Denominations


Denominations
This Sunday I attended two different worship services.  I went to a Roman Catholic Church as well as my old evangelical one.  I enjoyed the RC one even though I really didn’t know what was going on sometimes.  I didn’t know what to say when the congregation responded in unison.  I thought the message was short and well done.  The sanctuary was much more attractive than your average evangelical place of worship.  The service was devoid of all forms of hype or emotional manipulation.  That was a welcome change.

I found myself wishing I could be part of the church that traces its history back to Jesus.  The priest was very fair and thoughtful in his message about the word of God.  He gave credit to the reformers for bringing the church back to the word of God.  He also said that the church pre-Vatican II was apprehensive about having people interpret the bible on their own because it would result in more division.  I thought it was a pretty good point.  That is exactly what happened. 

I was grieved somewhat after church.  We lose so much when we isolate ourselves.   I’ve been a Christian for half my life now and this is the first time I’ve been to Mass.  I think that is kind of sad.   I don’t think we should erase the theological distinctiveness of our faith traditions but we need to move beyond our isolationism. 

  1. #1 by Jadon on August 25, 2003 - 7:44 pm

    That’s why I’d rather be a “small-c” Christian.

  2. #2 by Linea Lanoie on August 25, 2003 - 10:10 pm

    My Catholic kids appreciate the beauty of a Catholic sanctuary but they are frustrated by the lack of committment to the Christian faith of most of their Catholic friends. I am frustrated by being cut off from active participation in the Catholic Mass since I am not “Catholic” My husband who was Catholic, now protestant when he is with a close group of Priests and Sisters can cross the borders and will be offered the elements of the mass. My Catholic kids on the other hand are welcome to the table in our community of faith. It is sad that we put up such artificial boundaries between Christians based on which organization we “belong” to. We do need to lose our isolationist points of view. Both the evangelical and Catholic faiths have the same Saviour.

  3. #3 by Toni on August 26, 2003 - 10:47 am

    I was interested in your comment about wishing you could be part of a church that traces it’s history right back to Jesus. From both your own comments and my experience, isn’t that what you’re trying to achieve with the house church?

    I remember reading a book (church adrift IIRC) some years back, where a local rector pointedly mentioned to the pastor of a ‘community church’ that his church had a fine history going back a couple of hundred years. The reply was, of course, that the community church has a history going back 2000 years. I suspect how much history you have depends entirely on your perception of where you’re standing and who you identify with.

    Must agree with your comments on isolation though. In Bicester there are 7 churches that all work together, with the leaders meeting once a month to pray and talk. The only church group that flatly refuses to be involved is a brethren assembly who are determined that to be catholic is to grow horns and a pointed tail. Many barriers are there because people have decided to erect them; protestant, catholic and those of us that refuse to wear such labels.

    “pass me a gun, I can see a foot”

  4. #4 by Mitch Tulloch on August 26, 2003 - 12:50 pm

    The things we wish for often don’t satisfy us if we actually pursue and obtain them. I love the Catholics too and hang out with them from time to time, but the truth is I could never become one since it’s not the way the Lord has led me in my life. I’m almost 50 now, and have known the Lord for 27 years, but it’s only in the last few years that I’ve begun to learn to be content in how he’s led me. I wish I wish I could just be a Catholic, or just be an Evangelical, or just be *something*, but the truth is I can’t. I can still love what’s best in all of these traditions though.

    BTW great blog! :)

  5. #5 by little bear on August 26, 2003 - 5:21 pm

    I’ve been contemplating going to an Ethiopian Orthodox Tewahdo church…… you think that’s a christian church? I’ve been hesitating over it for weeks…..

  6. #6 by Rob on August 26, 2003 - 6:31 pm

    I remember, once upon a yesterday, our youth group discovering a little Episcopal church in downtown Victoria BC (where we lived at the time), and during their Wednesday Eucharist service, we experienced our first regular, healthy, and profoundly powerful prophetic person — the rector!

    When you knelt at the communion rail, after reading the Eucharist prayers from the Book of Common Prayer (these are POWERFUL prayers, by the way!), the rector would give you the elements of communion, and then lay his hand on your head and pray for you — 90% of the time is was creepily accurate prophetic words.

    I loved those services. Thank God the rector was wise enough to tell us (a few months later) “I don’t mind if you’re coming here every week (which we were), but if this is the ONLY place you’re experiencing the prophetic, you’ve made me into a guru and I will not be that.”

