church, our fellowship, and our future weighs on you. I pray that you won’t be discouraged at the rate at which things change. When I was impatient for change, a friend of mine once compared the Church to a piece of taffy – if you stretch it slowly, you can make it do what you want. If you stretch it too quickly, it will snap. Because we do change so slowly, it can be very frustrating for change agents within, many of whom find it easier to jump ship and head to where people are a bit more “open minded”, at least about the issues we encounter so much resistance to. My prayer is that you would not go that way. We need good, honest, loving people who are able to examine and question the old ways, and who will lovingly deal with those who have come before. May you be one of those people.
I did want to answer some of your questions, though, perhaps with some insight I’ve gained in listening to the people who you’re discussing in many of your questions.
I feel like you know that much of what you mention is simply not an issue to me – either in the affirmative or the negative. I am not, by and large, interested in arguing about what we do on Sunday morning. Certainly that we *do* praise God is important, and certainly we want to be effective and meaningful in the way we do that, but we must also remember that *worship* is not meeting together on Sunday morning, but how we live our lives (e.g. Rom 12:1). My personal fear is that God looks down on us and is saddened to see us spend 95% of our energy arguing about something that occupies less than 2% of our time. Don’t get me wrong – there are certainly a host of things I would change about our corporate worship times if I could, but again, by and large, I am more interested in effecting change in the hearts of our people – change in how they live their lives, change in how they treat others, change in how they show their love for God and love for their neighbor. My personal feeling is that if we are somehow able to focus on creating people who love like Jesus did, people who truly want the best for each other, truly seek to honor others above themselves (Phil 2), then so many of these other problems would be solved.
If I truly loved other people the way Jesus did, would it bother me when we sing songs with archaic language like “On Zion’s Glorious Summit” which I’m fairly certain 95% of the church couldn’t explain to me if I spotted them the lyrics in poetic form and a dictionary? No. I would recognize that like me, they enjoy the way the song sounds, and it holds a powerful place in their memory, as it’s a song they grew up with, and have sung their whole lives. I would recognize that even though it is an extremely exclusive song in the sense that anyone who didn’t grow up singing it, and many who did, have no idea of what the words mean, it is inclusive in that it reminds us of the rich and beautiful tradition many of us share, and into which we hope to draw others. I’m not there yet. I hope to be.
to be continued…