I must confess that this post is not based on an original idea. It is inspired by a post by a great guy called J.D.Walt – you can find his post here.
In his post, Walt talks of the important difference between church tradition, and the traditional style of service. I think this is such a good point, and one that the church really should be more aware of. So many times I’ve heard people talk of holding onto the ‘traditional’ aspects of the church. Thinking about it, however, the majority of the time these traditional aspects are to do with how we do church, not how we worship or meet with God.
Tradition is powerful. Tradition connects us with the past, with the people who for the last 2000+ years have been following Jesus, learning about Him, living for Him and struggling with their relationship with Him. Some of the most profound and powerful pieces of text and song have come out of this deep and varied tradition – the creeds, prayers and hymns of those who have been before us.
Because of the nature of church, the tradition of the church has become bound up in the traditional style of church. As an example, if I was to mention the Apostles’ Creed, most people’s first reaction would be to think of a liturgical service, high church style and with a lot of rules and regulations to follow. The Apostles’ Creed, a powerful and magnificent piece of text, has become trapped in this ‘traditional’ model, and as a result it loses its power and it’s importance.
As Walt points out, it is the latest trend of the church to cast out the ‘traditional’ style of doing things – out go organs, choirs, liturgies and so on and in come bands, a worship leader, an enigmatic sermon. The danger is that, in trying to escape from the traditional, we lose the tradition. By trying to become more relevant and more open to where the church is at in the 21st century – which is a good thing – there is a danger of losing all the tradition and history from church that has built up over the past two millenia.
As J.D.Walt suggests, it is vital that the church not lose these wonderful traditions in its rush to lose the traditional style of services. It can be too easy to think the way to move the church forward is to forget about the past. If the church does this, however, then there is a risk of losing out on a rich and varied history, and a sense of being part of a group of people who have shared the same experiences, pains, struggles and joy in following Christ.