Thursday, March 16, 2006

Thinking old school, new school: Larry's gems from the Book of Acts

There's nothing quite like a fresh look at the Book of Acts. As a minister working within the Restoration tradition, I've got a special place in my heart for the book that has had such a dramatic and far-reaching influence on our traditions and practices as a church. While the notion can be taken too far, I would venture to say that churches could stand to look a little more like the ones we see growing and spreading throughout the story of Acts.

A good friend and mentor of mine, Larry Deal, recently exhorted a group of us to look again at the book of Acts as we go about the task of starting "new churches in new places for new people." This last is a slogan of sorts for Kairos, the support organization that has helped us at Cascade Hills get up and running. Larry opened our eyes to the fact that we could see that same slogan lived out in Acts by those early Christians. Those bold, Spirit-led Jews preached the gospel, forming new communities of faithful Christians in new places outside of Jerusalem and Palestine, to new people other than Jews.

And, to top off an already excellent message, Larry added another helpful observation that is very close to my heart. Gathered in the same room listening to the message were folks from older, conservative churches as well as young Christians passionate about their faith but from a generation who is reacting strongly against anything that looks like traditional church. To these saints gathered in the same room, Larry exhorted them to do what the early church did in Acts: start new churches in new places for new people, but absolutely not at the expense of the older churches. He pointed to the fact that the Jewish Christians (led by Peter and James) maintained many traditions which were manifestly not a part of the gospel, but treasured and valued nonetheless. These thoroughly Jewish churches were exhorted by their leaders not to malign the new churches being planted which did not observe the same traditions but were born out of the same gospel. And, at the same time, the new churches were not to malign the ways of the old churches, since they too were born of the gospel.

Different churches, different traditions, honoring one another as they boldly proclaim the gospel of Christ, living it out in the midst of a lost and dying world. That is a vivid picture of the living church seen in Acts. May the God who poured out the Spirit on the church move us faithfully forward to new places for new people, all the while deeply honoring those which preached the gospel to us imperfectly and faithfully.

1 comment:

Jake Shore said...

What a fantastic message. Does the Bible ever cease to bring new insights and wisdom? I found Larry's remarks very affirming as someone who is not entirely planted in with the old traditional folks, but is very defensive of them. Though I find some of their views too rigid, out of context, and out of date, I also recognize the genuine love they have for their traditions, for God, his people, and his message. These are the ones who mentored me, helped bring me to Christ and continue to help me grow. To turn my back and dismiss them as irrelevent and antiquated would be as wrong as condemning new churches for not following tradition to reach new people. I too, hope we can look and behave like the church in Acts as we go forward proclaiming the gospel.