Are Our Traditions in the Way?

I think one of the most entertaining chapters in all the Bible is Acts 15. It tells the story of the one of the early churches first Board Meetings. And you’ll never believe what the topic was!

The Apostle Paul was in the height of his church planting ministry and he was traveling from city to city seeing huge results. Many were being added to the church. Many leaders were being raised up. And there were many miracles. However, a group of zealous Jewish believers were following behind Paul and taking it upon themselves to “disciple” the new converts. One of their main objectives was to ensure that all of the believers, Jews and non-Jews, understood that Christianity was a Jewish religion and that it required every believer to adhere to the full Jewish law. And yes, this included circumcision.

What a crazy notion! And yet, it caused such a stir for “the Way” that the leadership of the early Christian movement had to gather together in Jerusalem to debate the topic. Everyone attending was passionate about preaching Jesus and no one was questioning the message of Christ. The major discrepancy was over their methods of discipleship.  There were those on one side, who believed that the Jewish law was the inspired Word of God and was to be adhered to by all men, Jew and Gentile. And then there were those on the other side, who understood the law to be for the Jewish people predating the arrival of the Messiah. And that while it was to be valued, it was not pertinent to salvation and believing in Jesus. After all, Jesus Himself had said He fulfilled the law. So, who was right?

I want you to take a moment to read the minutes of this meeting yourself. (Acts 15)

There is one verse in this chapter that leaps off the page at me every time I read it. Did you catch it, too? It’s verse 19. After all of the discussion and the arguments back and forth, James the brother of Jesus, stands up and says, “It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God.”

As ridiculous as it seems to us today to be debating over physical circumcision as a requirement for salvation. There’s something about this chapter that is eerily familiar. Verse 19 in particular caused me to ask, “What traditions do I hold dear today that are making it difficult for outsiders to believe in Jesus?”

I’ve moved past the surgery or no surgery part of the discipleship process, but I have my own church traditions that I value. Are any of my “methods” hindering others from entering a relationship with Jesus?

When Mahatma Gandhi was asked how Christian Missionaries could make more of an impact on his nation of India, he replied “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”

Do you think that is true? What traditions do we, the Church, have that could be hindering outsiders from coming to Jesus? I know our message is sacred, but do you think it’s time we start messin’ with our methods?

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on “Are Our Traditions in the Way?

  1. I don’t necessarily want to start debate, but to what end do we cast out traditions? If its for traditions sake then sure, then its just religiosity and who wants that.. but we need to instead to remind ourselves of the one we serve and how Holy HE is, or for the sake of the sacraments that we are called to hold fast to.I believe we have both a healthy reverent liturgy and a relevant style. I’m only asking to what end do we close tradition, to cast out orthodoxy? A church that practices liturgy during the Eucharist often shows the most amount of reverence for the Lords sacraments than most evangelical or charismatic or modern churches. (I say most because I was apart of a charismatic church that practiced this) When do we choose to find the balance of the two. Being culturally relevant should never sacrifice the importance of recognizing the one we are standing in the presence of. It would be like forever standing in the courtyard and never entering in. Anyone can walk into the courtyard but not everyone will know or choose to dwell in the holy of hollies. We can make it easy for people to believe, cause it is easy if they choose, but we can also make it too easy to just float through life never really encountering or truly knowing how deep it goes or never being accountable for our actions or understanding the cost. what makes steadfast Christians in an independent society? With a percentage of now 75-85% of kids raised in Christian homes leaving the church after high school how then to we reach an over educated population that really wants something more and something deeper than just sunday..but a life and culture. We need a high level of christology which reflects deep sincere community and reflects Christ’s own demonstration of the reverence for His own Father, His demonstration on communion with God in prayer and corporate worship in the synagogues even with sinners.
    I understand that you have to find the balance that suits the culture of the body that you are leading and the Church that Jesus built.
    Also the one thing I can say is that we still need to honour our church history, yes times change and how we can do things change, like and the amazing amounts of technology and creativity that is out there is insane and amazing and can be used for our benefit, but those who came before or even those who walk beside us in different denominations have something to contribute to the body as a whole and I think when we look at the treasures that God has given them (amazing evangelism techniques or church planting or worship styles or liturgical styles) these can be used so well in every church. I say NEVER sacrifice whats SACRED and our methodology should never reflect otherwise.

