Sunday, November 26, 2006

Pia Desideria and Christ Lutheran Church

Disclaimer: this is an awful paper I wrote for a class. I thought some of it interesting, so here it is. Please feel free to butcher it. I haven't read all of Pia Desideria, by Philip Jacob Spener, but I liked what I have read and am applying it to my congregation.

Everything I read and do at Luther revolves around what I’m doing at Christ Lutheran Church (CLC). This is probably the best reason for having the contextual education component. However, it can lead to myopia, which I hope I haven’t contracted at this point. This being said, as I was reading Pia Desideria, hoping to learn something about the Pietists that followed, I started applying Spener to CLC. His 6 hypothetical corrections could be used well at Christ.

1. the earnest and thorough study of the Bible in private meetings, ecclesiolae in ecclesia ("a church within the church").

I have always liked the idea of having small-group Bible studies. This would do many things such as: bring a smaller community together in a tight-knit bond, teach the Bible, bring a sense of ownership to the community (that the pastor isn’t the only Bible scholar in the church, we all are), and to show what it was like for early Christians.

I think there are dangers here as well. Whenever there is community building, there is the problem of exclusion. Whenever one is studying the Bible, questions arise; and sometimes the answers people reach are not necessarily correct. However, I think that these are small prices to pay for a knowledgeable congregation.

2. the Christian priesthood being universal, the laity should share in the spiritual government of the Church

Yes. We do have an active laity at CLC, however, like in any church, it is the few that provide for the many. I think that #1 would help with #2, but I’m starting with this one at my church. Starting for the summer months, the congregation will be planning worship and thus, will be taking part in the priesthood of all believers. I’m really excited for this to go, I’m just nervous that it will either be so far-out that no one will recognize Christ (either the person or the church) in it, or too boring that the same problem will happen. However, this is the risk that one takes. It may not be successful at first, but it will work in the long run.

3. a knowledge of Christianity must be attended by the practice of it as its indispensable sign and supplement

This, of course, is personal. One cannot impose practice of spirituality, however, I think that the first two will help facilitate this process. I don’t think that Christ has too many hypocrites, besides me, but I know so few outside of church too. And we all are hypocritical aren’t we?

4. instead of merely didactic, and often bitter, attacks on the heterodox and unbelievers, a sympathetic and kindly treatment of them

We need to welcome the stranger better. I don’t know how to do this, but I have some ideas. Currently, there is no communication with a visitor once they have left our building. Pastor Sue is fantastic about remembering people from one time to the next, and talks to every person that comes to church. But we need to figure out how to get their names and numbers.

I think a good place to start is with the ushers. Currently, we have a bunch of male ushers in the back of the church (where few people enter) and one cute (warm and welcoming) elderly lady who hands out bulletins. The men stand and talk before the service, and hand out the occasional bulletin, but rarely do anything besides that. I think if people were encouraged to sign the guestbook, which is already there, we could send them a thank you card or go visit them. Currently, the guest book still shows my family’s last visit, May 14th, 2006 on the same page as November 11th, 2006. That’s 6 months. We’ve had more than 20 visitors in 6 months.

5. a reorganization of the theological training of the universities, giving more prominence to the devotional life

This applies to Christ Church only in the area that we have four seminary students using this place as their contextual education site and one Luther intern. If we were offered more time for the purpose of devotions, that would be interesting, I don’t know what would happen. Another idea would be for each of us to take a small group (see #1) and lead devotions for our duration. This would build a small group for 2 years, then they would be on their own. This could be harmful in the inevitable partial destruction of the group. However, if the student is any good, the group would stay long after they depart.

6. a different style of preaching, namely, in the place of pleasing rhetoric, the implanting of Christianity in the inner or new man, the soul of which is faith, and its effects the fruits of life.

This leads to an interesting question, since we are all among the priesthood of all believers, why not have lay people preach, on occasion? Either way, the planting of Christianity has already been done. However, I do think that Christianity needs to be nurtured for the previous positions to take hold. This cannot be done, I think, by mentioning the lawmakers every sermon, which is currently done. I think there is a time and place for calling to action and a time for the filling one’s heart with wondrous things. That’s all I’m going to mention about my boss’ sermons.

I think Spener is useful in this day and age. I think the title could be “Small Group Dynamics in the Thriving Church” or some such and still be relevant. I plan on using this in my community, after all, we are not just musicians, we are Christian Educators too.

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