Thank you so much for your kind and thoughtful comments the past couple of days regarding this discussion of a church’s vision — or the vision a church may project — and its relation to how the members of that church act on a day-to-day basis. If Stanley Hauerwas is right in that the moral life is as much a matter of vision as a matter of doing; if one acts in the world according to how one sees the world; if our actions are informed and shaped by our attitudes and outlooks; then what can the church do about tweaking — or in some cases, maybe, completely overhauling — the vision?
What specifically can the Church, or a local congregation, do to help Christians see their faith and their citizenship in the Kingdom as a completely different world, a totally different time and space, that determines how we act in this world, in this time and space? Our actions need to be determined beforehand by what God has done for us, what he’s doing for us currently, and has promised to do for us tomorrow. It all has to be connected.
What can the Church do?
I’ll start this part of the discussion by suggesting a return to the spiritual disciplines. To me, it seems like the logical first step.
Corporate fasting would remind us that our devotion to God informs not only where we eat, but what we eat, and when. I’m in control of my growling appetites, not the world and not the culture and not my co-workers or neighbors. Fasting sharpens our spiritual focus. And it teaches us that we don’t have to conform to what’s happening around us. Nobody’s making us do anything.
Daily reading of the Scriptures fills our hearts and minds with faith language, faith images, and faith ideas. It’s a constant reminder that we live according to the big picture of what God is doing for us through Christ and that our work and play and activities of living on this temporary planet are small in comparison. It reminds us that Christ is Lord, not Caeser; that we’re citizens of heaven, not the Empire. It will shape our vision to pay more attention to heavenly things than earthly things.
Constant prayer keeps us in continual communication with the Father, which also fosters these same ways of looking at things.
I would recommend the church teaching the spiritual disciplines from the pulpit and in Bible classes. Frank discussions and direction regarding prayer and fasting, study and service, and confession and submission will energize a group of Christians. The reality that all of life is informed by our status as children of Almighty God will quickly set in. I would suggest the church develop curiculum for use in the home; fasting with a small group, praying with the family, studying with the kids, meditating with the spouse. Maybe just ten or fifteen minutes a day within each family, with small group discussions about the previous week on Sunday nights, is all it would take. A church family then sees itself as doing things the rest of the world doesn’t do. They experience being separate from the world and bound to each other in Jesus. And they’re much more able, even more willing, to let go of the society which has such a hold on us and embrace the eternal realities of God in Christ.
Right there next to your point “daily reading of the scriptures”, I would add “extensive scripture reading during corporate worship”. Akiva said that there is no higher form of worship than the study of the Bible. How true that is! And yet how much scripture do we read as a body when we come together on Sundays? I think it’s very moving that a synagogue will read three or four chapters from the Word at a time. Conversely, it’s very sad to me that we don’t do that because we’re afraid of getting bored.
Good job. It seems to me that we tend to forget that we are colled out of the owrld and that we are to be different from the world. We try so hard to look the same, act the same, think the same and say the same things as the world that we forget that we are different. We forget that being different is our goal.
James, I can’t tell you the frustration I’ve felt when, in planning a worship service, I recommend a passage of just nine or ten verses to be read and am told it’s much too long. Let’s just read two or three verses.
This is food for another post, but part of that issue is that we don’t know HOW to read the Scriptures publicly. The way we read them IS boring! And it’s killing us.
So I agree with you and Akiva and Karl Barth and the Spirit of God. And my mom. More and longer public readings of the Bible in our assemblies will transform us and shape our vision to be more like that of our Christ.