Dear Friends in Christ,
We are living in a time of opportunity.
It may feel to you like a time of crisis; a dismal time of confusion and senselessness. I won’t deny that that is true. But it’s also a time of opportunity. The darker the word becomes, the more ready it is made to hear the gospel.
We must learn to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with the world. In order to do so we must hear and take seriously the questions that the world is asking.
There is a tendency, in times of change, to want to reverse the flow of time; to go back to simpler, less muddled days. Every conservative movement wants to conserve. You must ask, “What do you wish to conserve?” Amongst many Christian groups there is a desire to conserve and to restore a past in which Christianity enjoyed a place of preeminence and social dominance within our culture.
But in endeavoring to do so we are, in the process, ignoring the questions that people are asking today. And the old answers that we are offering will prove dissatisfying and irrelevant to those who are questioning.
The gospel is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow–as Pastor Hodges reminded us in his sermon delivered on the occasion of our congregation’s 75th anniversary. Nothin could be more true. But the way in which we communicate the gospel needs to meet the needs and questions of the hour.
To communicate the gospe in a fresh manner requires our understanding of how the gospel addresses the questions presently being asked.
The goal of our Sunday morning catechesis this year will be to consider the old truths in a new light. Catechesis is a word which refers to a particular method of pedagogy: questions and answers. The word echo is found in the word catechesis. Our basic blueprint for catechesis–the catechism–is set up in a question and answer format. “What does this mean?” “What does such baptizing with water indicate?”, etc. The questions are prescribed. But what if those questions are no longer the ones burning on people’s minds?
A new catechesis is required; one that begins by asking: “What questions do you have?” and “What questions are now circulating through the world at large and in people’s hearts?”
These are the questions that we will try to address in Sunday morning catechesis. It may unsettle you some because we will begin by taking seriously the questions that are at hand and being posed by a world that may look to you a little bit crazy.
The world at present does look more than a little bit crazy. The world has lost its way. It has lost its God and Savior. But the gospel and our Lord Jesus Christ doesn’t abandon a lost world. And we shouldn’t retreat and try to cloister ourselves off in some conservative circling of the wagons. That is what monasticism did. Men and women went and hid behind their cloistered walls, dismayed at the world.
Meeting the world and seeking to be relevant doesn’t mean surrendering to the world. And being contemporary doesn’t mean changing a style of music or putting a swank coffee bar in your church building. Being contemporary means meeting people in their lives filled with real hurst, questions, and worries. The gospel is conversational–faith comes by hearing, not by a shallow make-up job and a slick presentation. Being in the world but not of the world is a challenge, but it is not an unreachable goal. It requires sense, faith, patience, love, and thoughtfulness.
I hope that you will consider joining me as I pursue these ends.