Every generation of pastors has its defining challenges. In the sixties and seventies, for example, it was important to stress the divine origin of the Holy Scriptures, and the fact that all of Scripture, not just the parts about God’s love and grace, is to be taught as the Word of God for today. The “Battle for the Bible” defined an entire generation of pastors and church members.
What is it that defines our generation? I would submit that it is broader than just the “Battle for the Liturgy” or getting the church back to weekly Communion, or any number of individual issues. I think there is something that encompasses all of these things, and that is the movement towards making our practice consistent with our doctrine. I don’t know how to put that into one word or phrase like “The Battle for the Bible.”
Here’s the thing–we’ve read our Confessions. We’ve studied the Scriptures and the History of the Christian Church. And we’ve recognized a huge disconnect between what is supposedly taught and believed, and what is practiced. And we are saying: If this is what we believe, then this is what our practice ought to look like. Regarding the Lord’s Supper, “If the Lord’s Supper is everything that we say it is, then why shouldn’t this be offered every Sunday?” Or, if we’re talking about how to handle the Lord’s Supper during and after the distribution, we are saying: “If the Lord’s Supper truly is the body and blood of our Lord, then shouldn’t we treat it as if it is? Do we want to deny by our actions what we have believed in our hearts and confessed with our mouths?”
Or, if we are talking about worship, we are saying: “If God is truly present in His Word and Sacrament, as we believe and confess that He is, then aren’t we called to be reverent in His presence? Is this not holy ground on which we stand? Should we allow our Services to be conducted as if God were not there?”
Perhaps one could look at it more narrowly and say that ours is the “Battle for the Lord’s Supper” since so many of modern day controversies seem to surround it. Pastors in my generation–ask yourself what are some of the first things you address when you get to a parish. For me it is communion frequency, how the Lord’s Supper is handled by the altar guild after the Service, closed communion, and who distributes the Sacrament. Here at Immanuel I spent the first six months or so of my time in Bible class discussing the doctrine and practice of the Lord’s Supper. I think that says something about what many of us believe to be the #1 issues in our churches.
It boils down to this: practice does matter. The way we do things shows what we believe (or don’t believe!). If we believe that Christ is present in His Supper, in His Church, then the way we conduct our Services, the way we conduct ourselves should reflect that as much as possible. What do you think? Am I overstating this? Do you agree that our generation is defined by this? Is it too broad? Too narrow? Someone else could probably say it 100 times better than me, but these are just some initial thoughts to get discussion going.