From the Circuit Riders to old-fashioned tent meetings the Great Frontier has shaped American Christianity. Homesteading brought a certain kind of independent people to the west where rules were being re-written. Pioneering meant faith would also be newly independent from European governance. So, today we have hundreds of Baptist denominations, with many independent churches of all stripes. In fact, the term “Baptist” was simply to differentiate those that immersed adults exclusively from everyone else in early America.
Our attitudes of revolution allowed us to run from European-birthed hierarchy and embrace new territory. Even in modern times, churches like the Anglicans here in America are severing ties to Europe and aligning to African leadership. Yes, theological as well as cultural differences caused some of these rifts. In fact, many left Europe as spiritual refugees, escaping persecution. This is part of our American story.
With all of this change in recent times, does our lack of connection to our church history and spiritual descendants make us free or does it potentially impoverish us? Or, does it do both? This is especially important for those of us who are from the 50-60 year-old Evangelical brand. We need to be self-aware of our Christian roots in order to see where it will lead us next, no matter how old or new our roots or branches are.
It is a formidable task to create one lasting institutions to fill the gap of all Christian history. One question is this: could it be that God’s intention is not for one group that the Spirit breathed through during one period of time become the standard for all of time? The Spirit is like the wind so the wind moves on while we create an edifice of sentimentality that keeps us in the past sometimes rather than in the present. Even worse, we are not even prepared for a future.
What is the value of knowing our spiritual roots? Does this free us or inhibit us?