Spiritual Traditions: Living in the In-Between and Our Common Story

The Old Testament is rich with stories about a God who chooses a people for Himself and pursues relationship with them. Intertwined in these stories is the promise of an Anointed One who would come and make all things new, both for the present age and the age to come.  There is about a 400-year gap between the Old Testament and the New Testament.  In that gap there seems to be silence, but we have to wonder if there wasn’t a certain anticipation. We have to wonder if within those pages of history in the in-between, as the Israelites were rebuilding their lives again following a time of a captivity and exile, they weren’t also solidifying their faith, holding that promise closely.

400-Year Gap

Four hundred years later, enter John the Baptist who would prepare the way for the Anointed One, Jesus of Nazareth.  For 33 years Jesus walked this earth and brought deliverance, though not necessarily the kind of deliverance the people had conjured in their minds.  Jesus ushered in a new world order, and the power of his resurrection transformed a group of scraggly fishermen and blue collar workers into a dynamic group of strong men and women who would set out and change the world as it was known. The New Testament is heavy with stories of Paul and his missionary journeys, and of the first century church. And between the pages of history we learn that every disciple of Jesus- with the exception of John- didn’t just die for their faith, but were killed for it.  As a 90-year old man in exile, we hear the final words from John, who gave us a vision for the future as written in Revelation.

But, then we stop there.

When we turn the last page of the Bible, we fast-forward to 2014. Sometimes we’ll start again in the nineteenth century, and those of us who are self-proclaimed historians will even start again at the Reformation in the 1500’s. But, there are a lot of years between the time John wrote from Patmos and the time Martin Luther nailed the Ninety-Five Theses to the door of the church at Wittenberg.

  • What about the rest of the Christian story?
  • What about the 2000 years in between the New Testament and now?
  • And why does knowing this story matter?
  • And what does this have to do with spiritual formation and leadership?

This story matters because it’s the story of all of us.  It is our common story.  It is what unites us as global followers of Christ.

All of us come from different traditions.

Whether we’re talking Evangelical or Pentecostal, Calvinist or Anglican, Lutheran or Reformed, we have traditions that we are most comfortable with.  Whether we’re talking about the local church or the global church, the African American church or the Chinese church, we all have different ways of expressing our faith.

There is nothing wrong with these traditions. In fact, there is something greatly to be celebrated about each of them . But there is a great deal we can learn from the others as well.

This month we are talking about Spiritual Leadership.

By using both biblical stories and real life stories that are mostly set in historical examples, we want to focus on five streams of spiritual leadership. The idea of “streams” actually came originally from Richard Foster’s Renovaré program.  Renovaré is Latin for “restore” or “renew.”

Think of these five streams flowing as a tributary from the source, which is Christ.

To understand each of these streams is to understand our story as Christians living between the New Testament and the present day, between the already and not yet.  Rather than getting locked down by our “tradition” we like to describe these steams as:

Healthy spiritual leadership is more likely when leaders set out to make ALL these streams an integral part of their lives and leadership.  And to do that we need to understand where we’ve come from.

What traditions do you hold in your Christian walk?

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