Posted by: beattieblog | February 7, 2009

I’m an “In-Between” Christian, How ‘bout You?

As a Christian and a Christian leader (once upon a time), I’ve always felt a bit in between the “emerging” and traditional church. That terminology may or may not mean anything to you and I’m sorry to not have time to explain that. You can Google the topic to your heart’s content if you need to. In recent years, I’ve found myself torn between the worlds of traditional and emerging models of doing church. I’m sure this was part of my own inner struggle in leading a church plant in Seattle for a few years that we eventually shut down. Much of what I read, hear and experience around newer ways of following Jesus in community resonate with my own theological and spiritual journey. At the same time, I have a deep appreciation for traditional church – at least what’s traditional for my cultural and historical context. I feel at home singing hymns or contemporary “praise” songs (that sounds so cheesy but I didn’t know what else to call them) and sitting through a 30 to 45 minute sermon. I also love the creative expressions of devotion and theological pondering that happen in less-traditional gatherings. So naturally I’ve been drawn to leaders who reflect this same bifurcation – or at least spiritual schizophrenia (though they may not call it that). Four folks like this are David Ruis, Rose Madrid-Swetman, Jason Clark and Eugene Cho. I’m sure I’ve talked with each of these (though Eugene the least as I’ve not spent as much time with him) terrific leaders about this common experience. I’ve been reflecting on it a lot lately as I can see the finish line of my Master of Divinity yet am not formally connected to a denomination. I was a pastor within the Vineyard “movement” for 4 years and an active member of the Seattle Vineyard for many years as a college student up through my 20s. I “planted” a Vineyard congregation (“Along the Way”) within that church at 29 and then resigned my position at 33 primarily to finish my degree (sneaking up on that 10 year deadline…). As I reflect on where I might land after my schooling ends, it’s caused me to think again about this sense of being in between the traditional an emerging. And I find I appreciate leaders like the above four who’ve stuck to a denomination and found ways to express new ways of following Jesus. What sparked today’s thinking about it is this video from Eugene that you can watch and then read about on his blog.

I’m curious if any of you relate to this feeling of being “in between”? Where has that led you in your church-life? Have you left your traditional denominational backgrounds? If so, what do you miss about that way of “being” church? What have you found that you couldn’t within a denomination? Have you stuck with your denomination even though you fill a kindredness with emerging forms of church? What have been the costs and benefits of that?

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