Teresa told me I ought to being my tambourine to the Valley Open Bible Church this morning. But I would have been alone in my tambourine beating (shaking? what is it that one does to the/ with the tambourine?) had I brought one, as we went to the 8:15 “traditional” service and not the 10:30 “contemporary” one. Although the 8:15 featured songs from the 1990s and hymns, the jaunty clapping with He Lives and the Marshall stack* and drum set on stage pointed to the “contemporary” service having much more spirited music. The 8:15 service featured a guitar, bass, keyboard, and three vocalists, but, alas, no tambourines.
As the name of the congregation (and the name of the denomination) suggest, one of the main emphases of the VOB is reading the Bible. The VCOB is embarking on a new program using Life Journals and the SOAP method, and combining the “spiritual exercise” of Bible study with physical exercise (a walk in a local park), and “relational” exercise (they’ll pick up litter and greet people as they walk). The introduction to this program explained why the pastor was seated in a camp chair on the stage before his sermon. (Two reasons, actually. As a visual aid to remind people to bring chairs to sit on during the study, and also because they’re doing a drawing for a few chairs as they start the program).
I have two notes I made in this section. First, I quoted the pastor as saying, “Four years of Bible college didn’t do for me what reading it myself has,” which I marked as being ironic. He was, in the context, exhorting the congregation to study of the scripture, but it struck me as ironic because the very thing most Bible college programs pride themselves on is study of the scriptures. I think he meant to say that individual study is important and edifying and that one doesn’t need a degree, class, or course of study in order to derive benefit from it.
The second thing I wrote was, “Damn. [We] forgot to bring Bibles again.” We keep “outing” ourselves by not toting Bibles to the non-liturgical churches. We have several boxes that contain nothing but Bibles and commentaries that are currently in the huge stack of boxed books of a library that we tell people we own, but which many people are beginning to doubt. (Not Teresa, though, as she’s helped move them on more than one occasion).
No fear, though. The scriptures being referenced were beamed on the screen via power point. The sermon was on this formula:
Faith = Hearing and Believing and taking Action
With a focus on Abraham’s obedience to God in Hebrews 11: 8-10 and an emphasis on the phrase “not knowing where he was going,” the pastor walked the delicate line between what “the leadership books all recommend” for planning, and “obedience to God doesn’t always align with the wisdom of this world.” He gave examples from his own life, his triumphs and struggles as a pastor, and pointed out our having just taken communion1 Samuel 15:22, explaining that God desires obedience more than sacrifices, and then did a tap dance around communion as a religious duty. He said, Here we have performed a religious duty, but it’s not lifeless,” he explained that communion in this setting wasn’t “just going through the motions”–in contrast with liturgical traditions.
There’s something in the water. I swear there is. I’m about ready to stand up at the next service where they launch into the liturgical tradition and ask WTF? Okay, I’m more likely to ask what’s in the water . . . but really, my standing up and asking can’t be any more random than the woman in a trench coat and hat who walked in, walked to the front, and handed a CD to the pastor in the middle of his sermon. No, really — that’s my next note, chronologically, in the notes I took on the sermon.
He did a nice job of tying the sermon into two of the five points of the mission of the church, specifically Reach the unchurched and Raise up mature Christians.
I came home and sunk my teeth (brain?) into Brian McLaren’s A Generous Orthodoxy: Why I Am a Missional, Evangelical, Post/Protestant, Liberal/Conservative, Mystical/Poetic, Biblical, Charismatic/Contemplative, Fundamentalist/Calvinist, Anabaptist/Anglican, Methodist, Catholic, Green, Incarnational, Depressed-yet-Hopeful, Emergent, Unfinished CHRISTIAN because I don’t know that I can take any more church infighting without standing up in the middle of someone’s sermon and hollering WTF?