One of my seminary professors told us “If we would be using his same notes to do ministry twenty years from now, (he) would be very disappointed in us.” He understood how dynamic matters of faith can be. New insights into spiritual concerns, observed from decade to decade, feed and build on each other. We need to start with strong basics. From there, we can either keep to the rut formed by those ahead of us, or we can grow and move in new directions. In the earlier years of my ministry some colleagues were quite upset when I started speaking about “spiritual understandings” because they related that terminology with anti-Christian movements. But I was ready to move beyond the bonds of a religion that wasn’t ready to explore new ways of thinking. There are ways we can be faithful to our faith-traditions, but expand the vision and hope that the lessons of life and death teach us. Sometimes, when I hear about the decline in persons attending Sunday services or volunteering to keep the mechanism of the church functioning, I wonder if the churches might show some signs of inadequacy. As an example, I listened to a very capable young man talk about a project he was working on for his degree in rural ministry. The challenge was to reach out to younger people on acreages and help them form a sense of community. What he did showed excellent results, but he regretted that his thesis would soon be complete and the project would end. “Why wouldn’t you continue?” some of us queried. Because he felt his real work was inside the church where his denomination placed him. “Will you then abandon people you’ve enjoyed working with? Might there be the possibility you are doing what you’ve been called to do in fresh new ways?” I can’t tell you the end of this story, but I see where, by bursting the bonds of religion, God can show us exciting new spiritual understandings.
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