Saturday, April 26, 2008

Evangelicalism: Sacrament and Word

Is evangelicalism too logocentric in its worship services? In Tom Wright's lecture at Calvin College on the Sacraments (see the clip below), he makes an interesting point that in some churches there is such a focus on the preached Word and on the centrality of the pulpit that the sacraments are pushed to one side with the result that the service becomes more like that of a Mosque with all Word and no Sacrament! Now, Wright can't be accused of having a low view of preaching, consider the following quote: "A church without sermons will soon have a shrivelled mind, then a wayward heart, next an unquiet soul, and finally a misdirected strength" (Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship [London: SPCK, 1997], xi). I do get what he's saying since I've been in (= orchestrated and lead) services where the whole worship and prayer session is merely an extended overture to the sermon. I've also been in churches where the eucharist or Lord's Supper is served at every service (esp. Anglican and Church of Christ congregations) and if often becomes very mechanical and meaningless. I've also noticed that some liberal churches include more Bible readings than some "Bible believing" churches. I do wonder then how one integrates this all together: Prayer, Sacrament, Praise, and Word. Perhaps it's time that evangelicals (re)discovered liturgy.

3 comments:

CJW said...

Mike, possibly a bit unfair about congregations celebrating the Lord's Supper by rote each week... Just as with prayer, surely it's frequency itself that diminishes the action. But, yes, some evangelical's doctrine of scripture is functionally equalivalent to the Islamic understanding of the Koran - and it shows in their worship!

CJW said...

um, "NOT frequency itself that diminshes the action..."

Jeremy said...

There has been an effort in recent years within the churches of Christ to place more emphasis on the Supper in worship. It goes along with some of what NTW is saying. One prominent voice in this tradition is John Mark Hicks. You can read more of what he has written on the Supper at: http://johnmarkhicks.wordpress.com/