The Church Year and the Great Tradition
Our Spiritual Formation
The Church Year is a classic framework employed by millions of Christians worldwide to focus on the life of Christ in real time. As an complimentary alternative to the civil calendar, the Church calendar has served to help congregations remember and be transformed by the major events of Jesus’ life.
Linking our worship, devotion, instruction, and practice to the cycle of the Christian year provides a wealth of benefits to the spiritual journey of individuals, families, and congregations. To begin with, it enables us to “track with” the thoughts and sermons of tens of thousands of other congregations who share in reflecting on Jesus’ life and work through the Christian year. Furthermore, it helps us avoid scattered and arbitrary emphases since we link our reading and services to the horizon of texts provided by the Revised Common Lectionary. It opens us up to the vast devotional, sermonic, and teaching resources available keyed to the Christian year. In addition, you will be drawn into closer fellowship with the ancient tradition of the earliest Christians, who focused so joyfully on the victorious work of Christ as the destroyer of evil and restorer of creation. Above all, with its focus on the story of Christ and his working in the Church, your Christian year reflection will bring you back to the Storyline that lies at the foundation of the Church’s worship and mission–the story of Jesus. The Christian year can enable you to walk to his beat with a new rhythm, a beat whose pulse pounds counter to those rhythms thumping so loudly in civil calendars and in secular society.
Seeking the Revival of the Church in the City Open or Close
TUMI is committed to retrieving the Great Tradition for the revitalization and enrichment of the urban church. The Great Tradition represents that evangelical, apostolic, and catholic core of Christian faith and practice which came largely to fruition from 100-500 C.E. Its rich legacy and treasures represent the Church’s confession of what the Church has always believed, the worship that the ancient, undivided Church celebrated and embodied, and the mission that it embraced and undertook. The Great Tradition embodies the Apostolic Tradition, i.e., the authoritative source of all Christian faith, the Scriptures, and represents the substance of our confession and faith as has been embraced and affirmed as authoritative by Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant traditions.
As the roots of our orthodox faith, the Great Tradition is grounded in the Apostolic Tradition set in the bounds of the historic orthodox faith as defined and asserted in the ecumenical creeds of the ancient and undivided Church, with special focus on the Nicene Creed. It confesses the Ancient Rule of Faith, the core Christian confession expressed in that adage of Vincent of Lerins: “that which has always been believed, everywhere, and by all.” Moreover, the Great Tradition celebrates and affirms Jesus of Nazareth as the Christ, as Christus Victor, and confidently confesses the Church as the people of God, the "communion of saints," the faithful assembly of believers living and dead who make up the one, holy, catholic (universal), and apostolic community.
As a church passionately invigorated by the presence of the risen Christ, the ancient Church endured the challenges of schism, heresy, paganism, imperial domination, societal immorality, and Gnostic deception. The early Christians articulated a faith that summarized and defended the Apostles’ teaching, and established dynamic worship structures that led its members (many of whom were poor and oppressed) into a living hope and the presence of Christ. With a deep allegiance to the Lord Jesus as the victorious conqueror (Christus Victor) over sin, evil, and the powers, the ancient Church reaffirmed, reenacted, and embodied the life and work of Jesus in the practice of the Christian year. They carefully prepared new converts for baptism into Christ through their candidate training (catechumenate), and celebrated the presence of the living Christ in the rhythm of the Lord’s Day, climaxing in the matchless mystery of the Lord's Supper (the Eucharist). Rather than succumb to societal pressure, these believers lived a faith that enabled them to represent nobly the Kingdom of God in their time, and gave a great pattern and example for us to follow today.
We unashamedly affirm that the Great Tradition embodies the prophetic and apostolic confession of the Scriptures of God’s acts in history in the person of Jesus Christ. Because of this, we are convinced that a critical retrieval of the Great Tradition can enhance our ability today to bear witness to the Kingdom in a troubled and lost society.
The Great Tradition: The Legacy and Treasure of the Ancient, Undivided Church Open or Close
The Great Tradition represents that evangelical, apostolic, and catholic core of Christian faith and practice which came largely to fruition from 100-500 AD. Its rich legacy and treasures represent the Church’s confession of what the Church has always believed, the worship that the ancient, undivided Church celebrated and embodied, and the mission that it embraced and undertook.
The Great Tradition can never be used as a substitute for Scriptures, (i.e., the authoritative source of all Christian faith, the Scriptures). Likewise, the Great Tradition cannot displace the living presence of Christ in the Church through the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, it remains authoritative and revitalizing for the people of God, providing God’s people through time a clear confession of the substance of our faith. The Great Tradition has been embraced and affirmed as authoritative by Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, and Protestant theologians, those ancient and modern, as it has produced the seminal documents, doctrines, confessions, and practices of the Church (e.g., the canon of Scriptures, the doctrines of the Trinity, the deity of Christ, etc.).
A deep passion of the Institute is to retrieve the depth and Christ-centered focus on the Great Tradition, the forms and patterns of worship and ministry to be gleaned from the ancient Church. Urban churches, in order to bear witness to Christ and advance his Kingdom, must be spiritually mature and theologically rich. These resources offer practical advice in helping new Christians grow, and growing Christians reproduce.
Going Forward by Looking Back: Toward an Evangelical Retrieval of the Great Tradition
Of Whose Spirit Are We? A Primer on Why We Seek to Retrieve the Great Tradition for the City Church
Traditions: The perils, promise, and perspectives underlying the role of tradition for Christian discipleship and mission.
