As Josh previously stated, we took a little break from blogging in all of the craziness of our lives over the last few months. However, we are back and I am picking up where I left off with the series “Why We are Still Church of God.” This time, I am discussing the heritage of the Church of God. I was born and raised in the denomination, my Father serving as a pastor since he was about the age I am now. However, my heritage as a member of this tradition is not merely rooted in mine and my father’s own ministries, but in the 100+ years of rich history in ministry, mission, evangelism, and holiness.
One thing striking to me about many other young ministers who are moving away from their roots in the Church of God is that none of them seem to have any appreciation for the history and tradition of the movement. In fact, most of them are sickened by the very word “tradition”, even though that is based upon an incorrect appropriation of the word. When we discuss the traditions of the Church of God, many people (including most younger members and ministers) only hear an outdated method of ministry, complete with antiquated songs, lackluster preaching methods, and old evangelism techniques. Many think of dying churches and hardheaded church members and old ministers who refuse to change. However, just a connotation should not be the way we view the tradition of the Church of God.
As I have been attending Princeton Theological Seminary over the last few months, I have had the opportunity to meet young ministers from other traditions (mostly Mainline Denominations) who are also dealing with the same issue. What is most striking to me though, is the different approach and outlook held my many I have spoken to. Several people have expressed to me a desire to remain faithful to the history, tradition, and distinctives of their movement, yet reappropriate and express these elements in a new and fresh way to the younger generations of their respective movements.
For a generation of youth and young adults who seem disconnected and disassociated with their own history and roots, the answer is not to ignore and walk away from the tradition and distinctives that made the Church of God great. Instead, we should strive to repackage our history in a way which teaches the church that they are not merely one secluded body in this time and place but are in a strain of Christian tradition which connects them to the body of Christ in all times and all places. To do so is not just to point out that we come from the New Testament church, but that we come from the Protestant reformation tradition, the Wesleyan/Holiness tradition, and the Pentecostal/Church of God tradition. In a later post, I will discuss each of these three traditions which serve in creating the rich theological heritage in which the Church of God ministers.