The Question of Discipleship
I welcome my fellow traveler and conference attendee Fr. Andrew Wyns to Ancient Future Worship. “The question of today is discipleship. How do we raise up disciples in the Church? If we look around at American Christianity we are met with the overwhelming sense of Buffet Religion. Buffet Religion is religion that the consumer can approach taste and move on to the next flavor. It appears that it is no longer important for individuals to be a member of a Church/worshiping community and even more it may not be important for the individual to even attend a worshiping community. How can one be a part of “The Church” if they are not a part of ”a church”? To answer this question we must like at what “The Church” is and why being a part of it is important.
What is the Church?
Firstly let me say that we are not referring to an architectural structure that people gather in to worship but rather the gathering of people for worship. The Church is the people of God, the house hold of God, the gathering of the children of God, the body of Christ. It is a reference to community and it is impossible to have community by one’s self. One cannot be discipled into the people of God if the people are not a people or if the body is not a body. This body has form and shape it is not a bodiless spirit floating around. If the previous statement were true, than we should call the church the ghost of Christ. But The Church is not the ghost but the body of Christ. The form of the Church has aged and changed over a few millennium but nonetheless it still must retain form and structure. The form and structure that is the oldest known to us is both liturgical and hierarchical. We see this in both the Scripture and the culture from the time the New Testament was written. Each member of the body has a job and place. The liturgy tells the story of salvation and the people recount it weekly. Being a member of a liturgical body means that you have a role to play in the worship of the Lord, and in the ministering to the other members. The Priest leads the people as they enter into the throne room of heaven. The Liturgy itself guides the body through a faith walk: Praise, repentance, glorifying his name, studying the word, eating at his table, and being a witness to the world. Each of these can be said of the Church. The Church is a community that Praises God. The Church is a community that is penitent. The Church is a community that glorifies the name of the Lord. The Church is a community based in Scripture. The church is a community that partakes in the Lords supper. The Church is a community that is a witness to the world. This is the essence of the house hold of God.
Why is being part of the Church important?
If the Church is the household of God than being a disciple is like entering through the front door and becoming part the frame work. If the person enters the house, receives a tour, and walks out the back door they are not part of the house. They may have an idea of what the house is like but that idea is based only on the time that it took to complete the tour. If you have a tour of a museum it does not make you part of the museum. You could talk about the museum and describe the artifacts but not nearly as well as you could if you were a part of a museum. A security guard, a tour guide, a custodian, and a curator are all part of the museum and know more about the museum than anyone just walking in the door. These individuals have spent night and day in the museum knowing every corner and nook and in essence they are the museum. The artifacts are nothing without those who care for them and protect them. We have all met people, who are not in a church, who can tell us what it means to be a Christian but do not know what it means to be the Church. They have had the tour of the Church but they have not become part of it. As time elapses from their last visit their perception evolves. The human mind places meaning on things and reinterprets experiences as time passes. Our memory of when we were teenagers evolves over the years. Our popularity or lack thereof may be magnified the further away from that experience we get. Our experience with church, however difficult or great it may have been, will always be distorted the further we get away from the community. Our belief and interpretation of the faith will always be distorted the further away from the community we get. It is the community that supports us and keeps us walking the path of discipleship. Being a disciple means being part of the community.
Discipleship is more than just the initiation into the body of Christ, it is walking out the life of a student being formed into the image of Christ. As we enter into the Christ community that is shaped by; praise, repentance, glory, word, table, and witness, we are transformed into the image and likeness of God. We then resemble the image of Christ both individually and communally as an icon to the world and a window into heaven. This cannot be done in the fragmented Buffet Religion that we are currently seeing in America. Our view of the Church must transcend the idea of stylized worship or ethereal ghosltiness. It must become concrete, historical, iconographical, and communal.” – Fr. Andrew Wyns