There is a threat in the church that I don’t think is often addressed: the danger of our traditions.
In the Old Testament, Scribes were the godliest of men; men like Ezra. In the New Testament though, Scribes are declared the enemies of God. How did they change so drastically? Well, they didn’t change overnight; it was instead a gradual change. The Scribes, in their zeal to obey God, created many traditions surrounding God’s commands. They had a motto: They believed their job was to “put a fence about the law”. By this, they meant that it was their job to create traditions that put distance between man and the possibility of sin. For example, if God said not to work on the sabbath, they would create laws for what constituted work. In doing so however, they added to the law, and over time these traditions often cancelled out the original command, or drew attention away from its true purpose. In time, they were teachers of man-made laws, not teachers of God’s will. In Matthew 15:2-6, Jesus was forced to reprimand them saying: “Thus you nullify the word of God for the sake of your tradition”.
Unfortunately, we in the Church have the same tendency to create traditions that nullify the word of God. Let me provide a few examples that stand out to me.
It is often taught that we should “wear our best” to church. I have sat in lessons where the speaker stated that we are not pleasing to God unless we wear fine clothes to worship. Why? Not because of any verse you could point to in the bible. It is completely a cultural idea, and a modern one at that. In fact, if anything, scripture would warn against it.
James 2 states that there is no difference in God’s eyes between someone wearing rags and someone wearing formal attire during worship, and forbids the church from treating it’s members differently based on what they wear. Yet we spread the ungodly message that a person not wearing a certain level of dress clothes to services is somehow a disgrace.
Jesus strongly rebuked his followers when they incorrectly assumed that one preaching the gospel should wear formal clothes in Matthew 11:7-8. Yet many elderships tell their preachers that they must wear a suit and tie each time they preach. If a preacher where to preach in sweat pants and t-shirt one Sunday instead of a suit, many members would be up in arms and outraged, even though that preacher would be every bit as pleasing to God. That tells me we have a problem in the church of following man-made cultural ideas instead of God’s teachings.
Doing Old Things Old Ways
There was a time when Gospel Meetings were an effective tool. An entire town would shut down to see what the visiting preacher had to say. Many men and women in the audience would leave their denominations afterwards to be baptized into the Church, and a new congregation would be left behind. We still put a lot of emphasis on Gospel Meetings, even though the only attendees these days more-often-than-not are the congregation’s Wednesday night crowd. Occasionally a visitor will visit, so it’s a not a completely wasted effort, but we can’t expect earth-changing results from a method this worn out.
There was also a time when door knocking made sense. In the days when people happily greeted door-to-door salesman and unexpected guests. In our modern world though, the majority of Americans are hostile to having a stranger knock on their door. It does more harm than good to the Church’s cause. It turns people off of God and makes them resistant to Him. It gives the Church a bad reputation. Please stop.
If we are going to reach our modern generation, then we are going to need to come up with modern means of connecting with them. We can't keep regurgitating the same old ideas and expecting new results.
We study from our english translated Bibles and rarely look back to the original greek. I have heard it said that “God would have made sure that our english translations were sufficient.” What a dangerous idea! We need to remember that our english translations are not inspired, the original greek text was. And greek is a language that can’t be directly translated into english without losing some of the meaning. Many times in the NT, there isn’t a direct english translation to a certain word, so the closest english word is used and we lose a lot of meaning. It’s entirely possible to believe something wrong because of a poor translation. So it’s very important to look back at the original greek to fully understand God’s will.
In the modern Church, we do not use our Elderships the same way as they are used in the New Testament. In scripture, we see that Elders are teachers, persuaders, counselors, sources of wisdom, and aids in determining proper application of God’s teachings. They are never managers or monarchs as we see today, and are strictly forbidden from taking that role (Peter 5:3, Matthew 20:25-28).
Yet we have modeled our elderships after our modern cultural idea of what authority should look like (and a couple of poorly translated words) instead of digging in scripture to see what God really wants. And in doing so, we have outsourced our responsibilities onto them and become inactive in our own congregations.
See my full study on what the bible has to say on Elderships HERE.
There are three hermeneutics that dictate how we receive direction from the Bible: Command, Example, and Necessary Implication.
Necessary Implication is a logical conclusion drawn when, given a certain bit of information, there are no other logical options. For example, if I were to say “this apple is red”, then you could draw the conclusion that the apple isn’t purple. I never said that the apple wasn’t purple, but by telling you that it’s red then there is the necessary implication that the apple isn’t any other color.
Sometimes in the church though, we are guilty of creating what I call “Unnecessary Implications”. This is when there is more than one possible interpretation, and instead of presenting all of the options only one is selected and presented as fact.
For example, I have heard it taught that in Genesis 1:1, when we see the phrase “In the beginning”, that absolutely everything (time, space, angels, ect.) came into existence after this point, because it was “the beginning”. Even though the Bible never claims that it was the beginning of time itself. Even though angels clearly predate the creation of our world. Even though there is another option that makes perfect sense, that “the beginning” is simply referencing the beginning our our world.
When we ignore the other possible translations and only expose our personal favorite option, or the option that one scholar or another holds, than we are doing the Word of God a huge disservice. We are teaching the Opinion of Man, not God. These teaching eventually become traditional interpretations, and in time are never questioned.
We need to be very careful that we are constantly looking back to scripture as the baseline to make sure what we are teaching doesn’t become too influenced by our culture or traditions. Otherwise, the Church will one day completely nullify God’s Word just as the Scribes did.