We are all creatures of habit. We form traditional things in our lives that we cling to such as family reunions, nights out with our spouse of family vacations. Even our own personal lives are filled with traditions. For instance, I like to get up early during the week for personal quiet time. Websters definition of tradition is “the handing down of information, beliefs, and customs by word of mouth or by example from one generation to another without written instruction“. We had a tradition in our family of cooking out and shooting off fireworks at my grandmothers house with family and friends on the fourth of July while growing up in Texas. It was just something we did without question.
There is nothing wrong with tradition as long as it does not hinder the work of God. This is where the line of personal preference and the scripture come into conflict. In Matthew 15:1-7 the scribes and Pharisees came to Jesus wanting to know why the disciples did not follow the tradition of the elders by washing their hands. It was a loaded question. Jesus replied in vs. 3 “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition“? What was thier tradition? Basically they were getting around the commandment of God by not honoring thier parents after they were adults. One commentator notes, “The Jewish people of Jesus’ day had a way to get around the command to honor your father and mother. If they declared that all their possessions or savings were a gift of God, specially dedicated to Him, they could then say that their resources were unavailable to help his parents“. You see their tradition had made the commandment of God ineffective. Thus it should be scraped.
The question arises as to why churches continue to function ineffectivley today when the traditions they hold to are causing the Word of God to become ineffective. Matthew 15:1-7 detail what much of the modern day church looks like today. Just a symbol of religion on the street as you pass by. Their programs are geared towards secular thought, their preaching is comfort seeking and phycological mush and those who dare speak against it are ‘old fashion’ and behind the times.
What will get you in hot water in today’s modern day church is questioning the establishment of tradition. I am not against tradition as long as it does not hinder the Word of God. Let me elaborate.
I have mentioned before that many of the modern day youth programs are carnal and led by young men or women who are trying to ‘fit in’ with the youth group. Statistics have proven that many of our youth in today’s church youth groups are not being saved. They make professions, but their life outside the church is influenced by the world. In other words, the programs and activities are external and nothing is being changed on the inside. Not all youth programs are failing but a vast majority of them are. There are people getting saved, but if your church has one that is not working and it is a burden to you try to get rid of it. Your true friends will come out at this point.
As a pastor I made the suggestion to the leaders of the church that we consider a parent led youth group. In other words, let’s be responsible for teaching our children life skills, and spiritual development as we go along each and everyday. It went over like a led balloon. Our youth ministry was not working, it had not deep spiritual challenges but it was a tradition and no matter how much of a failing grade it was getting, it was staying.Today, three unwed teenage girls are pregnant from that youth group.
In Baptist churches we operate under the dome of autonomy. I believe in elder led churches as is patterned by the New Testament. The plurality of elders is benificial in teaching the Word of God. In most Baptist churches you have the pastor who is trying to lead the congregation. When he feels the need to do something God has laid upon his heart he must first get all the deacons together and share it with them. If he gets it through them, a committee is usually formed. Once the committee is formed it brings the idea up to the church as a whole i.e. all the members. If they all like it then it is voted upon and finally God’s work is done once approved. How bogus!
I made the suggestion that decision be made through the spiritual leadership of the church without the process of time consuming committees, votes, etc.. Guess what? No dice here. I proposed that we find scripture that deemed it necessary to vote on things. Couldn’t find one. I asked if the majority was always right and got cold stares. When Pilate asked the crowd if they wanted a murderer or the Savior to be set free, which did they chose?
You see, I want to be right. Not for prideful reasons but I want to know what the scriptures say and follow them. If we are holding to traditions established by men that is hindering the Word of God we should be removing them from practice. This was the message behind what Jesus was saying. The scribes and Pharisees were casting the speck out of the disciples eyes while having a beam in their own. Many people will fight you on traditions, yet will keep doing them knowing they don’t work.
I desire the pure worship of God’s Word. I don’t knock all the traditions that we have but we must keep in mind that traditions can hinder the Word of God. When Jesus concluded the statement to the scribes and Pharisees it sums up the state of much of today’s church, “But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men“. I want to teach the Word of God not my traditions!