Scott Clark has recently posted a series on church membership. I have been quite enjoying it. The latest post created a mixed response for me. His representation of a high view of membership in which he likens it to marriage was fantastic. But the latter part of the post made me wonder.
He makes the point that when Christian believers find themselves on the bivouac in God’s world they should consider the church scene, perhaps even declining certain moves if the landscape is wanting:
“This also means that members should take care of their souls when they change employment or move house. Frequently it seems to be that economic considerations trump the spiritual so that Christians find themselves in a place with no congregation and no means to plant one. This is, to be sure, highly problematic. Would you move to a community where there was no oxygen? Would you move to a community where there was no food? Of course not! Why would you move to a place where there is no place to worship?”
I hesitate. It is certainly undeniable that one ought to “take care of his soul” when considering creational calling. It really should be second-nature to ask specific redemptive questions in the midst of creational endeavor. But at the same time, I think there should also be due caution given any tendency to potentially mismanage one’s dual citizenship in the other direction. True enough, we should take care against the demands of creation to unduly interfere with those of redemption. But one may find that in his zeal to take care of his soul that he has neglected the demands of his body.
I have heard Christian believers speak of moving to be closer to a particular church. And in response I have always only heard kudos for demonstrating pious commitment, even as much as I have curiously never heard any corrective to it. (Tangentially, one often hears what I like to call the “totem pole syndrome.” This is where Christian believers rigidly rank their commitments. It goes something like this: “God first, then church, then family, then work, then recreation, etc.” First, it is hard to conceive of how “God comes first” when he is sovereign over all things, to say nothing of how it sure sounds a lot like perceiving the Most High as an agent amongst equals. And I’ll let the implicit pietism go for now. Second, at least in the world I inhabit, I simply cannot work with the tyranny of reckoning relatively equal vocations. Sometimes family is sacrificed by the demands of my work, sometimes vice versa. Sometimes the tally-man will just have to find another way to tally me bananas for a week or so while I gallivant with my family in south Florida or northern Michigan. And just a few weeks ago I had to forgo both a deacon’s meeting and a Classis Renewal pow-wow to do just that. Good thing Jesus is sovereign over it all or the guilt would be killer.) Just how well might these sorts of things fit into what might be considered the better of a two-kingdoms understanding?
It is more my view that as citizens of the two kingdoms, which are equally and sovereignly ruled by Christ, Christian believers should strive to relate to them accordingly, however imperfectly. The left-hand kingdom is one characterized by law, the right-hand kingdom by grace. It would seem to me that vocational calling is as much Christ’s as effectual calling; when God calls us into his world it is just as legitimate as when he calls us to his church. This is the complicated reality of having dual citizenship. It is not easily solved when one understands he is subject to a Sovereign who rules both kingdoms equally but differently.
So I am not convinced that the reality of a less-than church scene in a particular geographic location necessarily should put the kibosh on one’s creational plight. It seems to me that creational demands—economic, educational, familial, relational—demand superior consideration when doing creation. It only makes sense. Hard as it may be for some to swallow, this means that, ultimately, creational course should be decided by the principles of creation and not redemption. Moreover, it should be guarded against to think this somehow impious on the part of the Christian believer. In point of fact, it should be considered quite the opposite.
If we are going to be serious when it comes to being faithful to the principles of redemption, which is to say, hold unswervingly to the confessional Reformed tradition in both belief and practice, should it not be the same as we bid in creation? After all, the Triune God is sovereign over both kingdoms and is the Author of the principles of each.