11.19.2007

A Long Obedience in the Same Direction

One of my favorite Christian discipleship books is Eugene Peterson's
"A Long Obedience in the Same Direction," in which he exegetes Psalms
120-134, the Songs of Ascents. They were sung by God's people as they
literally climbed upward to worship Him three times a year in
Jerusalem. As such, they represent the long journey of the people of
God, and Peterson contrasts the timeless truths in these songs with
the modern age's love for instant gratification.

It is for this very reason that the age diversity in my congregation
is one of the things I appreciate the most. Age diversity is usually
not nearly as sexy as diversity of race, socio-economic status, or
denominational upbringing. The cool churches seem to have a lot going
for them in terms of breaking the church out of old and encrusted
ways, but one strike against most of them is that they are relatively
homogenous in terms of age.

So you can take your young congregations with kick-ass worship and
emergent viewpoints and radical redefinitions of timeless traditions
and rituals. These are all good things that all churches should
aspire to. But far more important would seem to be able to be in a
congregation with people of all ages, so that at a glance, you can see
what it looks like to follow Jesus at every stage in your life, and
draw from the decades of discipleship of the eldest members, who have
seen it all and have trusted God through it all. Such a community
would seem to provide the strongest support for that long obedience in
the same direction.

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