An edited version of this piece was published in the October 2012 issue of The Lutheran. This is my original submission ….
I shared Bishop Michael Rinehart’s piece about outsiders and insiders on Facebook weeks before it appeared in The Lutheran. Although his choice of worship, especially hymns, as an example may be offensive to some, he is mostly spot on.
This is not to say that I’m in favor of dumping anything and everything just to catch the attention of the unchurched, dischurched, or otherwise uninterested population. I don’t think the bishop is suggesting that, either. But we have to evaluate every single thing we do in our congregations in terms of its eventual impact on the people who are not a part of faith community. Before you react, allow me to elaborate; we can start with liturgies, hymns, and creeds.
If the creeds help us understand our faith in the God who has called us in baptism so that we can explain what we believe to anyone who asks, keep them. If the hymns we sing overfill us with joy and the love of God so that this spills onto people around us Monday through Saturday, keep singing them. If our liturgy gives us such a solid vision of life as it is under the Reign and Realm of God that we can go out and live by that vision, live in such a way to help bring that vision into everyday reality, then hang on to such liturgies. Let us hang on to anything and everything that helps us live as followers of Jesus in a world that desperately needs the good news.
Jesus’ command to us is that we go out and make disciples, teach what we have learned. That’s the main thing for us as Church. Whatever helps us to be disciples of Jesus who can share the good news of what God is up to in the world is worth doing. Whatever changes will help people around us to hear, understand, and be drawn into this good news are worth making. But anything and everything we do that creates a barrier between others and the gospel, that distorts and distracts from the good news of God has to go – period.
Sooner or later, somehow, some way, everything we do on the inside is going to touch those on the outside … at least, it should. How are we touching those around us, outside as well as inside, with the good news? That’s what matters to Jesus, so it ought to matter to us.