The Best Of Both

It was once said that there is a sad failing and a great strength in both traditional and modern churches. The traditional churches which have been part of our lives for centuries if not thousands of years have strong roots which protect them against swaying of the cultural tide, it allows the elders to use their wisdom to guide and teach those growing up in the church. However, a traditional church may be so rooted in it’s way that when God’s Spirit attempts to move them, call them, pull them out of their comfort zone, it may take so long to discuss, plan, pray and eventually move that they miss the opportunity. In comparison, a modern church, for example some Vineyard churches, or free non-denominational churches, might be so willing to follow the spirit that they can act quickly, praying, hearing and moving with trust and enthusiasm, full of young leaders and groups who can jump out of the boat at a moments notice. However, because of their newness, they lack defined roots and elders, they might lack the tradition and can sometimes be swayed too easily by false prophets and new ideas that they go too far.

I have been in both of these. I was brought up Roman Catholic but in an active Church of England school (by active I mean our school took part in the church activities pretty regularly). I also ended up in a Salt & Light associated church, and finally a Vineyard. I have fond memories of each of these, and other parts that I disagree with, and of course no church is perfect so I don’t expect them to fit me, rather I know that the point is not to find a church that suits my life, but where I can assist and help a growing church.

There is a dream in my mind though of a church which manages to successfully learn from both the new and the old. That sounds stupid because if there was a church created it would automatically be new and have even fewer roots. But what if we could pick up on older traditions that may well have really played a large role in the spiritual formation of the people around it, as well as being able to move easily with the wild goose that is the Holy Spirit. I question whether traditions such as a confessional could be reused, not in a way that puts a priest in the place of God, but as a safe place to talk and pray for forgiveness. I wonder if the symbology of things such as incense, water, and communion (that tends to happen more frequently in traditional churches) could be given more significance alongside the education of what they really mean.

Worship music is part of this, and although I am not half as qualified as a few friends of mine, I feel that music epitomises the variety of churches around. I have often said that I don’t understand using music you hate or dislike to praise God with. Why are you giving Him something you don’t like? Why not give Him what you consider to be your best? Something I would love to see in a church at somepoint is a real eclectic mix, full of culture and styles and creativity. Can you imagine moving from a classical requiem, into Jazz or Blues, followed by Gospel music, onto African harmonies and groans, and into an acoustic guitar, all in one worship session. I think the worship leaders I know, however much they might like music, might kill me for expecting that much work from them, but the diversity and force of creation would be there.

These are all just thoughts and I hope one day to be part of a church which allows themselves to learn from all sides how to be better followers and witnesses of Christ. In the meantime, I thought I’d share with you a story I read this morning which made me smile. I don’t think it’s harshly meant, and I think it’s well worth being able to laugh at ourselves, whatever side you stand on. Enjoy!

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