Become all things

"I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some", 1Cor.9:22.

Those who push the need for the Anglican church to be relevant often quote the text above. It seems to imply that, for the sake of gospel presentation, Paul the apostle was willing to put on many hats to aid the marketing of the message. On that basis the "accessing" crew (those pushing upbeat celebratory free-style forms of worship) argue that the church must be willing to adopt a style which reflects the ethos of the local community - a kind of TV "Midday Show".

The problem is that Paul was not arguing for adaptability in marketing. He was dealing with the issue of eating meat offered to idols. His point was as follows: In the Christian fellowship we must not act in a way that leads a brother astray. For that reason, Paul did not eat meat offered to idols (although there is nothing intrinsically wrong with doing that) while there was any chance of leading a weaker brother away from the faith. It is in this context that Paul makes his statement in 1Cor.9:22. In fact it could be argued that destroying the accepted worship forms of a church for some ephemeral notion of relevance, may itself undermine the faith of the weaker brother.

In Paul's first letter to the Corinthians he raises the issue of women wearing their hair uncovered in church, 11:2-16. Her hair is "her glory", the "glory of man" (humanity). Paul wants the "image of the glory of God" displayed in church, not sensual humanity. The new "accessible" forms of worship usually adopt all the dynamics of human sensuality - powerful driving music, pretty song leaders, band, high technology, topical dynamic preaching...... Simple Prayer Book worship, taken quietly and reverently, is more likely to display the "glory of God" and access his "still small voice", than sensual entertainment dynamics.

[Pumpkin Cottage]