Learning Anew the Old Language
Lacking a Language.
In any analysis of “where we are heading” there are four words which we tend to use without engaging our brains because we assume it is obvious what they mean. Vision. Faith. Discipleship. Journey. These are big words, huge ideas, words of power. They are like deep wells that go down into the bedrock of the Bible and our culture, with the potential to refresh and enliven the whole of life. But because we use them glibly, without reflecting on what they mean, they have become clichés. Their power remains available to us, but we are not accessing it, and so we cannot put it to work and realise its potential. It is like using a Ferrari to pop down the road to the post-box.
We have a theology of God’s abundant, transforming, liberating grace which is “Enough for all, enough for each, Enough for evermore”, to quote Charles Wesley (H&P 48). But because we do not stop to examine what these four words mean, a connection is missing. We do not have an adequate understanding of how the grace of God actually feeds us, how it gives vision, grows faith, shapes discipleship and enables us to engage with the journey to which God has called us.
We are “under-powered” because we are not paying enough attention to the ways in which God empowers us; because we do not understand what they are, how they work, and why what they offer us is vital. So in studying these four basic words, I want to focus on four basic questions: What is this? How does it feed us? How is it created? And how can we get it - get more - go deeper - go further?
A few may be attracted by the fun of an old religion dressed up in new clothes. But are they attracted by the religion or the cultural packaging? Shallow when addressing the challenges of bioethics, human identity, multi-culturalism, the insidious forms of modern warfare and atrocities such as the Holocaust.
question marks about the substance - shallow in terms of spirituality, too.
Actually feed them, or actually turn out to be so shallow, contrary and unrelated to their context as to be utterly useless?
Others are attracted by the opportunity to construct “new ways of being church”, and yes, fun, but what happens when they discover that these ways are just as prone to the same problems as the old ways of being church? That these too can become legalistic, ritualistic, dogmatic and bogged down in isms? These can also be cliques, stagnate, etc. disillusionment and fall away.
Too much emphasis on the externals, the cultural aspects of the commodity, and not enough on the content, the substance.