Rev. Dick is pastor of Grace Protestant Reformed Church in Standale, Michigan.
McEverything. So one has described this age. A fair description, I think. We live in an age where almost everything is and must be quick and easy. And to go. Whatever it is we want we want it short, simple, sweet, quick, yummy, and cheap. Hot’n Now. Your way. For people on the go. McEverything. Our kind of age. Our kind of place.
Well then, the question is fair: have you ever gotten a cheeseburger, fries, and coke…at Bible Study? Which is to say: have you ever not gotten much, or gotten indigestion? Almost worse: have you yourself ordered such fast Bible-food? Have you done this by going to Bible Study without having studied in preparation, and without prayer, seeking only to get something spiritual quickly, just to have something “to go,” and to ease conscience pangs brought on by your daily misplaced priorities?
Yes. McSocieties. McBible Studies. That is what can happen in these perilous times, in these perilous fast and easy times. Causes? Culture, certainly. I mean the fast-paced kind. From the mark America has been set to go, to go fast, to grind up the ground, to go on. Result? There are Made-In-America Bible Studies that cover the most ground, maybe, but fail to dig anywhere at all into the depths of the truth of God. Another cause? Cash, to be sure. It is a prosperous time in our nation. With money we can buy toys. With our free (non-working) time we like to relax, and be nigh like unto vegetables (couch-potatoes) or outright hedonists. The prosperity has a cost—to get and stay ahead, or just even, we must, we think, work, work, work. But no time for Bible Study, no possibility of deep thought about the things of God. If we do take some time for devotional exercises, we Mc it—the one minute Bible study before we drop off to bed. And our consciences are soothed once again. Another cause? Computers. Not just the machines. But the computer-mind-set. It is Mc, to be sure. Indeed, with the proliferation of computers and the propaganda of the most megahertz out the windows-95 has gone much of our willingness quietly to meditate, diligently to study, and patiently to wait for the Spirit’s light when it comes to that which we cannot compute: the Word of the living God. Computers and our Bible societies? Well, from firstname.lastname@example.org it is not hard to think “email@example.com.” In other words, thinking computer-like we can easily be led to want societies to deliver as quick as possible, to give us a kind of spiritual “fix” in our busy lives. Any society that does not so deliver, that does not give me something quick and easy, is snail-mail.
McSocieties. McBible Study. Due to an on-the-go Culture, beaucoup Cash, and crazy Computers (and ten other things). But these things are not ultimately to blame. Sin is the problem. The perilous fast times in which are these strange societies are due to sin. And the escalation of it. Sin. The failure to take God seriously. The failure to sit and ponder God’s Word. The loss of appetite for spiritually good food. That is the reason for McSocieties.
We are not surprised that the McChurch mimics McDonald’s. It is not surprising that where the preachers are but short-order cooks (McPreachers) and entertainer-clowns, there will be, perhaps, billions and billions served (saved, they tell us), but billions of bloated stomachs still. Nor are we surprised, really, that where Calvinism has gone strangely Irish (changed into McCalvinism—Calminianism?!), where a McCross gospel is preached (golden, without the red), there will be McSocieties galore. For all these perversions of doctrine and Christless gospels can produce are McChristians—fashionable, ’90s’ Christians who want societies like themselves: short, simple, sweet, yummy, and cheap, I guess…. The good news they want to hear is news they can use—and fast! God to go. Christ to go. Doctrine on the run.
I say, we can understand all this there—in the church-hamburger joints. But how so in the true church? How can we, who are graced to love God and God’s Word, honor God so cheaply, and treat God’s Word like hamburger? All of this perversion of Bible Study makes us nauseous. We hate the very thought of McSocieties. We would go to God, and to His Christ, and meditate on truth—stay there a while, digest it. What is, and what can be our problem? Why do we want just sort of to grab at God’s truth and to go on in our life content only with a form of godliness?
Sin again. The world’s sin is just our sin. We can sin worse than any worldling or McChurchling. Knowing what is good food, we can desire just this world’s garlics and leeks. Recipients of the gospel, we prefer the World to the Word. We lunge after this earth’s goodies, and dabble in the things of the kingdom of heaven. We are devoted to sportology. We are dilettantes of theology. Our sight of the invisible God and blessings of the covenant of grace has dimmed. Our delight in God and spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ Jesus has diminished. Our trust in the revealed promises of God is lacking. We have good intentions, somewhere deep in our hearts, but the spirit of the age of Mc has done its fast and destructive work….
Shall we have good societies? Believing ones? Societies of the Holy Spirit? Societies of the Word? Societies in the society of God? Societies well attended with those young and old who hunger and thirst after the true righteousness as it is in Jesus?
