I've been relishing Brennan Manning's book The Signature of Jesus. His writing is so compelling and his though processes move you forward in your faith.
Of particular interest is his chapter on The Discipline of the Secret. Manning's argument, which I tend to agree with, is that the Church today has taken the "meat off the bone" of faith in Jesus. Because we are so concerned with the numbers of people that show up to our religious shows each week, we lower the bar of what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. This is so true!
From his book:
"As we make our way into the twenty-first century, there never has been a time in Christian history when the name of Jesus Christ so frequently is mentioned and the content of his life and teaching so frequently ignored. The seduction of a counterfeit discipleship has made it too easy to be a Christian. In a climate of mutual admiration, the radical demands of the gospel have dissolved into verbal Alka-Seltzer, and prophetic preaching has become virtually impossible. By and large, American Christians today are spoon-fed the pabulum of popular religion."
"...in the words of Bonhoeffer, many Christians 'have gathered like ravens around the carcass of cheap grace and there have drunk the poison which has killed the following of Christ.'"
Manning goes on to suggest that the church performs the sacred things of faith to far out in the open. That worship, for example, should only be for those that pour out their hearts to the God they follow, and is not meant to be a rock concert that draws consumer minded people to a venue of their choosing. He would suggest that the "mysteries" of faith should be mysteries, that we are "marketing" our wares to much to the world. The secret things of faith, meant for true believers, followers of Jesus, should be lived out separate from the world.
He goes on:
"Worship, as a expression of the discipline of the secret, is not for dilettantes seeking entertainment. It is only for small groups of clearly committed Christians who comprise and intense community on the basis of their common, intense loyalty to Christ; and their expression of the meaning of that loyalty and community is communicated to and with one another in worship...Worship as arcane discipline is not for the streets, for the posters, for the media, for the masses. It certainly is not the Hollywood Bowl and drive-in Easter sunrise services, nor Sunday East Room exercises in American civil religion, nor Astrodome rallies or religiosity...It is not bumper-sticker and slick-paper Christianity."
I have to wonder, after reading Manning, if we have not swung the pendulum much to far to the side of "entertainment." As a musician that has in the past, entertained many crowds, leading worship for a church fellowship sometimes seems to similar to what I used to do. The question becomes, "am I supporting a system of entertainment where people come each week and look at 'the stage' to see what might move their heart?" Sure, I know that we're "pointing" our focus to Jesus....but are we putting up a hurdle we force the congregation to jump over in order to see Jesus and not us?
I want to explore what it means to bring back a discipline of "secret" into the church. I don't want to ask non-followers of Jesus to do something that their heart is not in, and likewise, I want to make those secret expressions of faith more valuable to those that do follow Jesus with everything they have.