Dressing the Cat
One of the things that we must hear over and over is the Bible’s call to the simple and ordinary ministry of the church. It is not just the world or the progressives (ours and those outside the PCA) that we labor to resist but our own flesh. Adam has turned our eyes to things that run contrary to the ways of our Creator. We find ourselves in constant conflict with new ideas and new ways to accommodate the world and the flesh but these new ways are like dressing a cat, they are no help to the dressed or the dresser.
How we seek to adorn the ordinary speaks to what we believe about how God saves and sanctifies. If our response to a small congregation or what appears to be a small ministry is to add a building, a staff member, a program, or make a change in our style of worship then we confess, by our thoughts and actions, that we believe a cat in skinny jeans is a better cat.
It seems especially odd in Presbyterian circles, where our confession speaks of the primary means of grace as Word, sacraments, and prayer that few to none ever say: “we seem to be struggling; perhaps we should meet for prayer and have more preaching.” But a quick trip through church history and the book of Acts will prove this very thing, that God makes use of his ordinary means to do His great works.
From Sinclair Ferguson’s introduction of the little book “Letters of William Still” I borrow the following:
“The basic conclusion which Mr. Still has reached about the life of the church is that it should be simply structured—so simply, indeed, that it could be transported to any place, time and circumstance and continue to operate:
What we are trying to do is to build a church which in all essentials belongs to the ages and incorporates all the biblical elements which alone can stand the test of time and yet which leaves people wonderfully free within the simple all-embracing scheme to adopt, improvise and modify the pattern as may be expedient for this time and that place and these people, here or there, whether in the highlands or lowlands.”—(from Still)
Our focus must be the ordinary means of grace. Everything in our church life must be pressed through the grid of God’s plan for the church. We must be relentless in pressing this pattern on ourselves. And when we find our cat sporting a new hat or a pair boots we may momentarily wonder who dressed the cat before realizing we did. So we press forward, we repent of the stupid and foolish things we do as a church, and we once again put our hope in the promise of Christ to build His church. Once again we give ourselves to the regular and ordinary means of grace believing that this is the will of God for us and we have no need to seek a church life that will in some way do a better job than God’s means.
There are no shortages of churches that are growing in numbers and activities but there is famine of churches where the love of God is there passion and their zeal is to do the will of God at home, church, and in society. If you long for the second of these two options be assured that we will not grow in that direction without those ordinary means—Prayer, Preaching, and Sacraments within the context of Christ’s church. In the land of the exciting we will be dull. In the land of the new we will be old. In the land of the spectacular we will be plain. In nearly all that the world counts as virtuous we will be without virtue. But all of this is but a tiny price to pay to hear on that last day that we have been good and faithful servants. Press on brothers and sisters.