Sunday, February 11, 2018

The Old Time Religion

I led a retreat over the weekend challenging lay leaders in a congregation to think about a shift to  new paradigms more appropriate in a post-modern context.  My commitment for the weekend concluded with preaching in the morning worship service on Stephen as a model for innovation in faith and ministry.  My colleague, Terry Rosell, was in the service and pointed out that it was a bit ironic that the postlude was an arrangement of “Give Me that Old Time Religion.”

After we laughed about that interesting contrast, I began thinking that there really is a lot we can learn (or relearn) for the “old time religion” that could help us to be more effective in congregational ministry in the 21st century.

For example, church congregations in the past, especially rural, small town, and parish-based examples, provided more of a sense of community that we find in many churches today.  For good or ill, people knew each other and tended to look out and care for each other. There were strong congregational expressions of hospitality and encouragement.

Another positive aspect of the “old time religion” was a spiritual vitality, often based on spiritual disciplines such as prayer, Bible study, silence, and service.  This vitality enabled our forebears to function in a a world where life was often short and difficult.

Churches of an earlier time can provide us with effective examples of stewardship.  Many times these involved not only finances, but time and physical resources.

Finally, the church of the past has given us a rich heritage of music, art, writing, and architecture that can continue to bless and inform us today.  We have two thousand years of source material with which to work!

As we seek to be more faithful disciples in the 21st century, let’s claim our heritage and appropriate some of the practices of the “old time religion.”

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