I recently attended the Acts 29 Midwest Quarterly. I don’t know the ins and outs of the organization, but 4 times a year they sponsor a speaker to present at a local church. The speakers are usually experts in the area of young adult ministry; either a leader of a thriving young adult ministry, an author of a book about the emerging church, or something along those lines. Each time I have gone to an Acts 29 event, I have found it really interesting to hear what other church bodies are doing to reach young adults and how the Lord is working in their communities.
I love the group’s name: “Acts 29”. The Biblical book of Acts contains 28 chapters of the history of the early church right after Pentecost. It ends with Acts 28:31 –
“Boldly and without hindrance <Paul> preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ.”
The thought behind the name “Acts 29” is that we are living in the 29th chapter of the book of Acts. We are a part of that legacy and the descendants of that church. We, like Paul, have been given the Holy Spirit in order to “boldly teach about the Lord Jesus”.
Last month at the Acts 29 Midwest Quarterly, author Jim Belcher spoke about his book Deep Church: A Third Way Beyond Emerging and Traditional. (The term “emerging” refers to something that is coming of age, or in to maturity. The “emerging generation” would be those in their 20s and 30s as they become adults and come into positions of influence. The “emerging church” simply refers to the trends and practices of ministries designed for that generation.) His solution to the tension between traditional and emerging isn’t to pick one or the other, but to combine the best parts of both into what he calls “Deep”. In his presentation, Belcher lauded the theology, intellectual depth and reverential beauty of traditional churches, while calling for the relational, authentic, and organic community-based aspects of the emerging church movement.
Belcher recommended that when a church evaluates its practices they should ask themselves three questions: Is it Biblical? Is it contextualized? and What would the “Great Tradition” say?
He differentiated between just any tradition and the “Great Tradition”. Some traditions are merely cultural, while the “great Tradition” refers to the creeds and counsels that have defined Christianity for centuries. His emphasis on the value of tradition comes from what he calls “trusting the history of the Holy Spirit”. God has guided his church by the Holy Spirit in the past and we can trust that the Holy Spirit worked then just as He is working now. Lest you think Belcher was all tradition and no emergence, he also warned against un-contextualized worship and law oriented preaching. He called for a balance of joy and reverence in worship, of culture and context in practice, and depth and accessibility in preaching.
As Christians living in the 29th chapter of Acts, we are writing our page of the history of the church on earth. Will we be remembered as the missing generation or something better? I am intrigued and ecstatic at the idea of being a “deep church”. By contextualizing the Great Tradition, we can present the Gospel to our own culture in a way we can understand. We can be fresh and raw without throwing out everything that came before us. Want to hear more? You can listen to Jim Belcher’s entire presentation at: http://journeyon.net/sites/default/files/video/vodcast/A29_Quarterly-Jim_Belcher-Vodcast.mov or go even deeper and read the book: Deep Church.