Everywhere

   People used to "go to church." This was a bit of an anomaly in Christian history and does not necessarily work good things for the Christian community.

   For instance, now we count success by the number we attract to a "place of worship" at a given hour. This will not be the case for success in the 1st century evangelical movement, or we will have failed.

    Let me explain. Traditionals and Moderns build gorgeous, beautiful arenas for worship. The purpose of the arenas is "shock and awe." The worship centers are for worship as "decision making." That is, the orientation is for "persuasive" worship, with the generational metaphor of the "invitation" at the end of worship. Regardless of what comes before, if people "answer the invitation" then the service is a success. If no one moves, the "persuasive" element of worship is a failure.

    I will now use the outdated term "Post-Moderns." I know there are those who think everyone is a Post-Modern until they have a two year old. My business consultant friend thinks Post-Modernism ends at 8% unemployment rate in the United States. I wondered if Post-Modernism died on 9/11, because the response to the terrorist attacks was nationalistic, religious and militaristic.

   Traditionals and Moderns, however, have adapted to their surroundings and so will Post-Moderns. Our feelings, fears and foibles do not change but we accomodate to the changes around us.

   Post-Moderns are not so much about conformity and control as they are about cooperation. Granted, the final writing of their story is not in yet and they will want more conformity when they do have a two year old and a lot more control when they have a fifteen year old but they may never lose their penchant for cooperation.

   That is, Post-Moderns are about "Everywhere" rather than "Just Here." This is not a bad thing.

   Consider the Scripture.  In Isaiah 6, God calls the Prophet into the Holy Place, the Temple. There the Prophet meets God, attended by mighty angels, called seraphim, who guard the Holy Place. They recognize God pretty well and cry out:

   "Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord of Heaven’s armies. The whole Earth is filled with His glory" Isaiah 6:3.

   In our day, holiness may be related only to moral excellence but the word for holiness here is kaddosh and means "other." God is other, other, other. For one of the first times in antiquity, God is transcendent, above and beyond man, and worthy of reverence.

   Reverence here is the response of the Prophet. He does not grow quiet or sit on his hands. He actually cries out in response to the transcendence of God, "I have had it. I’m a goner. I’m a sinner who lives with sinners. I can’t live in the sight of the Holy, Sacred Other" Is. 6:4.

   The Prophet meets God in the Temple and realizes his own failures as a man, a member of the covenant community and sees the failures of the community. He, the Prophet, has a transcendent experience, for he sees he may not "mess with God."

  An "Other God" leads a haughty man to reverent announcement of his own sinfulness and the failure of his religious community. The man cannot cleanse himself. God can cleanse him. A cleansed man can then be used "everywhere."

   You know the story of Isaiah’s journey, right? He leaves the Temple, goes to the royal court of King Ahaz and gives the king a message from God. Isaiah takes a "virtual reality" tour of the future, predicting the fall of Syria and Israel and the later birth of a virgin’s son who will be called Immanuel.

   Post-Mods, like Isaiah, have a terrible fascination with God; terrible because God seems so awesome to them He repels them and fascinating because He is so overpoweringly present with them. You can see this in their music and images.

   So, for the Post-Modern, the purpose of worship almost stops at the recognition of God and the realization of their own frailty. They do not have "persuasive worship" with a bittersweet salvation appended to the last five minutes and may find it very discourteous to ask someone to make a public decision about anything at all.

   So, while the Traditional and Modern may ask each one to enter, dressed correctly, at the appropriate time, sit quietly, sing the songs numbered in the book and respond outwardly with an inner determination, the Post-Modern seeks those who will go along for awhile to see if they like it. The Traditional or Modern approach is about conformity and control and built powerful institutions. The Post-Modern approach is about cooperation and community and may haphazardly build equally powerful organisms.

   Let me illustrate it this way. Traditionals and Moderns, with our "persuasive worship" are about "becoming." We want to talk about "how to become a Christian" and we have a very modern, business model approach. Post-Moderns want to talk flatly about what it is to "be a Christian," if they wish to have this conversation at all. The one does not often translate to the other.

   To reach this generation (actually these "generations" for they cross over numerous age lines), the Church might decide to be "everywhere." When Isaiah experiences God, God sends Isaiah out of the Temple to a life so busy and insightful many Bible students Isaiah must have been three people. God sends the Properly Passionate Prophet out of the Temple to the World.

   Isaiah has "Church" everywhere he practices worship. Worship is the spillover from an experience with sinless God; an experience that is beyond the rational, hopelessly inexplicable. God cannot even be said to "exist" in one’s normal scheme of reality, of one’s own senses or sensing power. God is an Idea too big to be a Person and a Person too big to be a mere Idea.

   The Post-Modern Cooperative, Communal Worship model is of great value if and only if it can transcend the "come to church" mentality and take the Church to, well, Everywhere.

   For, the purpose of the experience of God as Person in the Holy Place in Isaiah 6 was not to introduce Isaiah to the transcendence of God or even to show Isaiah his sinful nature. No, the reason for the encounter in the Temple was to call a Prophet for a Practical Purpose. When God asks, "Who will go for us to the people?" the answer from Isaiah is "hineni," or "Here I am, pick me."

   If this new generation is what God wants, it must not be for the purpose of knowing only, but to act. The prophet is characterized by obedienct activity even in the face of pain and suffering.

 

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