I was today at a brief conference at a Christian institution of higher learning. By and large, it was a fine day, filled with stimulating and engaging conversation and a few old friends. The focus: A.J. Gordon & the 175th anniversary of his birth.
But what’s a blog post without a bone to pick? So here it is.
I was in a breakout session on A.J. Gordon’s theology, which included a brief review of those practical ministry elements the man held dear. The last of these, which the presenter thought was especially endearing, was what was termed “the ministry of silence. Evidently, A.J. Gordon typically ended church services with his congregation leaving in silence, ostensibly to ponder the message they had just heard from the pulpit.
The presenter nearly shook with inspiration and his eyes twinkled with longing delight as he pictured the glory of a silent congregation.
What is it with academic types (and I include myself) and the reverence we pay silence? I can’t remember the times students and professors alike practically drooled over the notion of being silent for long periods of time while I studied at another Christian institution of higher education. If we read about the early Quakers and their mum meetings, we’d pine for the pugnacity to try it in our own churches. We’d flock to mock Taize gatherings.
There’s no question, there’s a mystery and a mysticism about silence. It’s as if we’re suggesting something utterly profound. To question the notion is to show yourself a Neanderthal, at best, a barbarian, at worst. So if you happened to think the discipline of silence a joke, you kept quiet.
Don’t get me wrong, I like quiet. It probably consumes the better part of my day. And I’ve even experimented with lengthy periods without uttering a sound. It has its benefits.
But the thought struck me this afternoon that there likely isn’t much silence in heaven. How quiet do we suppose the angels are as they reside in the presence of an infinite God, who, with each passing moment, reveals one more iteration of His perfect goodness, one more step in His redemptive plan? My guess is there’s quite a bit of glorious noise in heaven.
Perhaps it may be worth aspiring to a church in which we close services in such a way that our people are making the noise of heaven as they exit the building, speaking truth and love and encouragement and prophecy as they depart the shadow of the steeple.