James MacDonald (Harvest Bible Chapel in Rolling Hills, Ill.) recently wrote for the “Out of Ur” blog on reasons why he “is not emerging.” Among the reasons: “Because Christ’s is a kingdom of substance, not style.” He explains:

“Candles and bells, paintings and sculpture, incense and chanting—great! Let’s bring back the best of all those offerings of worship, but let’s not confuse style and substance. According to Jesus, it’s still truth that sets you free, not artistic expression. Wearing suits and ties is certainly not necessary and it can be contrived and unnatural, but wearing jeans and sandals is not a means to the revealed presence of Christ. John 14:21 teaches that obedience to the substance of Christ’s teaching brings His “manifest presence,” not forms—old or new. In most of these discussions, we are simply inserting an ancient-dead form in place of a modern-dead one. The former feels new because it’s so ancient, as in, “Wow, we lit candles and sat in circles at church—that was so powerful.” Or wait, was it the form that was powerful or just the broken routine that allowed my heart to worship with fresh sincerity? The renewed, ancient forms of worship are powerful if they are offered in spirit and truth and will become just as worthless as they become routine.

“The power of Christ is not experienced in style, but in heart-felt substance and to miss that point is to set the stage for Emerging Church II when our kids get sick of the currently cool. Style is fun, and fresh methods can promote sincerity; but the manifest presence of Christ which is the life of the church comes in response to biblical substance from the heart, not surface adjustments which can quickly become an end in themselves.”

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