St. Stephen's Musings

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:: Monday, January 06, 2003 ::

Having a One Night Stand with God

My wife and I don't watch many movies that would be shelved in the "comedy" section of your local video store. They tend to be infantile, vulgar and have very little in the way of serious character development, plot or point to them.

But I must admit we do turn to TBN once in a while for a bit of humor. Usually it makes us laugh. Sometimes (and lately more often than not) makes me very sad.

The other night we flipped past it just as a young, Gen-X "youth pastor" was finishing an alter call at what at first looked like a rock concert. My wife had to remind me this was a Protestant worship service. (My wife, having attended a evangelical college is much more adept at spotting the signs of pop-American Christianity than I am).

One of things these pastors usually do is attempt to encourage people that they can be "fully filled with the Spirit" if, AND ONLY IF, they pray the simple sinners prayer. All it takes to be assured of your salvation and of having the most intense and deep relationship with God is this simple action.

My questions is this: I wonder how many of these pastors would agree to marry two people who had just met a few hours ago at a rock concert?

There is something very shallow about starting a "personal relationship with Jesus" with no discipleship, no teaching, no prayer and fasting, no church, no sacraments etc.
It is the equivalent of having a one night stand with God!
We wouldn't make the life long commitment of marriage to another person without first learning about them, their history and their family. We wouldn't marry someone without going through an intense time of preparation and counseling. Why should our life with God be any different?

There was an article in Christianity Today this past year about a growing Orthodox church in Dallas; a city where mega-churches, pop-evangelicalism, and big money dominate the Christian church scene.

"When he founded St. Seraphim as a brand-new priest, back in 1954, [Fr. Seraphim] had five or six people attend each Sunday; currently there are 300´┐Żand 32 more are preparing to join the church. "Things are booming, and I quake to think what God will do next," he says.

In the land of Texas-size mega churches, those figures seem laughable. How can 32 new members be "booming," when a big church in North Dallas might add hundreds to the roll every week? Dmitri cites the rigor of Orthodox catechizing and practice, and contrasts it with the way he sees things done in the big, busy churches: "Becoming a Christian involves a whole change of life. You have to follow Christ. If there's no follow-up, no accountability, that's not likely to happen."

Fr. Seraphim is dead-on. That is why in the Orthodox Church, those inquires to the faith must first go through an intense catachumante. This is necessary because the Christian life is just that: a life! It is not an intellectual game, it is not an emotional decision. It is a lifestyle that should change every part of one's life. It is only through a proper discipleship and arduous preparation that one can confidently embrace the Christian faith in its totality and fullness.

I wonder how many of those young people at that worship service who enthusiastically "gave their life to the Lord" are still living a Christian life? I wonder if very many of them have gotten sound, patristic, historically accurate teaching on church history and dogma? I wonder if any of them have a spiritual father whom they regularly meet with for confession or, at the very least, "spiritual accountability?"

If not, they will be effectively inoculated against the true Faith. I can't even begin to count the number of secular materialists, neo-pagans, and full blown atheists I have met who "were saved" during their childhood at some summer camp or "worship concert." Those of us in missions or evangelism need to seriously examine whether we are sharing and giving people the true Faith and if we are willing (and able) to do everything it takes to help people actually LIVE the Christian life!

I can say one thing: it will take much more than a bunch of para-church missions groups and rock concerts!

What it will take is a historically grounded, sacramental church community guided by the patristic witness and the Holy Spirit. It is only in real, authentic, communion with the Body of Christ that we are able to live out the Christian life. And if we can't actually live it out, it does us no good.

:: Karl :: 11:28:00 AM [Link] ::

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