Are we serving God traditionally, or according to His Word? These days, whenever we talk in the church about breaking tradition, we suggest removing some things because they’re “religious”. As though there’s something wrong with religion. My Bible tells me in James 1:27 that there is a pure and undefiled religion. Religion is only in vain when the man himself isn’t changed (James 1:26), but there’s nothing wrong with religion itself. However, when it comes to spreading the Gospel, tradition is a threat to stifle what God wanted spread to the world.
It is in fact The Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20) that tells us to go. Our ministries are called to be mobile, outside the church walls. The days of sitting still in the pulpit waiting for an opportunity to preach are past. This isn’t to suggest that anyone disrespect leadership or strike out on their own. However, it is to state that God has provided so many different avenues for ministry these days that it’s almost lazy for associate ministers or evangelists to sit still inside of a church and do nothing with their calling, and shortsighted for pastors to not allow room for those associates and evangelists to explore avenues outside of the church where the gospel can be spread.
Now, I realize that this thinking may get me in trouble with some traditionalists. I’m definitely on the radar for saying it out loud, but this has always been my nature: Think about it, pray about it, wait for confirmation, and then speak about it. Some pastors have progressed to the point of encouraging those under them to grow in their calling and go into the world and help to spread this Gospel. They keep a watchful eye to make sure that purity and context are maintained, but they’re also encouraging. But, let’s be real. There are plenty of ministers that have been trained, not to speak, but to sit still and quiet. There are still plenty of pastors that believe that those beneath them are to be seen and not heard until they’re comfortable in their own spirit. While this is wise in some cases (as some just aren’t ready), where there’s an obvious anointing on others, it’s counterproductive.
Understand that this isn’t a strike at older pastors. There are many younger pastors that hold to some of the same traditions because that’s how they were brought along (hence, tradition). However, it is a strike against holding to tradition instead of yielding to the Holy Spirit. There are times when God will anoint and ordain outside of what our traditions call for. There are times when God will elevate sooner than our timetable suggests that He should. There are times when God will break up our traditions just to make us aware that He is in fact God and that He is not beholden to the same rules that we try and hold man to.
Times are different now, and therefore, we must understand that ministry needs to be different to meet the needs of the time. There was a time when the only way the Gospel could be spread from city to city, state to state, and country to country, was through physical travel. While pastors were necessary, it was in fact evangelists that spread the Gospel beyond the church walls. However, with the advent of things like the internet, social media, cell phones, and independent publishing, along with the progression of television and radio ministries, we have a lot more avenues to reach the masses. Because of all of these advancements, we can’t allow tradition to stifle the spreading of God’s Word because “we’ve never done it like that before”.
It’s amazing that we sometimes believe that growth should stop with the invention of the thing that we excel in. What that means is we have many pulpit preachers and pastors that can’t handle the progress that ministry has made. The idea that someone could reach people using something other than just the pulpit can be intimidating to someone that only knows that model. What’s often overlooked is the fact that preaching the way that they preach was once new, different, and questioned as well.
Consider the fact that some preachers, and even pew members in the black church still don’t feel as if someone has “preached’ if they don’t get excited or “whoop” in their sermons, as if that’s the only way that God’s Word can be proclaimed. The truth is that God’s Word has prevailed through many changes in delivery over the centuries and millenniums, and there’s no reason to believe that it will stop because a minister has tapped into a new way that God has provided to spread the message.
This is not an endorsement for any and every one to start blogs, YouTube accounts and Facebook pages to spread just anything. A person still needs to be trained in the Word of God, they still need to be mentored, and they still need to be tried and proved before they embark on The Great Commission. After all, that’s what Jesus did with the disciples. But the notion that the pulpit provides some sort of validation that the truth is being spoken is shortsighted. Many a preacher, and even some pastors, have stood in the pulpit and spoken Scripture out of context, as well as given their own theology in place of what The Bible teaches.
The fact is every generation goes further than the previous, because God never downgrades His people. We can’t allow traditional ways of ministry to stifle the growth of the Kingdom. Some of God’s best preachers and evangelist are sitting in a pulpit silent because some pastors have a traditional mindset towards the Gospel. Because some of these pastors have this mindset, they’re silencing people that God has ordained to speak to the masses and to a new generation of believers, in languages and ways that they can comprehend. Some of these traditionalist are attempting to protect the sanctity of “their” pulpits, while at the same time attempting to silence many of God’s new spokesmen and women.
It’s not that God changes, because the Bible says that He doesn’t (Malachi 3:6, James 1:17). However, God always presents us with advancements. In technology, in learning, in thinking, and yes, in His servants. The idea that God hasn’t improved on the preaching, teaching, and evangelism of His Gospel is to sell God short. It is to limit God and to say that once He created all of the great preachers of years past, that He somehow became unable to top Himself. But as I’ve often mentioned while teaching Bible class, God has a replacement for all of us, and it’s an upgrade. Even if it isn’t necessarily in ability or delivery, in may be in sincerity towards the work of the Gospel.
The idea of tradition in itself is to suggest that the way it was done before and all of the years since was not only the best way, but the only way, the pinnacle, and there can be no modifications or improvements. To change anything at all is to damage it. How would that have worked out if we never improved from rotary phones to cells? From typewriters to computers? From the horse and carriage, to the Model T, to what we drive today? Some traditions are good and never need to be removed. However, every tradition should be periodically checked, and modified if necessary to reflect the times we live in now. Failing to do so will cause stagnation. The only thing worse than watching the world pass us by has to be standing still without even trying to keep up.
The church has a great many traditions. Some were meant to be oppressive, while others were there to maintain order in God’s house. But our overall mission should be that the Gospel is spread and souls are saved. We can’t get caught up in arguments about how, as long as it’s done according to God’s Word. If something is done according to the Word of God, that’s not tradition. That’s just doing things the right way. But when something is done in a way that we’re unaccustomed to and it offends our sensibilities, that’s when we are to rely on the Holy Spirit. Just because we don’t understand a way that’s new to us, doesn’t mean it isn’t God’s way.
God is not on our timetable, and He may be moving faster because the time in nigh. If we do what we’ve always done, we get what we’ve always gotten. We’re in a new level of spiritual warfare these days, as the Bible warned us we would be (2 Timothy 3:1-7). The devil has tweaked his approach (internet, cell phones, etc), but his message is still the same: death and destruction. Why can’t we do the same thing? Tweak the approach, but maintain the message (eternal life through Jesus Christ).