The good Lord has blessed Nashville with an abundance of churches that manifest in every possible shape, size, and theological flavor. If anyone complained that their search for a church that ‘fit’ them couldn’t be found in Davidson County, few folks would be convinced. Yet, if the ‘seeker’ bemoaned that there was a peculiar and unsettling redundancy among all these churches – other than the necessary belief in Christ as Lord and Savior – one might be enticed to hear more.
John Greenleaf Whittiers’ 1872 poem, The Brewing of Soma, includes words that have inspired both traditional hymn and contemporary song. These words also capture that distinct, problematic, and consistent trait that is not only part and parcel of most churches around middle Tennessee, but has been a persistent element of church almost since the first century AD. Here are the most often quoted words to his poem:
Drop Thy still dews of quietness,
Till all our strivings cease;
Take from our souls the strain and stress,
And let our ordered lives confess.
The beauty of Thy peace.
Mankind has applied tremendous and imaginative effort and funding to the structuring of church, not only in its outward architecture, but also in its inner praxis, in order to lift the attendees attention heavenward. In majestic buildings with towering spires, in awesome works of art and song, with eloquent oratory and emotional appeal, and in a plethora of other ways, the church diligently strives to lean the hearts of those in the pew upwards to the throne of God.
It is this quest, however well or poorly pursued, that all churches are the same – which also underscores the problem an increasing segment of society eschews. Church has, for all intents and purposes, usurped the Spirits role. The simplicity of the gospel has been overrun by corporate policies requiring measurable success. What has been achieved are, more often than not, conversions to the church rather than to the Lord. We’ve ordered Christian life so well that God can’t get an edge in any place. We strive too hard to make church work unwittingly and functionally warehousing Christians rather than discipling them – which requires the power of the Spirit, not the talent and might of man.
Some progressive souls are suggesting that within what we deem as our success, are the clues to our failure. No matter how beautiful and awe-inspiring, more and more people are discerning a Headless body. We need to confess that we’ve tried to find our peace through all the wrong means. Christ is our peace. People want to see the Almighty, not the might of man. People want to hear the voice of their Creator, not the appeals from the pulpit. People need to see Jesus, not the tapestries and multimedia screens.