You have seen the movie or read the story where a particular character is traveling through the woods with a few provisions for their journey. They are scared that they may not find their way back since they are not familiar with the territory so they get a great idea. They decide to leave bread crumbs on the ground to mark the trail. The drama intensifies as little woodland creatures come and eat the bread crumbs and the trail is lost. There are no more reference points. They know where they started but don't know how to get back.
I wonder if American Christianity is like that sometimes? I ask that because when I look back to our reference points (the things behind us that show us where we were), they don't lead us all the way back to where we started. If we as Christians were to go back to the reference points of Colonial American Christianity, we would have to only allow church members of Congregational churches to vote in local government issues. We would have to follow the Puritan behavior of putting people in stocks and bonds for missing church. These and a host of other practices are nothing that the modern American Christian would endorse ( I certainly hope at least!). But we have to be honest here. Although we have dismissed aforementioned practices as uneccesarily punitive, we look to the same reference points and take so many cues from them in American Christianity.
We laud the "cutting edge pastors". We flock to mega churches and are amazed at how they've succeeded. We buy books on leadership and go to converrences so we can become cutting edge and have a mega church too. As we go to these mega churches and see the cutting edge pastors, there is one common element. It goes something like this. You go into a building, you sit in a seat. You hear/sing a song and have an opening prayer. You hear more songs then some announcements. You then get talked at by the professional clergyman and pray a prayer then you go home. The way we do church in America has essentially been the same for 500 years! How's that for cutting edge?
I submit to you that our reference points that we are using aren't going back far enough. People who limit Christianity's scope to the discovery of the Americas or even European Christianity in Medieval times aren't going back far enough.
It is time that pastors, teachers, every Christian, go back to our roots, our first reference points, and re-learn what following Jesus is all about. It's not about our religious sacred cows. It's not about our church buildings. We must be concerned with one thing and one thing only...the teachings of Jesus Christ. If we neglect the importance of Jesus to Christianity, we do so at our own peril. If we ignore what the founder of the greatest movement in history said and taught and DID, we lie to the people we are trying to influence.
Is it possible to follow the crumbs back to where we started? Yes it absolutely is. All we have to do is know and understand what Jesus said. Sure some of the crumbs have been eaten, scattered or covered by some wild things in the dark woods, but if we keep looking and stay on the trail, we'll find that these crumbs lead us right back to the Bread of Life.
Godspeed on your journey.