What will it take? Always grace, and God, we know. Without God gracing us we would be McEverything, living always and loving life in the fast, broad lane. Without grace in societies there might be some socializing, some mindless regurgitation of truths no longer felt, but that is all. But where there is grace there is the beginning of the new life of the children of God individually, and the hope of the good societies of these children.
Grace and the means of grace. The God of grace gives grace, also for societies, through the means He Himself has ordained.
Which is to say: there must be preaching. Do it, preacher! You do not have to do it, but you may, in the society room. But for God’s sake do it from the pulpit anyway! Hear it, believer! In the precious moments of preaching—then is the voice of God sounding forth. Then is God working faith, and confirming it. This is when the love and passion for the Word is kindled and rekindled. This is when the heat, the oxygen, the fuel of the Divine is applied to the dead wood and the sputtering flame. This is when the heart is made hot. Hearing this Word-preaching with true, humble, receptive faith is why we are compelled (willingly!) to spiritual devotedness to our Maker and Redeemer, and to come together as believers in societies to commune with each other around the Word. Let there be preaching, and there will be societies. Let there be good preaching, and there will be good societies. Let there not be preaching, let there be those who think there is no need for church but that it is a nice thing to study the Bible together, and there will not be true societies of God. Let there be bad preaching and there will be bad societies. Which will we have?
Preaching makes prayer. Preaching works prayer … or the preaching and/or the preached-to are dead. Prayer is necessary for good societies. The hearer of the Word prays to know and to drink deeply from the Word of God. He wants God above all—just God! He knows that God is not simply “God to go,” a god who is for me, and to help me to get by and to have fun. He knows that God is to be worshiped, to be dwelt with, to listen to, and to become like. He prays fervently for the grace and Holy Spirit of God to establish and enrich the church’s Bible Studies with God-centered study promoting resting-in-God people. And God answers! Where there are praying people there are prosperous, rewarding, God-honoring societies!
Prayer, then work. Ora et labora! The believer who trulyprays will then study in preparation for society. He will examine the passage or subject to be discussed, comparing scripture with scripture, discerning the gospel, growing and seeking to grow all the while in the knowledge of Jesus the Christ, the revelation of God. He will truly study. He will make notes—mental or written, of significant points of doctrine, and insights into the practicalities of godliness. He will have questions, and jot them down and ponder them. He will consult a concordance to engage in a meaningful word-concept study. He will read a good commentary for further insight into the truth of the Word. He will reason through the truth God has shown him.
Which is close to what the Bible calls “musing.” Musing is also a vital means to attaining good Bible societies. With musing I include meditation, contemplation, rumination, pondering, calling to remembrance, and the like. Musing is a holy speaking to oneself of the things of God. It is taking the received food, the Word of God, and thoughtfully chewing on it for a good, long while, so that it is digested properly, fully assimilated. Musing is the opposite of being amused. Being amused is being stimulated by something so that we are entertained by it and feel good about it. But musing is what we do when we are stirred in our thoughts about God’s Word, to reexamine it, to think it through—to be both confirmed in what we know, but also challenged to grow deeper in our knowledge and understanding. The result is higher thoughts of God, humble honesty about ourselves, with reverence and godly resolve to have our living transformed according as our musing minds have been. Musing and societies? Do you have musers in yours? These are the ones to whom people of God listen. They may not speak much. But when they speak, pins could drop and be heard. This is because when musers speak they tend to muse aloud; they take us with them to the heights and to the depths.
One other thing. The McAge is me, me, me. McSocieties are filled with individuals spouting off their views, hardly hearing or waiting to hear what others have to say. Good societies are promoted by our appreciating these means of grace: other Spirit in-dwelt people. They are places where pray-ers have prayed in love and thanks for the brother and so when in society with him they are eager to hear what he has to say. They are places where students of the Word do not come to show off, but to learn together with all the saints at Jesus’ feet. They are places where musers listen to other musers with respect for the depth of insight God has given them.
It’s a fast and furious world. Somehow we have go to get both feet off this world’s treadmill and walk more in the way of faith.
Even the world tells us to “stop and smell the roses.” It sings “slow down, you move to fast.” It knows something is wrong, and that the food is bad, and the pace is dehumanizing.
Shall we not listen when God speaks? Be still. Be believing. Be taken up with the gospel God has sent down. Be under no tyrant, now in these devilish McDays. Shake off the yoke of lord Dollar! Come away from the breast of mother Earth! Resist the tyranny of the Urgent! Turn from the Gimmick, and from this Fix and that, unto the living God!
As societies of the people of God! As people of God who search the Scriptures together! Blessed fellowships! Shall we not have them, my friends? For such an age as this? Preach, and drink preaching as panting deer. Pray. Study. Muse. And come together in love. For good meals at the Bible societies. Meals of the covenant-home, the church of Jesus Christ. Such societies! Our kind of place!