Wednesday, October 29, 2008

The Protest Door

Each piece of church furniture has, or at least should have, significance in the process of worship, disciple development and pursuit of the Great Commission. The chairs seat the congregation in the manner needed for the desired communal effect. The pulpit represents the unique function of preaching in the ministry of the Word for the body of Christ. The Table conveys the communal worship of Christ in remembering his sacrifice and rekindling hope for the future. Even the copier carries the theological weight of being used of God for informing the people of God through bulletins, teaching them in handouts and worship with music lyric copies. Every utensil, in some way, deserves contemplative reflection on how it is used in the missio Dei. Indeed each instrument and tool in the church deserves a thoughtful blog entry on its use for God's glory.

Of particular importance is that means by which God corrects his people when they err. Because of the "prophetic" function of preaching, the pulpit has been a classical symbol of correctional proclamation. However, in the Protestant Reformation, Martin Luther gave us another symbol for God's correcting voice: the Door. By nailing his "95 Theses" to the front door of the cathedral in Wittenberg, Luther brought to light a means of calling for reform that occurs outside the pulpit. Certainly the door did not replace the pulpit, but instead the door came to supplement the pulpit in informing the community of faith where reform is needed.

The Door informs.
The Door fosters healthy debate.
The Door brings needed controversy.
The Door gets people thinking.
The Door holds up a mirror to the church, so that the Bride of Christ can examine how appealing to Christ she may appear.

In the present day, we most often do not use a "door" for our announcements, our news bulletins or theological theses. Other means are use for these. Nevertheless, these functions are fulfilled all the time in the present day because their importance has never diminished. For the church today, the Pulpit is supplemented by internet sites, books and magazine articles. The "Door" is still being used of God to educate, stimulate and challenge the Church to reform where necessary. For this reason, many pastors and preachers in the present day rightly maintain writing ministries concurrent with their preaching ministry.

The spoken word and the written word have different natures, requiring different skills and different content. Influential theologians such as Martin Luther, Jonathan Edwards and even the popular Charles Swindoll are examples of having both of these skills together. The preacher/writer uses both mediums for their respective functions, mining the value of each. The Pulpit and the Door are both effective tools in training the community of faith to mature as followers of Christ. For this reason, the pastor hopes that people will read his writings with similar interest that they heard his sermons. However, the genre of preaching often does not lend itself to the same nuances and arguments that writing can accommodate. Therefore, the Door may not be as popular or as public as the Pulpit. All the same, the preacher must find his "door." My "door" has taken the form of this blog site or the newspaper articles.

For the Christian who desires to have an impact in their community and world, the avenues are just as numerous. To encourage this, we place a "door" next to our front door for the Reformation Day celebration that people can nail their own "thesis" to. Both at our home and at the church, we lay out sample "theses" that people can nail to the "protest door," or they can write their own. Whatever form it takes, the protest "door" is an important piece of furniture in the Church. With all the of the forms that modern technology has enabled "the door" to take, believers can make their contribution easily. Hopefully, or Reformation Day celebration will find people celebrating the "door" through nailing plenty of "theses" as well. These "theses" are short, pithy phrases that capture what the writer believes should improve or reform about the church. Review Luther's 95 Theses for examples. In any event, the door is important. May we all approach it, hammer and parchment in hand, ready for God to reform us.

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