from my notebook

My head is full of thoughts, and I have to write them down.

Emerging Traditions Part 2

Looking back at the church at Antioch, I saw an interesting analogy to the struggles between the traditional and emerging churches of today. While the Antioch church most demonstrated Jesus’ idea of church, they weren’t without conflict. One in particular stemmed from the differing backgrounds of the Jewish proselytes and the gentiles with regards to the observance of communion. Even though the Jewish members were now Christians, they were still heavily influenced by hundreds of years of Mosaic tradition and practices. The gentiles had met God through Jesus and knew no other way. So I ask you, who probably had the purest approach?

There is probably as much to be said for a pair of fresh eyes on something as there is for experience. The Jewish believers had hundreds of years of examples of God’s love, justice, and power. The kind of stuff faith builds on. But sometimes history becomes baggage that locks us in and limits our approach. We need something fresh.

Back to the communion issue. The Jewish believers didn’t want to take communion with the gentiles because the gentiles had touched un-kosher things and thus carried “spiritual germs.” The gentiles knew Jesus didn’t care about kosher. Their solution was to have separate communions. Ring any bells…like traditional and contemporary services?

To further my analogy, I’m going to generalize here, so allow me some latitude. Traditionalists want a quiet, structured church service with a few hymns, offering, and a sermon. The emerging culture doesn’t care about structure. They just want to get together and meet with God. (Don’t confuse structure with planning here. They still plan.) So what if we don’t take an offering this time; you can give online. It’s okay if the teaching is through video rather than a preacher delivering a sermon. See the similarities? The Jews were very rigid in their traditions; the gentiles just wanted to meet with God.

Maybe the emerging church is the one reaching back to the earliest church traditions. The unstructured tradition of coming together and saying, “God, here we are. We love You. Teach us. Use us.”

As I have said before, there are positives and negatives with both approaches. Some of it is “different strokes for different folks,” and we should all respect that. Some of it, is just not knowing any better. But most importantly, much of it is attitude. Are you open to something different if it might bring you closer to God? Are you willing to change to reach more people?


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