A Call to an Ancient Evangelical Future
Worship and the Cosmic Drama
The Importance of the Great Tradition for a Vital Shared Spirituality Open or Close
Vital healthy church planting movements among the poor assumes a richness in spiritual formation, a depth of faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, and an authentic love for all the saints. The key, therefore, to urban church renewal is finding ways for believers in community to discover and retrieve both the content and the expression of our one true faith, rooted in the apostles' doctrine and tradition. This graphic highlights the various dimensions of such a dynamic and enriching spirituality, one which balances personal piety with humble service, that emphasizes the Word and the Lord's Supper, that incorporates new Christians in a community focused on the life and mission of Jesus Christ. Renewal emerges from our commitment to live the Christ-life in community, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to the glory of God. For those interested in building a confession, spirituality, and mission based on a retrieval of the Great Tradition, these documents can show you where to start!
The Importance of the Great Tradition for a Vital Shared Spirituality: A Safe, Easy Way to Renew Urban Churches
The Purpose, Elements, and Advantages of Shared Spirituality
Sowing Good Seed: First Steps in Recapturing the Great Tradition in Shared Spirituality: keep “the main thing the main thing” in spiritual growth and missional outreach.
Theological foundations and Perspectives connected to the Great Tradition Open or Close
The Urban Ministry Institute is dedicated to help urban churches participate as fully-functioning contributors to the Church worldwide. Urban churches can defend the historic orthodox faith, anchor their faith on a Christ-focused reading of the Scriptures, and be informed by the Great Tradition. These “common roots” of the ancient Church represent the underlying tradition that particular movements and denominations draw upon, embrace, and confess. We unashamedly anchor our resources in a Christ-centered, biblical confession that coincides with the Nicene Creed.
The Sacred Roots Movement: Urban Christians Retrieving the Great Tradition
Read carefully TUMI’s commitment to helping urban churches rediscover and reappropriate the Great Tradition through The Sacred Roots Movement. Explore with us new ways in which this tradition may renew evangelical faith and mission in the cities among the poor.
The Theology of Christus Victor: A table graphic which highlights the various dimensions and phases of both the prophecies and accomplishments of Christ's work as victor over the powers. A thorough overview of the key themes of a Christus Victor theology, this chart provides a brief statement of each phase's biblical justification, select Scripture references, the role of Jesus' history as related to the phase, a brief description as to how that work is illumined in the celebration of the Church Year, and implications each phase has for our spiritual formation.
Christus Victor: An Integrated Vision for the Christian Life and Witness: Understanding how a Christus Victor worldview impacts our lives and relationships is the key to grasping its power to renew and transform our churches. This graphic document highlights seven specific areas that a Christus Victor vision can impact our Christian lives and witness. It provides suggestions and insights into Christus Victor's affection on our theology and doctrine, our spirituality and worship, and our justice seeking and compassion ministry. It also explores connections with our evangelism and missions, our use of spiritual gifts, and its implications on our congregtional identity and life.
There Is a River: Identifying the Streams of a Revitalized, Authentic Christian Community in the City: A tabular document that outlines what we believe are the key tributaries of renewing an authentic expression of the historic orthodox faith in the city, the kind that can revitalize and regenerate urban Christian community. Built upon the elements of the Church confessed in the Nicene Creed.
The Nicene Creed: Fidelity to Historic Orthodoxy and Leadership Development Open or Close
The Nicene Creed is our curricula’s critical foundation. It serves as our understanding of historic orthodoxy, and provides us with the content to create various syllabi for catechetical teaching in Christian belief and doctrine. We are convinced that a vital, spiritual understanding of the Nicene Creed can ground new believers in the faith, serve as a basis for doctrinal and theological education for the Church, and can be effectively integrated as a key component in our services of worship (liturgy). Furthermore, we believe the Nicene Creed provides us with the essential outline for doctrinal formation of the church’s leaders and undershepherds.
We offer the following documents to assist you in understanding the vitality and centrality of the Nicene Creed for both worship and leadership development.
“What Is the Nicene Creed” is an introductory document detailing its history and importance in Church doctrine.
Creedal Theology as a Blueprint For Discipleship and Leadership: A Time-tested Criterion for Equipping New Believers and Developing Indigenous Leaders explores how we can employ the Creed as a primary tool in equipping and credentialing leaders for ministry in the urban church.
The Nicene Creed and Leadership Development
In the Early Church, credential for leadership training involved comprehending and defending the elements in the Nicene Creed. As a matter of fact, this document served as a basic “bottom line” for orthodoxy in preparing candidates for ordination in the church. Not only can we appropriate the Creed in the same way for urban leaders, we can concentrate our theological training on the essentials of the faith itself.
Mastering this concise summary of the Story of God will empower leaders to better shepherd their churches and ministries. Memorize the Nicene Creed along with its biblical support to help you be able to defend its teachings biblically and theologically.
Another way to familiarize yourself with the Nicene Creed is through song. Dr. Don Davis has written the Nicene Creed in hymnic form, adapting it metrically in both common meter and 18.104.22.168. We’ve included a list of tune possibilities for use with these lyrics. (As you know, the hymn meter system allows any number of well known hymn melodies to be assigned to various sets of hymn lyrics.) With the Nicene Creed in hymn form, you can select well-known hymn melodies and sing together the faith of the Creed as a class, with your whole heart!
Church History and the Great Tradition Bibliography Open or Close
This is our recommendation for a concise, yet meaty bibliography covering the issues and history of the Early Church, the Faith, and the Great Tradition. The ancient Church’s faith and practice can prove a handy reference for the urban church today. Check out these select works on the substance of the Early Church and the Great Tradition, and explore its promise for contemporary urban outreach.