A Church of the Word and Human Beings—without the Whiz-Bang
By Donald P. Shoemaker
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” – John 1:14
“You are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church.” – Matthew 16:18
Steven Spielberg recently said this about his great movie, “Lincoln”:
“Special effects, high-genre concepts, big set pieces, eventizing history have been what I’ve been doing with both my imagination and on films that are based on historical fact. But I’ve never before made a film without all of those nets for me to fall into. I’ve never made a film where this was going to succeed or fail based on the writing and based on the performances.” [italics mine]
That, he added, “is one of the scariest things I’ve ever gone into.”
If that’s scary, imagine having a church’s ministries succeed or fail based on the “script” (the Bible) and on the performance of its “actors” (us) without the benefit of gizmos and gadgets and gimmicks (like Spielberg’s “high-genre concepts, big set pieces” and other “nets to fall into”) we seem to think are essential to having a successful church. Really scary!
One Sunday morning a couple of years ago, my church had to conduct most of two services without electricity when power went out over much of “Old Town” Seal Beach. We had to rely on natural lighting, instruments without any enhancements, the words in our hands, and the voice projected by my own lungs. That’s sort of Spielberg’s “Lincoln” movie.
I hasten to say I wouldn’t want a Sunday like that very often. But the experience reminded us that, ultimately, “church” is people and the script we read and teach and live. That’s called “incarnational ministry”—being a flesh-and-blood church that follows our Lord, who came to us as flesh-and-blood and lived amongst us—a church shepherded by flesh-and-blood leaders like Peter, warts and all.
Let’s ask ourselves, what kind of a church would we be if all of a sudden we had nothing but Jesus, our script and our humanity?