[Rector]

A famine of God's Word

 

A small survey was recently undertaken of church services spread over the main Christian denominations. The survey discovered that the Bible was no longer central in the church services.

In some churches there was no Bible reading. Others would read a verse only, and few touched on the Old Testament. The liturgical churches (Episcopalian/Anglican, Catholic, Lutheran) were often dull and dreary with very superficial preaching. The rest were experience-centred, with dreamy choruses taking up most of the service, and with sermons that were all about "meology" (subjective experience). The sermon was all about "meeting the people at their point of need", rather than Biblical exposition.

This trend is increasingly dominant in Christian worship. Relevance is seen as the great saviour of institutional religion. The drift of youth from the church has often been countered by modified evening services. As happy-clappy feel-good occasions, they are driven more by expediency than doctrinal clarity. So relevance often results in a loss of gospel content. If we continue down this road, we can expect a similar undermining of the centrality of Scripture. Bible readings and expository or doctrinal preaching does not sit well with a service seeking a warm friendly ambience. Once we think that ambience is somehow an important element in worship, or even worse, that it promotes gospel effectiveness, the cerebral elements will be relegated to the sidelines. When relevance controls worship, readings from the Old and New Testament, biblical exposition, saying Psalms, singing Canticles, biblical liturgy, and theological prayers based on God's will rather than our own desires, are relegated to the sidelines.

Our increasing tendency to affirm experience over knowledge, the subjective over the objective, has much to answer. In the end, this is the spirit of the age, and when tied to doing church or doing our faith, leaves us vulnerable to a marketed religion which panders to our emotional whims. We are again reminded how important it is for us to affirm the careful and accurate handling of the Word of God.