We often talk about the birth of the church at Pentecost as a completely new beginning. But was it? The event happened in Jerusalem, and the early believers often went to prayers at the temple or met in the temple portico. They were Jews, albeit from a variety of places. Most of them only left Jerusalem as a result of persecution and a prophecy (Act 1:8). The fact that the early believers, including leaders were Jews, means that as well as a new start we need to talk about continuity:
- The same people
- The same customs
- The same location
- Mostly the same beliefs
Some working in mission like to see religions other than Judaism as a useful foundation, but they are less so. There isn't actually a continuity between Islam, for instance, and Christianity. On a timeline one (Christianity) began in the first century, the other (Islam) in the sixth or seventh. We cannot, therefore, draw a line backwards from Christianity to Islam! In fact Islam is probably best seen as a religion that came out of both Christianity and Judaism, the 'people of the book'. Nevertheless there is much to build on in Islam: God is Creator and Judge, the prophets were messengers who brought God's message to the people, Jesus the Messiah worked many miracles, and he will return on judgement day. Therefore many believers from a Muslim background are happy to acknowledge their Islamic roots, just as a Messianic Jew might acknowledge his or her Jewish roots. It's not all about change, guys, it's also about continuity!