A Tale of Two Movements
Two major movements are reshaping the future landscape of the church in North America. I know, because I have one foot in each one of them, and each one of these movements has profoundly influenced my life and ministry. At times I have felt a little schizophrenic because these two movements rarely seem to intersect with one another. However, when they do connect, something wonderful, beautiful, and timeless occurs, and I want to explore this beautiful tapestry that appears when these two great movements collide. The two movements are liturgy and mission.
Let me begin by telling a little of my story. As the author, my own story embodies these two movements in a very unique way. I am not a mere observer, but have participated and led churches as they have embraced a convergence of ancient-future practices for contemporary mission.
I grew up in a nominal Southern Baptist home, but did not come to faith until I was nineteen in a Pentecostal church. I gleaned a lot from these traditions and experiences, such as being “born again” and “filled with the Spirit.” However, within these traditions, I found a lack of sustenance for spiritual growth.
I always felt that something was missing and I couldn’t quite pinpoint the source of this void. As I reflect back, I realized that I was longing to be a part of a sacramental tradition with a connection to the historic Christian faith. Through a long journey, I eventually found my home in the Anglican tradition.
In 2005, my wife and I planted a non-denominational church with nothing but faith and the clothes on our backs. Church of the Outer Banks began meeting in a home with only five people. In the first few years, the church grew to several hundred people from all ages and backgrounds, many of whom were young surfers.
The church started out with a very contemporary worship style in a YMCA gym with stage lighting and loud music. At one point, we even became known as the “surfer church.” However, over time we began to long for more substance and began to draw from the classic Christian liturgical tradition.
At this point, we began to transition into a church that brought together a convergence of the best of church tradition with contemporary worship that connected with the hearts and minds of young and old. When asked, what kind of church we were, we described our church as a “fresh expression of an ancient faith.”
We eventually started two Sunday worship services, a traditional liturgical service with robes and vestments and also a contemporary blended service. Each service featured aspects of historic liturgical worship including the reading of Scripture, celebrating the Eucharist, and reciting the Lord’s Prayer. On Sunday mornings people found a welcoming, family-friendly atmosphere and a unique worship experience where they can meet with God at one of the two worship services.
Embracing liturgical practices and historic roots helped me realize personally that I am a part of the larger Christian family whose roots began not with modern evangelicalism, but with Christ and the early church. Too often contemporary Christians forget that two thousand years of church history exists from which we can glean wisdom for Christian practices.
For years I felt like a spiritual orphan who was unaware of having a rich family heritage and roots. Then, like someone who discovered his family genealogy for the first time, I found my spiritual roots in the historic Christian tradition through the recovering of ancient practices. As I uncovered first-hand, Christians can claim the riches of the various streams of Christendom from both the past and present.
The various branches of the church around the world are like a mosaic or tapestry that consists of many colors and dimensions. Each fragment displays a different color, but in unison, these individual pieces portray a beautiful masterpiece. As these streams began to flow together in my life and ministry, I saw a beautiful convergence of old and new that gave way to what I call liturgical mission!
What I have discovered is I am not alone. There are hundreds, if not thousands of others across North America who are embracing this convergence of liturgy and mission. In the next few posts I am going to share more about how these movements are shaping the future of Christianity in North America.
More to come…