It’s pretty cool to be anti-tradition.
Which is why there’s a whole bunch of young, hip Christians–with tolerance and tattoos–who sing brand-new, edgy songs every week (and only want to “love on” people, man)…and they’re really, really, really…
…really, really tired of tradition. (Ew!)
The only problem is, the thought never occurs to these anti-establishment tradition-rebels that they’re just as traditional as little Aunt Mary who has gone to the same tiny, hymnal-clutching, country parish for 60 years.
It’s just a different style of tradition.
I’ll illustrate with a quick story. Recently I spoke to an individual who was interested in booking my dad for a men’s conference. As I always do, I asked this person to describe his plans for the event, so I could get a feel for his overarching vision. He told me: “This won’t be the stereotypical men’s conference. It’s going to be completely different from any other conference out there.”
My first thought was: I sincerely doubt it.
Because, literally, every other event planner I’ve ever had a conversation with says that very thing. Think about it. Have you ever heard a pitch or advertisement that goes: “[My idea] is exactly like all my competitor’s”???
Ironically, if you were to bill your men’s conference as “the stereotypical conference… there’s nothing here you can’t find somewhere else,” it would be unique. It would stand apart from most of the other programs trying so hard to break the mold…
But most people with vision don’t see that.
Anyway, I don’t meant to sound overly critical of people who are passionate for generating “new” ideas and get excited about their plans. I just want to make sure we understand, Ecclesiastically speaking, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.”
I don’t really buy that this generation is worlds different from the one Christ spoke with face-to-face, and that we need to do radical (new) things in order to reach (impress) them. Different language, different clothes, even massive amounts of technology don’t really change what makes up the core of humanity.
Now let me clarify that I totally understand the desire to escape tradition-for-tradition’s sake. Let’s ask ourselves “what’s the point of [insert certain church practice]” and then have the guts to modify it…or go completely without it…
But, how many churches are really doing THAT? How many are totally re-thinking the church structure from the ground up–and how many are still meeting in a building, with songs and some type of message, and the occasional special class–just like all the others? In other words, how many are just putting a different bow on the box? (The last two paragraphs will segue into a future post. But, for anybody interested in researching those questions on their own, I recommend reading Pagan Christianity by Viola and Barna.)
But, if it’s true that today’s humans still carry the same worries they did since the very first man; if they still encounter the same obstacles with suffering, confusion, and pride; if they hold the same craving to be significant…important…unique; then our churches should be essentially the same.
ALL churches seek to unite Spirit-filled people and meet their various needs. ALL churches. Unless they choose to cease being the Church, all congregations are exactly the same where it counts.
In an episode of House M.D. (from Season one), a long-haired, fresh-from-school doctor tries to apply for a position in Dr. House’s fellowship. But, Dr. House tells him he can’t stand his tattoo. The kid replies, “You’re the last person I thought would have a problem with non-conformity!” And Dr. House delivers this gem:
“Oh, yeah, I can’t remember the last time I saw a 20-something kid with an Asian letter on his wrist. You are one wicked free-thinker!”
He continues, “You want to be a rebel? Stop being cool. …get a hair cut like the Asian kids that don’t leave the library for twenty hour stretches. They’re the ones who don’t care what you think.”
Absolutely feel free to switch up the order of service on Sunday, or introduce new songs, or preach an intriguing sermon series, or kick-start an outreach program named with a verb followed by a number (Regurgitate-212), and invite everyone to join you on a trip in a “new” direction.
But all of that has been done–and, actually, it’s being done (or at least imitated) by most American churches today.
Even if those steps attract some “new” people to your building, I submit that they’re not “new” to the church scene. Most people interested in clever programming are just individuals who formally attended Missionary Friends Tabernacle or First God Bible Assembly down the street, who choose to worship with you the way they choose Cracker Barrel over Texas Road House afterward.
There’s nothing inherently wrong with that–just as long as we’re clear. The two churches are virtually the same. So, please don’t tell the new faces that you’re doing something no one else in history has ever done. (Ecclesiastes 1:9, remember?)
I promise, your men’s conference is very much like the other’s I’ve heard about.
On the other hand, let me remind you of Aunt Mary, from that backward little parish in the boondocks. She’s actually the wicked free-thinker who doesn’t care what’s popular. She’s actually worshiping Jesus without being distracted by whether the World approves. We should take notes from her if we crave an unconcerned, don’t-even-know-what’s-cool devotion to Jesus. It’s more simple–fewer ornaments–as opposed to the “enriched” methods in highly-programmed churches.
It’s like a plain sandwich at home vs. the special at a fancy restaurant. And it totally depends on your preferences.
…but, I just can’t help thinking one thing whenever a restaurant advertises, “We’re serving something like you’ve never seen before!”
I seriously doubt it.