And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
I was watching an ad for an online service called “Got to meeting.” This service allows multiple people to videoconference through their computers. The person on the ad was the CEO of some start up business in San Francisco and he was making a strong plug for this service and how it makes his business run. I can’t even begin to imagine how the whole thing works. The technology available out there is almost beyond belief, and it seems like every month there is a new “must have” technology product that must be purchased in order to be relevant in the fast paced marketplace in which we live
I wish I could say that the church is immune to such things, but alas we are not. You could fill many a bathtub with the ink that has been spilled on the pages of book after book of the newest and best approaches to “doing church.” Evangelism made easy! Church growth for the 21st Century! Ancient modern relevant worship that Millennials will dig! It can get a bit overwhelming as you make your way through the aisles of the Christian bookstore.
Now, is this phenomenon of new technique after new technique for church flooding the Christian marketplace unique to our time? The answer to that question is a definite NO. Ever since the day of Pentecost when the church was founded, people have been trying to improve on the recipe. Saint Paul certainly encountered this as he ministered amongst the Gentiles. Nowhere was this kind of re-invention more rampant than in the cosmopolitan and eclectic city of Corinth. New and diverse ideas were constantly passing through as travelers made their way across that busy isthmus. Surely, even the message of Jesus Christ could be presented with a bit more panache and style. Sure, it could, but there was only one problem with that notion. It lacks power!
Oh, it is so tempting to take the Gospel and try and dress it up, or in some cases, to strip it down in order to make it more “palatable,” or at least so we think. Paul knew better. He was man who was highly educated as a lawyer. He had a mind more sophisticated than the average bear, but it was the pure and unadulterated word of Christ that had transformed him from Saul the persecutor of Jesus to Paul the Apostle of Jesus. Paul knew that no amount of human wisdom and manipulation could do one thing to improve on the Good News of Jesus. Sure, he probably could have been very impressive in his discourse with the people, but then they might begin to worship the messenger and not the One about whom the messenger was speaking, Jesus Christ and him crucified. Paul, Apollos, Peter – none of them should or could be the resting place for faith. No new model of ministry, or old model of ministry for that matter, can be the resting place for faith. No particular style of music or approach to preaching or church program can be the resting place for faith. The only place anyone’s faith can rest is in the power of God, and we see the power of God made perfectly manifest in the cross of Jesus Christ. You can’t improve on that.
[Coming Close is a weekly article by our Dean and Rector, the Very Rev. R. Peet Dickinson]