Monday, June 23, 2008

Deep Church

American Baptists (I refer to the denomination, not the nationality) have a saying that "the Bible is our guide in faith and practice." I had intuited this when I first began attending our particular church, although it was perhaps several years before I heard this creed voiced. It was the reason I felt called to this congregation. Any church that recognizes the Bible for the correcting plumb line that it is cannot drift too far astray.

Reformation is an ongoing process. Despite that fact that there is a church era in the distant past that is labeled The Reformation, the congregation resting on the truth of the Bible is required by that truth to continually self-examine to determine if they are remaining faithful to those truths. As an individual congregant, I must do the same as regards my personal life. As some one who leads part of the worship ministry I must take as one of my professional tasks that same examination of the Biblical models of worship.

To do this I read the Bible (!). I also try to keep abreast of what people who are far more theologically educated and deeper thinking than I are writing about worship. I'm probably far behind the curve, but I try to remain aware that the curve is there!

Recently I've been reading some things coming out of the Deep Church movement. The phrase "deep church" was coined by C.S. Lewis in 1952. This group of contemporary theologians, which would include the late Dr. Robert Webber, write somewhat in response to a couple of reform movements that have occurred in the last 30-40 years, namely the seeker-sensitive movement, the emerging church movement, and the alternative church movement. Those three reform movements sought to shake the Church out of a perceived period of the doldrums, propel it forward with stylistically new forms of worship, and explore more effective ways of engaging non-believers, with some significant success. The Deep Church movement reacts to this somewhat by reminding the reformists that there is value to remaining anchored in essential theology; to remaining unified, not by style, but by substance. I was glad to read the voices from the Deep Church movement, because I had become concerned that style was overwhelming substance.

Here is a nice definition of this discussion:

" A deep church is one that has a deep theology, that is able to read scripture, pray and worship drinking from deep wells.

"The deep church conversation I think requires us to acknowledge that there is more than the evangelical story or the charismatic story or whatever tradition we swim in. The deep church conversations wants us to see there is a richer, deeper story of God, that if we begin to hear from can help train us and make us fit for living the Christian life.

"With those in the emerging church rightly encouraging us to ask what does it mean to be church and those in the alternative worship movement encouraging us to ask what does it mean to be worshipping communities, I believe it is good that those who have begun this conversation around deep church, are encouraging us to be rooted in the gospel and engage with the theological tradition of the church."

Andy Goodliff at Deepchurch


Michelle said...

I'm smiling!

Accord to Goodliff's definition, our church is becoming "deep"! Woo hoo!

Prayer time is increasing too. There were so many prayer requests on Sunday morning that Pastor Matt has mentioned the possible need to create alternative opportunities for prayer! A prayer night, perhaps? Wow. That's exciting!

He has also initiated Bible reading among smaller, more intimate groups, and folks seem to enjoy that.

People have been moved to tears (happy ones) during the worship service lately, and I thank God for that.

The Lord has also been speaking pretty clearly to several people in the congregation, and the encouragement and hope that results from a personal encounter with God blesses everyone, not just the one to whom God spoke.

Thanks so much for this post!

Joyce said...

This is such good news, Michelle! I'm sure everyone there is feeling encouraged.