    It never occurred to us (as youth leaders and youth) that God would actually speak to US, but we began to seek Him for just that and He was faithful to our blundering early attempts.

    It was awesome to see how God used this little Episcopalian church to minister to a group of Gen X future Vineyard-ites.

    I love it when the Body of Christ cross-pollenates!

  7. #7 by Laurie on August 26, 2003 - 11:13 pm

    That was good, Mitch, “be content in how He’s led me”. I think that’s really key. We can’t do everything or be everywhere. God leads us all to different local fellowships. If we all go visiting all the others, we won’t have time to develop good relationships with those God has called us to. It’s good to be inclusive in our relationships and in our behavior, but we don’t need to wear ourselves out trying to visit every congregation in town, or tear ourselves apart because we haven’t. Once in awhile, when God leads, a visit may be appropriate. LT, you may have just had one of those appropriate encounters.

  8. #8 by Leighton Tebay on August 27, 2003 - 7:15 am

    Toni:

    I agree that being part of house church is part of the tradition of faith that goes back 2000 years. I was thinking more along the lines of a historical institution. In some sense I kind of wish that there was a greater sense of belonging to what happened before.

    I’ve talked about the US/THEM mindset when relating to those in modern churches. It seems each denomination has their US/THEM perspective. I wish and hope that we (as churches) can find a way to associate yet remain theologically distinct.

  9. #9 by Steve S on August 27, 2003 - 5:18 pm

    Hi Little Bear – can I step in and ask what you would lose by visiting the eastern orthodox church?

    This looks like a good site – http://www.tewahdo.com/

  10. #10 by anon on August 29, 2003 - 8:44 am

    Actually, the Roman Catholic church can trace its roots back to Constantine and the “christianizing” of the Roman Empire, whereby they co-opted the traditions and practices of the the pagans and incorporated them into the “church”. Check out Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola.

    I am an ex-Catholic, btw.

  11. #11 by Leighton Tebay on August 29, 2003 - 10:07 am

    Anon:

    I hear what you are saying about Constantine and what happened in that era of the church. However in pre-Constantine writings we see the idea of membership in the church being tied to a succession of leaders starting with Peter. The church may have radically changed in the 300′s but it was a change in the church, not the beginning of a new one.

    As an evangelical I must face the fact that my faith tradition has co-opted the traditions and wisdom of people.

    When Martin Luther took bar songs and made hymns out of them was he not co-opting pagan culture? When modern day Christians use Christmas trees have we not co-opted pagan culture? When prestigious Christian leaders teach business principles have they not bought in to the value systems of the world.

  12. #12 by Rob on August 29, 2003 - 11:19 am

    When postmoderns want to de-construct anything and everything in church, leadership, and our mission in the world, to what degree are we buying into the value systems of the world?

    I’m not really expecting an answer to that, but only to remind us that we are no different — we face the same triumphs, trials, and traps as every other generation of Christianity has and will.

  13. #13 by Mitch Tulloch on August 29, 2003 - 1:16 pm

    Good point Rob. Maybe it’s not *whether* we co-opt pagan culture as Christians, but *why* we do it (and perhaps *how* also). I remember reading somewhere that Gregory Thaumaturgus (213-270) also co-opted pagan melodies for hymns. He was a real power evangelist who layed hands on the sick and saw them healed, and he prayed concerning a lake that was threatening a town and overnight the lake dried up (or something like that). Apparently he ended up convering almost the whole town of Caesarea. I suspect he saw pagan music as just another tool for reaching the lost :)

    Having said that, I have to confess that most Christian rock music turns me off, at least the commercial stuff you hear on Christian radio. Sadly, maybe this indicates I’m critical and don’t have the heart of an evangelist…

  14. #14 by Leighton Tebay on August 29, 2003 - 1:44 pm

    Rob:

    I think “Deconstruction” is just a fancy label for figuring out how we got to where we are at with stuff. I prefer use a different word – repentance.

  15. #15 by Leighton Tebay on August 29, 2003 - 1:54 pm

    I think the core of the issue isn’t the methods or symbols but the values behind them.

    In North America we have First Nation’s people using the drum from their ancestral ceremonies to worship God. I think that is great.

    In Paul’s day people were using oratory to spread the gospel and teach spiritual truth. (Something we do quite a bit these days). Paul came against this fiercly in Corinth claiming that rhetoric and human wisdom emptied the gospel message of its power. Greek orators normally used the influence of speech to gain prestige and status. They fell in to the trap of trying to serve God and themselves at the same time. In this case co-opting the methods and symbols of the culture was a bad idea because those methods were linked with a value system antithetical to the gospel.

