I have been a follower of Jesus for almost 45 years. I grew up Roman Catholic and started attending the Church of The Nazarene when I was 14 years old. The Church of The Nazarene is considered an “Evangelical” Church. Evangelicalism is considered mainly a Protestant movement that came into existence in the 20th century. It is earmarked by a call to conversion to Christ, Missionary work, Scripture as the sole basis for faith and active evangelism to those who do not have a personal relationship with Jesus. There is plenty I have gained and that I like about the Evangelical tribe. I owe my coming to deeper faith, Bible knowledge and commitment to Christ to this movement. But I think there are some things that the Evangelical Church misses, some areas that have been shaped and formed to the minimization of important truths:
The emphasis on “personal” has negated the relevance of community;
Sola Scriptura (Scripture alone) ignores reason, experience and tradition (Wesley)
The prophetic look forward has negated the impact of the historic church;
The emphasis on Spirit and spontaneity abolishes tradition and ritual
The association of Personality (e.g. Billy Graham, Joel Osteen, Charles Stanley) has obscured the authority of the Church as the Priesthood of Believers.
Sadly, too often we have thrown out the baby with the bathwater (an awful thought, I know.)
I notice that other religious movements have extended seasons of prayer and sacrifice. Muslims celebrate the ninth month of their calendar called Ramadan (May 5th-June 4th). It is a time of fasting and prayer as they deny themselves in observance of the time the prophet Muhammad received the Quran. For Jews, the 10 days between Rosh Hashanah (New Year) and Yom Kippur (Day of Atonement) in October is the holiest time of the year marked by fasting, repentance and prayer. There is a communal bonding over personal denial and submission to God. Synagogues and Mosques are brimming with people submitting to God on a nightly basis. These are considered High Holy Days for these particular streams of faith.
The only tradition of “High Holy Days” that I received from my Evangelical history was either Christmas Eve or Christmas Day worship, Good Friday observance and Easter Sunday celebration. And that’s about it. It wasn’t until I reached back to some of my Catholic and Liturgical Church heritage did I start to observe Advent as the season before Christmas and Lent as the season preceding Easter. When I started an Ash Wednesday Service coupled with weekly Communion some years ago people thought I was turning our Nazarene Church into a Roman Catholic one. I assured them we were not but I was considering putting a confessional in the back of the Sanctuary and renaming our church St. Steven’s (only kidding).
As we approach the season of Lent with our Ash Wednesday service (March 6th) I am hoping we might consider this time sacred and set apart from other times of the year. That the time from March 6th to April 21st (Easter Sunday) would be seen as our High Holy Days marked by prayer, fasting, sacrifice, worship, silence, stillness, repentance and renewal. As much as it is important to have our own daily time with the Lord I think it is equally important to share communal time in worship.
I know that Mosques will be filled during Ramadan.
I know that Synagogues will be filled during the days surrounding Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
I wonder if Muslims and Jews think Evangelical Churches will be filled during our High Holy Days.