Tuesday, March 27, 2012

The Power of Tradition

Therefore, brethren, stand fast, and hold the traditions which ye have been taught, whether by word, or our epistle (2 Thessalonians 2:15).

In the January 16th edition of Forbes Magazine, Amity Shales issues a plea to clergy, lamenting some of the changes made in her own religious practices.  She writes that a house of worship serves as a “place where one retreats for predictability."  She ends her one-page article with a simple plea:  Change less.”

Modern church leaders tend to pursue change at a greater pace than their congregations can handle.  It can also have a disconnected effect on generations.

It’s easy to think that everybody gets tired of tradition.  But there’s a reason traditions become popular in the first place – people like traditions.  Whether it’s watching the Detroit Lions lose on Thanksgiving Day surrounded by family, or a candlelight service on Christmas Eve, traditions can be powerful.  When we force the modernization of those traditions, we run the risk of losing their effectiveness.

Here’s a short list of traditions have been discarded by the modern church:
  • The Indication (call to worship)
  • The Benediction
  • The Lord’s Supper or Communion
  • An offertory prayer
  • The sermon
  • Reciting the Lord’s Prayer
  • Responsive Reading
Of course there are many others (and some traditons are just plain bad).  You may read this list and think, “out of date.”  But don’t be so quick.  As Proverbs 22:28 warns, we should not be so quick to remove the “ancient landmarks” established by our fathers.

Maybe a better alternative is to continue the traditions, but properly explain them. There’s power in tradition properly explained.  The Lord’s Supper is a powerful way to share the Gospel – so slow down and explain to people exactly what’s happening.  Don’t just throw out a scripture reading because it’s not as cool as a title package – there’s power in the simple reading of the Word of God.

Amity Shales might be on to something.  As church leaders, we need to understand the people in our congregations don’t like change as much as we do.

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