The war between change and tradition
Ever notice how often church people get into fights? I read a comment recently that shed some light into this corner, and if you spend any time around churches, you may appreciate it, too.
The quote was addressing the tendency in the church to have battles about traditions vs. new ideas.
A little back story.
Churches have traditions. Actually, just about everyone does, but the church seems to specialize in traditions. From the way we dress, the language we use, the forms of greeting and gathering, to the style of music, preaching, praying, and more. The rallying cry of those holding firmly to their church traditions is often, “God is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Therefore if God isn’t changing, neither are we.
Similarly, as the world evolves and changes around us, many church people will embrace change just as vigorously as some embrace tradition. Change the look, the feel, the language, the music, the coffee, the preaching, and more. Their rallying cry is often, “Behold I am doing a new thing.” Therefore if God is doing a new thing, we should get behind him in that matter.
Maybe you resonate with one of those positions or the other. Too often the two sides clash in the church. The lines are drawn between “relevance and reverence.” The results can be ugly, unappealing, and unhealthy. There’s a good chance that some who are reading this blog will have flashbacks and painful memories of living thru one of those clashes.
The quote I came across recently addresses this dilemma. It goes like this.
“The church [must seek] to worship and obey the unchanging God while making it a priority not to raise change or stasis [read: tradition] to a place of idolatry.” (Jon Thompson)
Put another way, “Tradition isn’t God, and change isn’t God. God is God.” God doesn’t change. He is and always will be who he has always been. (The question of God “changing his mind,” is another conversation for another blog.) But change and tradition are not God. The temptation is to elevate them above their proper place. When that happens, idolatry is knocking at the door. And the war machine is warming up.
It’s a war that doesn’t have to happen. The way to avoid it is to get clear about God, tradition, and change. Get clear about your hardwired personality temptation (Some are wired for change, some for tradition.) Figure out which of the three you’re going to worship/elevate. Then live in peace. Shalom!