The last lecture that we will be discussing from Westminster Seminary California’s annual conference, Christ, Kingdom, and Culture, will be Michael Horton’s, titled “Christ and the Workplace.”
What stood out most was his insistence (which he also highlighted last year, and which doesn’t have much to do with his actual topic) that “God doesn’t need your good works, your neighbor does” (which is a quote from Luther). Horton’s point is that, ironically, it is the believer whose church is a “full-service community” replete with ministries for every niche demographic under the sun who will be least equipped to love her neighbor. The reason for this is that when churches adopt an “every-member ministry” model, the result is that the people who come spend all their time ministering to other religious consumers—not just on Sunday but throughout the week—to the point of exhaustion. When you’re up to here in ministry to other church-goers, who has time to help a neighbor with a leaky roof?
On the other hand, when we have a proper understanding of the way a church’s ministry works—namely, that Jesus serves the people through his ministers (you know, the guys who wear the black gowns), and the people get ministered to—then the congregation will actually be empowered on the Lord’s Day rather than sapped of all strength. Then, lo and behold, they can go out and do their good works for those who actually need them, like their neighbors.
This is why at Exile Presbyterian Church the top line of our liturgy says, “The Divine Service.” Yes, there is service going on, but it’s Jesus serving his people, and not so much the other way around. After all, it is the righteousness based on law that is characterized by desperate and frenetic attempts to get God to notice us (think: prophets of Baal cutting themselves with stones), while the righteousness based on faith is content to receive first, so that it can give afterwards.
So the next time someone says something like, “Church isn’t supposed to be about getting from God, but giving to him,” you can respectfully demur, and say that Horton told you otherwise....