Monday, July 19, 2010
I have been reflecting on the issue from another perspective. It strikes me that secular society is painfully impersonal. Civil Marriage ceremonies are shockingly bureaucratic and impersonal. When somebody comes to request a church wedding, they get, among other things, a service and preparation which is by contrast incredibly personal. Imperfect, but real work is done to try and equip the couple for married life. Concern for the individuals can be expressed.
Now, it seems to me that aspiring to evangelise a couple who comes for a wedding, within the constraints imposed by time, expectations and situations, is ordinarily too ambitious. However introducing the personal, is something that is achievable - and may well be a good bridge towards more holistic presentation of the Christian message.
So, having met a few couples seeking marriage, I have been asking myself, 'How can I show couples that Christians value them as personal, individuals? And, I have been wondering how showing that can lead to opportunities for sharing the Gospel.
It occurred to me that the instinct to press ahead with Gospel outlines as quickly as possible, is actually to forsake our distinctive of personalness, and to retreat to impersonalness. It is deeply ironic if that happens at a church wedding of all places!
I have found little in the way of theological resources from the evangelical constituency on the matter of personalness. However, exploring through the library a bit off the beaten track, I came across Paul Tillich's lectures, 'The Spiritual Situation in our Technical Society.'
Man's self [is] lost in his own production, in the production that he calls the world of objects... he became an object amongst the world of objects produced by his own cognitive approach, losing the power in which he produced it, namely, his own centred selfhood. (p.112)
Tillich is about as far as one can get from an evangelical theologian. But, as Luther quipped, 'I will accept a piece of gold from anybody.'
The pain of living in an impersonal secular society is immense. It seems to me that wedding preparation is a prime opportunity to introduce the personal touch. It is easy to let a couple know the way Jesus informs and redeems our desire to be personal. It has value in its own right, and is an essential first step towards further fruitful evangelism.
Of course as soon as I say that, I feel the desire to calculate the number of hours that must be spent for offering something as small as such a personal touch. But such cost benefit analysis only shows how deeply rooted the impersonal is in my own heart.
I am open to other suggestions about how one should approach weddings for those from outside the church. For the time being, offering the personal touch is a key part of what I will be trying to do.