1) Reverence and Respect for the Sacred. I did not want to attend a church where the main focus was to "get something out of it." I had a huge problem with songs and sermon that did not in any way glorify God, but rather demeaned Him in one of the most insulting ways-- by ignoring His depth and Heart in order to appeal to the masses. I was even irritated by the smallest things-- people clapping for the worship band, guitar solos in the middle of a beautiful, theologically inspiring hymn, and so on.
2) An Attitude of Compassion Toward the Lost. In my last few years at this church, I do not believe I came across more than one professing Non-believer. The one Non-Believer I knew was a dear friend of mine who eventually left the church because her small group leaders would not accept her "punk" lifestyle. They attempted to give her a make over, in which they wanted to replace her spikey green hair (which looked fantastic with a black and white polka-dotted dress) with something more normal, and her safety-pinned, hand-made clothes (which she now SELLS) with something more tame. Her appearance, however, was not her heart-issue, but the church and it's supposed youth leadership failed to recognize that... and they lost her. They lost her.
3) A Wise and Discerning Use of Resources and Influence in the Community. It is a common-known fact amongst youth groups in this area that, if you want to get a big church to involve themselves in one of your events, you certainly do not ask the church I previously attended. Not only were they introverted, they were egotistical. What kind of church, that has such enormous potential and resources, gives it all up for a minimal territory and a bad reputation within the body of Christ?
I never could have imagined what God had in store for me. Not only did He place me in a body of believers who share my heart and convictions about the second and third concerns I hold, He also directly addressed the first concern by placing me in a denominational tradition of reverence, abstinence, and charity-- three of the things that I value most in the world.
I was more than excited about the Missionary Church. More than I even let on, really. But the idea of casting off all traditions and building it all back up by Scripture alone sort of shook me a little. I never really voiced it, but still I looked for solace in trying to allign with far more traditional religious views. Nothing seemed right. However, two things have come up in the past week that have completely changed my mind about seeking out more traditional worship.
The first thing happened when I was surfing Myspace, and I came across an old, old friend of mine. I'm talking... we were best friends when we were 12. He wanted to be a Christian Apologist. I wanted to be a writer. For a while, he really wandered away from the Church. We lost touch a lot during this time, but I know God had his heart all along. He is currently going through much of the same thing as I am-- struggling to find something true and real in the mess of religious monopoly in the world. While I am participating in a derrivative of the Organic church, he is a part of the Emergent Church. Anyway-- There was one word on his entire site that just jumped out at me-- "Sacred." He said it over and over again-- as if it were something that needed to be notice and applied. This caught my heart, and has been there ever since.
It wasn't completely tied together, though, until today when I read "The Passing of Arthur," a poem by Lord Alfred Tennyson about the death of King Arthur.
After Modred nearly kills Arthur, Sir Bedivere returns Exalibur to the Lady of the Lake, and then has a final discussion with Arthur about the future of the kingdom. Bedivere is horrified-- he is the last knight of the round table, and he realizes that it would be foolish and dangerous to carry on chivalry and knighthood without King Arthur or the precepts used to form Camelot, but he refuses to give up his status, his traditions, and his lifestyle as a knight. The era of knighthood is gone, and Arthur recognizes this. In consoling Bedivere, he said this;
And slowly answer'd Arthur from the barge;
"The old order changeth, yeilding place to the new,
And God fulfils himself in many ways,
Lest one good custom should corrupt the world."
It then dawned on me-- Even if all of the traditions and customs I had loved so dearly had been good in their own time, they are a hindrance to the things that God wants to accomplish in the world-- and this will eventually corrupt the world beyond repair. Everything changes, especially religious expression, but it yeilds place to the new. This new movement I am participating in is not traditional, but God does not call us to worship with tradition. He calls us to have reverence for what is sacred. It may not be perfect, and we may not know exactly what it will look like, but it is becoming more and more clear to me that True Vine Missionary Church is certainly one of the many ways that God has decided to "fulfil himself in."