WE NEED TO BE A BBC CHURCH
There has been something kicking around in my mind since Chick’s presentation on Saturday and his sermon on Sunday that I want to talk about. The need for us to be a BBC church. I don’t mean that we should be a congregation of people who watch the BBC ( British Broadcasting Corporation for those of you not from the UK) but that we should be a community of God’s people characterised individually and collectively by BBC, Biblically Balanced Christianity.
When I conduct a wedding there is a part of the ceremony where I have to say “AND WHAT GOD HAS JOINED LET NOT MAN PULL ASSUNDER” (sorry for the non inclusive language) In other words, there are somethings that God has brought together that need to stay together, in this case, a husband and wife. I think when it comes to Church and Christian spirituality there are also a couple of things that God has joined together that we should not divorce but all too often do.
WORD AND SPIRIT
John Calvin said many wise things and he had something crucial to say about the subject of Word and Spirit. He wrote that “Word and Spirit belong inseparably together.” This reflects the teaching of the New Testament but sadly there has been a tendency in church not to reflect this balance that Calvin is talking about. Probably we have all experienced expressions of church that have emphasized one at the expense of the other.
RT Kendal for much of his ministry at the famous Westminster Chapel in London argued passionately for Word and Spirit to be held in tension. He talked about this tendency to divorce them.
“The problem is that this ‘silent divorce’ means that – almost wherever you go – it is one or the other. Not only that; neither side admits to a problem. You can’t tell Word people they don’t believe in the Holy Spirit; you can’t tell Spirit people they don’t believe in the Bible! And the great gulf is fixed and neither learn from the other, speaking generally. What is needed more than anything in the world is that we see it is not one or the other that is needed but both – simultaneously. The simultaneous combination will result in spontaneous combustion – and then the honor of God’s Name will be restored.” RT Kendall
One of my theology profs used to say half jokingly, “The Word without the Spirit and you dry up, the Spirit without the Word and you blow up, the Word and the Spirit and you grow up” Let’s grow up by holding the Word and Spirit together. Lets be a church committed to Scripture and yet open to the Spirit.
Paul described the Thessalonian church with words that always make my heart beat faster “our gospel came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and deep conviction 1 Thess 1: 5 There you have it Word and Spirit. The Word, the Gospel and the Spirit, combined to make a powerful impact on those people and their community. I dare to believe it could in and through Westlake too.
POWER AND PURITY
On Saturday night I thought Chick did a masterful job in showing us how one of the most damaging divorces in the church happened, how power and purity and were split from one another. In some ways he was describing my own spiritual journey. I was brought up in a Pentecostal Church where the emphasis very much was on the fact that the Holy Spirit brought us power. This focus on power brought another focus on experience, to experience this power the Holy Spirit had to enable you to speak in tongues. Later I became a pastor in the so called “Holiness Movement” and the focus was moved from power to purity, the focus on the work of the Spirit was on making us holy. This emphasis meant that there wasn’t an emphasis on experience, speaking in tongues etc but on ethics, living a life that reflected holiness. It felt like you had to choose sides, power or purity, ethics or experience.
Not only did Chick describe this divorce well he also passionately and convincingly argued that POWER and PURITY should be held together. As disciples and as a church we desperately need both power and purity. If the Spirit of God is at work in and through us then Westlake should be marked by a purity that is only explicable by the power of God and a power which is authenticated by reflecting the purity of God. We dont need to choose between ethics and experience. Christian spirituality should be marked by both.
Walking The Tightrope
I remember vividly going to the circus and watching the tight rope walkers. It seemed to take so much effort to keep balanced. I’m sure it was partly just for the crowd but they seemed to lean one way and then the other and had to work hard to maintain their balance. It has often felt the same to me in my life as a disciple and in the life of the church as a pastor. The balance we are talking about doesn’t come easily. We need to work really hard to maintain the balance, to hold together WORD and SPIRIT and PURITY and POWER. It sometimes means going beyond our comfort zone, sometimes reconsidering what we have believed, sometimes listening to people with a different perspective.
Reflecting on this past weekend I want to renew my commitment to that difficult balancing act. I dont want to settle for power without purity or purity without power, what about you?