calendar May 3, 2013 in Assembly, Communications, Faith in action, Mission, Resources

‘We Are Being Watched’

“I went to seminary for four years to do this,” said Jay Gamelin (@JayGamelin), pastor of Pilgrim Lutheran Church, Lexington, SC, as he raised his arms. The second time he did it some people in the assembly stood, recognizing a common pastoral signal in worship.

He said he felt uncomfortable for a long time because he saw a gap between church and society called post-modernism, which is present only in the Western context.

“There are beautiful things about postmodernism,” he cautioned, “and there are demons.”

He told the assembly that the medium is the message and what you see is what you get. The vehicle by which you share the message is actually the message itself. Western society has moved from using stories and words, to pictures, now to the internet to communicate. The progression of each medium has changed our being and the ways we lead.

“I’m not the biggest fan of Facebook, he said. “It creeps me out after a while. People post things they shouldn’t post. But if I’m not on it, I’m removing myself from a part of society. Doesn’t Christ sometimes ask us to go to uncomfortable places?”

The postmodern time is one in which people are skeptical of authority and see themselves as having a global identity. We now also live in ambiguous times where there is a tension between reason and mystery.

“Some of the most faithful people I know are physicists, said Gamelin, “because they get what it means to live in theory rather than truth.”

He said what begins to show up and come together in postmodernism is the character of Christ. We don’t just talk about the words Jesus said, book look at how he lived his life. We are actually watching Jesus.

The Gospel in a Post-Modern Era — Part 1 from SEPA Synod on Vimeo.

It’s also a time in which we recognize that what we do with our bodies affects our spirit. When young adults come to church, we say to them: “We’ll tell you when to sit and when to stand,” he said. “When we do that we are removing from them a piece of their spirituality.”

If they ask us if we believe in God, we tell them we are “Lutheran”. Coffee, Jello®, and Prairie Home Companion® are part of our identity. That’s not what they are looking for.

“They are not listening to your words, they are watching your life,” said Gamelin. “They see a lot of people with habits whose lives do not look conformed to Christ.”  

He said we are in the midst of a new reformation and need to concentrate not on getting people into church, but on making disciples.

“If you build church you won’t get disciples, but it you build disciples you will get a church,” he said.

He now realizes he was trained to be a bus driver. At his first call, he would get into the bus, invite people to join him on the ride. He filled the bus but when he got off to leave for another call, that left them stranded.

“We have to become a school of driving instructors, not a pit stop,” said Gamelin, challenging the assembly and its congregations to change.

We have this cup and they come to us and say they are really thirsty, and we say isn’t this a nice cup?

“They are thirsty for the water of Jesus,” he said. “We don’t need to give them anything but Jesus.”

Celebrating the roots of our faith he said there are many gifts in our Lutheranism for this time of reformation.  As Lutherans, we know we are always being reformed. We are comfortable with tension and paradox. We know we are both saint and sinner.

“This generation gets that paradox,” he said.

The bottom line is that we are now living in a “show me” culture because we want and need to see something in order to process it. As the church, we are being watched to see if our lives conform to Christ’s.