Friday, February 15, 2008

Challenge Traditions

I've always wondered about the two- or three- or four-part nature of Man. What's the difference between "soul" and "spirit"?

This morning, as I woke up, the influence of this past weekend gelled into an understanding for me.

During the weekend someone quoted an anonymous person, saying, "There comes a point when 'being right' is not enough." I woke up thinking about my home church, and how her focus has been on the Mind, on "being right", and I realized that the reason I'm stifled there is because she ignores the other facets of Man (whereas many other churches I've visited have ignored the Mind aspect).

Man is Mind, and Soul, and Spirit, and Body. The following are merely working definitions, not technical definitions.

- Mind - that which thinks and analyzes. My home church is good at this aspect (albeit her logic is sometimes flawed).

- Soul - that which feels. My home church is lousy at bringing Mans' emotions into the equation.

- Spirit - that which is mystical. All of Western Civilization is lousy at bringing Man's Spirit into the equation. My home church basically believes that the spirit part of Man is only activated by God's will, and that such activations by God have ceased long ago.

- Body - that which is physical. Many church groups do well at this aspect, raising hands, looking heavenward, kneeling, dancing*. My home church is lousy at this aspect.

My home church is eaten up with tradition. There's nothing wrong with Tradition, until it gets in the way. My home church needs to stand up on her school desk** and see the world from a different angle, but she has been steeped in Tradition so long that she believes (wrongly) that her Tradition equates to Truth. I believe the healthiest thing for her now would be a concerted effort to challenge various aspects of Tradition.

- Move a Sunday morning assembly into the basement. Many people will object, and ask, "Why are we doing this? Is this just 'change' for 'change's sake'?" And the answer is that it forces us to question (on an experiential level, not just a mental level) what's needed for corporate worship; do we need pews in straight rows, and a podium/lectern in order to worship? Change/challenge/difficulty serves the purpose of exercising unused muscles; this is change for 'spiritual exercise's sake'.

- Have the men raise hands during prayer. The first century church did it, and yet we find it offensive.

- Have the church kneel during prayer. The first century church did it, and yet we find it offensive.

- Have the women serve the Lord's Supper (while the men still lead the prayers). Martha served in the assemblies of Jesus, and yet we find it offensive because we've over-applied the principle of women not having authority over men into women not serving in the presence of men.

- Move all the singing during worship into an uninterrupted grouping at the front or the back of the assembly, and triple the time spent singing; no interruptions for announcements, or for announcing song numbers, or for prayers. Singing gets into the soul and spirit of Man, but only if it has a chance to. The way singing is done at my home church, it's so choppy that it never gets a chance to dig into a person's spirit or affect his soul.

There are many more ways of challenging our traditions, but these should suffice to "stir the pot" (a necessary action in preparation of meals; why do we think we should remain unstirred in order for us to be sufficiently prepared for the Lord?).

Some traditions we'll find are really based on doctrine (I believe the lack of mechanical instruments in worship music is one such justified doctrine/tradition); but some traditions we'll find are just getting in the way of acceptance of our brethren who do things differently, and are just crufty deposits on our joints that prevent us from moving as freely as Jesus would have us do.

I'm afraid that I have been marked by the leaders at church as being "un-safe" because they perceive my willingness to challenge their traditions. Accordingly, I can not have much influence on the church now, which again is a stifling thing for me. I have thoughts and ideas I'd like to share with my brethren, to challenge and to be challenged by them. But I have no venue to do so.

It's human nature to say we want to be challenged out of our comfort zones and then to defend against any and all such challenges. I do it too, so I can't judge my brethren without judging myself. Still, I went this weekend and faced some significant challenges "outside of the box"; all I'm asking from my home church is to do likewise.

* Stay with me, here. Don't let the word "dancing" turn you off the basic message; we can deal with the word later if need be.

** A reference to the movie, "Dead Poet's Society".

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