Church vs cult

We are now in the middle of “The Global Day of Prayer(s).” For ten days, Christians from different denominations are getting together to pray in the morning and in the evening here in Saskatoon (and all over the world). It is not a great success (as the world defines success) so far here in Saskatoon. There are not huge numbers but there are true numbers. The people who decide to put aside time for this are doing a good work. We are getting glimpses of what it means to pray without ceasing. Where the heart of Christian worship lies. There is not huge numbers but then huge numbers would have had me more concerned about the quality and integrity of the Global Day of Prayer anyway… The truth is that the Christian life, which is a life of prayer, of relationship and communication with God and His body claims our time and effort. And this requirement stands in opposition to the modern worlds creeds of quantity, business and instant gratification with as little effort as possible.

When you look at church history you see certain patterns. One pattern is the pattern of “Revival”. It seems like the cycle of “Revival” follows the following steps.

1. Divine revelation and intervention (Pentecost)

2. Powerful gifts and ministry (Mission/Incarnation)

3. Formulation of structure and tradition (To preserve the missional/incarnational work)

4. Status quo (Life goes on)

5. Nominalism (The “first love” and emotion seem to have been forgotten. Duty without life takes over).

6. Secularism/Death (Denial of the Spirit)

7. Stirring of the Spirit in a prophetic way.

and then it starts all over.

This cycle has and can be observed in all Christian denominations. And I think the Global Day of Prayer is a part of the number 7 point here in Saskatoon. The people coming out to pray, that are setting apart time to listen to the Spirit have a true desire for new life within the Church. I think the world “revival” is not the best word to describe this desire but rather it is a return, a repentance from the path that has led to a church that looks more like a company, a political organization or a museum (some orthodox churches)  than anything else. Many denominations in both the east and the west has turned to worship the actual worship ritual rather than Christ. Many has turned to worship the emotion rather than the One Who created us. Fr. Alexander Schmemann writes: (Bold words are added by me)

Having been turned into something ‘sacred in itself’, worship has as it were ‘profaned’ everything else in the Church: her government becomes juridical and administrative in our eyes; her ‘material’ life is strictly separated from its spiritual content; and the hierarchy (having become the celebrants of the sacraments only, in which nobody sees the expression, creation and fulfilment of the Church) are naturally pushed out of the sphere of Church administration, finances and even teaching since all these spheres have become profane and unsanctified (This is the disease of the East). The disease of the west is off course that in many places the Church has turned into an administration or business only without sacramental theology at all. Now the sole content of the Church’s life, worship has ceased to be understood in its own real content, which is to be the expression, creation and fulfilment of the Church. The overwhelming majority of orthodox people (or rather Christians over all)  have no interest in the meaning of worship. It is accepted and experienced in mystical and aesthetic but never ‘logical’ categories. It moves the soul of the believer by it’s sacredness, by it’s mysteriousness, by it’s ‘otherwordliness’ and by how good the worship team is. And everything that happens to fall within its orbit becomes overgrown and complicated with symbolic explanations or emotional addiction. It is characteristic that in the symbolism there is no symbolism of the Church and that in emotional addiction there is very little discernment. Thus people love to explain the Divine Liturgy (or lose themselves in emotion) as the depiction of the life of Christ. But who explains it (worship) as the expression of the life of the Church, as the action by which she is eternally realized? Who ever sees that in this action she is not depicting the life of Christ before the congregation, but is manifesting, creating and fulfilling herself as the Body of Christ? The believer loves the ceremonies (be it the orthodox ordo/typicon or mega church concert) symbols, the whole atmosphere of the church building, this familiar and precious nourishment for his soul, but this love does not long for understanding, because the purpose of the cult is thought of precisely as the bestowal of a spiritual experience, spiritual food. For the membership of the Church worship has ceased to be the Church’s selfevidencing.”

 of course when the worship itself becomes the object for our worship something has gone terribly wrong. And when something goes terribly wrong God usually stirs the gift of prophecy and sheds His light on the problem area.

Today we lift up the Church in prayer at the GDOP. We pray for true unity within the body of Christ. But this unity can only grow if we stop to focus on each other as members of the body and we start to look towards Christ the head. Yes, we need to know each other (and now each other deeply) to be able to “move the” body but it is Christ we must gaze upon to find life. The heart of the problem within the Church is that we worship ourselves or each other rather than Christ and from this we need to repent.

In Christ,

Fr. Jakob



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