My observation is that it is increasingly difficult to locate a church which offers worship centered on Christ. Christ “hangs around” the service but can be more of an upgrade than the basic offering.
Sustained attention to Christ – His person, His glory, His work, His reward, His Trinitarian sonship, His incarnational manifestation, His sacrificial work – based on concentrated attention to a biblical text is a rare thing. Not only is it not being done in any general way, it is being taught that it should not be done. We must see Christ only through our own need with the emphasis being placed on our need – to overcome our habits, hurts and hangups, etc.
I certainly affirm that there must be sustained attention to how Christ’s work impacts how I live my life. I must grow in skill in righteous and wise living. Christ shows me how.
But it is not just my needs I bring to Christ. I also bring my desire to adore Him, worship Him, explore Him, grasp Him with the love of my heart and mind. I am of the impression that when these drives are at work strongly in my life I most experience the shortcoming of sermon paradigms operative in church life.
Why is this the case? I think it is more challenging to prepare such sermons. The amount of textual work, the richness of the materials, the intersect with systematic theology and church history all make for longer and harder work in the study. The bait of sociological richness in our sermons is too tempting, the hook too attractive. No doubt, there is some immediate attention by the audience (congregation?), but I am not sure the transaction between pulpit and pew is rich in soul work.
As I am on sabbatical and look on as the church does its work, there seems to be little of a Christ-enraptured taste to our offerings. The empty hole inside of us is not filled only by wise and successful living. All the best that holy and righteous living offers us in this world still pales in comparison to the Pearl itself – Christ.
However God leads in my future, it is this which I want I want to give, this hunger I want to feed, this drive I want to direct.