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Church History & Emotionally Healthy Spirituality

Posted on November 3rd, 2011

I am finding that I need to speak more frequently about why a proper understanding of our church family history is paramount for growing spiritually.

(click to see a larger version)

I emphasize three critically important, major truths:

1. There was only one church for the first 1054 years. The first major split happened between the Eastern and Western church then. This was followed by the split of the Roman Catholic church in 1517 when Protestantism was born. Since then we have had over 200,000 other splits with countless Protestant and independent churches. So my particular tribe (evangelical) is finds itself far up into the upper right of the above chart. This is not a bad thing but I/we come from a family genogram. We are not the whole church by any means. And the church did not start with Luther, Calvin and the Reformers. 2. We need to learn from other traditions of the church different than ourselves. Roman Catholics and the Eastern Orthodox churches have many things to teach us while we remain faithful to the unique contributions of our stream. Remember, we too have baggage in our history:  Luther was anti-Semite (Hitler loved his writings!); Calvin drowned an Anabaptist for believing in baptism by immersion; Jonathan Edwards had slaves; Azusa Street, in 1906, split on racism; the American church has mixed corporate leadership models and successful business models into church life on levels not seen, I believe, in 2000 years of church history.  While my church historian friend, Dr. Scott Sunquist, reminds me that the roots of evangelicalism in the 18th and 19th century was marked by a generous spirit towards other traditions, that is not the case today.  We are often deeply judgmental and narrow towards those outside the Protestant tradition. Our church family genogram since Pentecost has many riches and warts. We have no other church family. What unites us is a biblical orthodoxy as laid out in the Nicene Creed (325 AD). 2. The Desert Fathers (3rd to 5th century) and monasticism, in particular, have much to teach us today. Their commitment to fashion a desert in order to hear God and cleanse themselves from the idols that filled both the world and the church speak to us about about our need to fashion a desert to meet with Christ today. We need this kind of radical commitment to Christ today. We need to listen to these Desert Fathers today. I am fully convinced that stillness, silence and solitude are enormous weaknesses in the evangelical/charismatic global church today. Unless we learn these missing spiritual disciplines from our past and other traditions, we will continue to pay the price of being one mile wide and one inch deep in our spirituality. What might you add to this?

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