    I think the real issue isn’t where our symbols and methods come from, but who we are really serving when we use them? Is it darkness, ourselves or God?

  16. #16 by Rob on August 29, 2003 - 3:09 pm

    LT wrote: “In this case co-opting the methods and symbols of the culture was a bad idea because those methods were linked with a value system antithetical to the gospel.”

    Does this mean that using rock music is wrong because it links the gospel to a value system antithetical to the gospel? This was the one of the “biggie” arguments back in the 70′s & 80′s during the “all rock is Satanic” era.

    I think Paul wasn’t against “co-opting” the methods and symbols at all, but he was trying to get them to look into their own hearts and see what their motivations were — God’s or their own.

    I agree with you that it’s what we’re using them for that is the issue — so why are you so against oratory? John Wesley and George Whitefield saw thousands converted to Christianity, as has Billy Graham in this century. They seemed to have had God’s blessing on their use of oratory.

    Or am I misunderstanding your flow of argument here? I’m a tad confused — help?

  17. #17 by Leighton Tebay on August 30, 2003 - 7:40 am

    Rob:

    In Pauls first letter to the Corinthians he attempted to address a number of issues in the church. The most significant was the division. The Corinthians were divided because they adopted Sophistic values and methods. They competed for influence using boasting and rhetoric. They aligned themselves with certain Christian leaders imitating the disciples of the Sophists. They viewed power, status and rank has the markers of success.

    In Corinth the use of certain forms of rhetoric were used primarly to improve one’s status. Here there was a strong link between unChristian values and the methods they used. The forms of influence they used were inherently self serving and manipulative.

    I’m not saying anything about rock music, I was just trying to demonstrate that in this case Paul rejected certain ministry methods.

    There are number of biblical references where Paul address the method, not just the heart behind the method.. He spoke against rhetoric (1Cor2), flattery (1Thess 2) and boasting (1Cor 1).

    There are some forms of speech that God can use. That much is obvious as Jesus preached. There are others that rely on the power of human influence to sway people rather than the Holy Spirit. Today I believe most of the oratory we see is empowered more by human influence than divine influence. The ineviteble fruit of human influence is division, strife, boasting, competition, camps, dissension, and a noticable lack of the power of God.

  18. #18 by Mitch Tulloch on August 30, 2003 - 12:40 pm

    Intersting point Leighton about the Corinthian church and the Sophists, I hadn’t made that connection! Not sure if rhetoric, flattery and boasting are comparable though, the first was a system for occupational advancement in Roman society (think Augustine), while the others were more likely viewed as character flaws even then…

    I agree with you though that most oratory/preaching we hear in the church these days is man’s ideas and not God’s. John Wimber said “We fill the sky with words” yet nothing happens, lives don’t change. That was a big motivation for my getting interested in Wimber’s “power evangelism” approach, I wanted to *see* God at work in people’s lives, not just hear man’s theories of why he does’t heal people anymore.

  19. #19 by Leighton Tebay on August 30, 2003 - 12:52 pm

    Mitch:

    Have you considered starting up your own blog? It looks like you have some good thing to share.

  20. #20 by Rob on August 31, 2003 - 8:43 pm

    Mitch:

    Listen to LT. Listen to LT. You need to blog. You want to blog. You must blog or your eyes will dry out staring at your computer screen…

    It was LT’s encouragement and our provocative (in a good way) discussions here that convinced me to join the Cult of the Blog. It’s been fun so far! You’ve always had a lot of great stuff to challenge me with (when can we hit Starbucks again, by the way?), and I think your perspective on the ‘net would be a welcome addition.

    LT:

    I know you weren’t talking about rock music — I was just drawing a parallel between the reasons they used to try to convince people that all rock was evil, and the similarity of saying that the use of rhetoric was in itself wrong because it was a Sophist method.

    TO use a moldy oldy analogy: it’s not the knife that’s the issue, it’s whether you use it to butter your bread or stab your neighbour that matters.

  21. #21 by Leighton Tebay on September 3, 2003 - 11:46 pm

    Rob:

    Paul didn’t say using rhetoric was wrong because Sophists used it. He rejected rhetoric because it was a form of persuasion that relied on human influence and human wisdom which were useless tools in the quest to know God.

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