    • I hear what you are saying here, Jamila. Like Pastor Kelly, I grew up in a very conservative church. I have also attended an Anglican church which is where I learned about the Holy Spirit and was baptized by the Holy Spirit in the Anglican church in a seminar led by spirit-filled Catholics from Lethbridge! I have also been a member in Kelly’s church. So I think you are right – every denomination has something to contribute to the body of Christ. I still like to go the Anglican church every so often just to soak in the liturgy and to participate in the communion service – it is so powerful! Just yesterday, I was singing in the car, an old chorus that used to sing as a child – reviewing the words again, was such a prayer for me.

      So bottom line, I think we need differences in the way we do things to appeal to different people from different walks of life. We need to examine who we want to reach with the gospel and what is valuable to them to know how to reach them. Paul said it this way in 1 Cor. 9:19-23 “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, that I might win more. And to the Jews, I became a Jew, that I might win the Jews; to those under the law, as under the law, though not being myself under the law, that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without the law, as without law, though not being without the law of God, but under the law of Christ, that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all me, that I my by all means save some. And I do all things for the sake of the gospel, that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

      What means do we have to go to to see our friends find salvation in Jesus? For me, that means, I will have a glass a wine with a friend who needs Jesus, I will help her move, I will ask to pray for her when I have the opportunity, and I will bring her a meal just to say I care. That authentic relationship will soon result in her salvation, I am certain. In the meantime, I still sing my favorite hymns and read Anglican liturgy, while attending a charasmatic Victory Church.

      Denominations are like restaurants. All restaurants serve food but people choose where they eat based on the style of food they are looking for – some might want Greek, others Italian, if it’s Kelly Stickel, he will probably go for the steak house, whereas I would really enjoy a 3 course meal at a 5 star restaurant once a year or so. Churches preach the gospel of Jesus Christ based on the Word of God, we just serve it in different styles to reach the needs of different people. We can all work together to get the job done!

    • Thanks so much Jamila for joining the conversation. I so appreciate you input!

      I agree with what you are saying. And I do believe it’s a fine balance between compromising our history and traditions and reaching the outsiders. It’s a tension to manage more than it is a problem to solve.

      I think where I draw the line is “Are my preferences and traditions hindering anyone from coming to Jesus?” And if the answer is yes, maybe I need to lay aside my preferences for a time so that I might win one.

      It’s like how Paul said it in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23 “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more.To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

      I think the key thing to note in this scripture is we need to be asking who am I trying to reach? And what will it take to reach them? I will I need to do and what will I need to stop doing “so that I may win more”?

  2. I think we need to take a long hard look at why 75-85% of children raised in a Christian home leave the church after high school! That’s staggering! And also why the majority of people who have never been “Christian” are SO jaded when even the word “church” is mentioned. I hear so often that they don’t mind Jesus…”Your Christians are so unlike your Christ” seems to be a resounding theme!
    Could it be that the Christian youth spent the majority of their lives living in a museum for “good people” instead of a hospital for the broken? Witnessing people more concerned about the man made religion than the people hurting and needing love right outside the church walls?
    And the unsaved, instead of being accepted where they are at and being loved on are instead given a set of rules and standards that they feel they can never live up to…never mind understand. The true encounters with Jesus as we find Him in the Gospel are drowned out in traditions, meetings, “to do” lists, etc. Are we making salvation easy for the “gentiles” or complicated?
    If we take one look at the life of Jesus we can see that most of the famous stories – his birth, his baptism, trial in the desert, calling of his disciples, turning water into wine, raising the dead, transfiguration, walking on water, feeding of the 5000, Sermon on the Mount, calming the storm, Last Supper, dark night in Gethsemane, crucifixion and resurrection – not one of them takes place in a church.
    In the Gospel of Matthew for example: out of 34 “Jesus” encounters with someone…only 1 takes place in a church. Similar in Mark: 26 encounters…2 in a church.
    The fact is, if you wanted an intimate encounter with Jesus, you would have been far more likely to find it outside the church. And it was always mind blowing in the most simple way possible!
    The greatest thing about Jesus is that He has no boundaries! We should expect to encounter Him anytime, anywhere, EVERYWHERE!!! He is so infinitely creative. He can touch everyone in such a personal and meaningful way…it will look different for everyone. That’s where “boxing” or “pre-packaging” takes that intimacy out of the equation…
    I do love the Church! We need the fellowship, community worship, instruction, encouragement…but I think what we really need to address as a body is how do we truly live like Christ did? There are 168 hours in our week (only approximately 2 of which are spent in church). In that time how do we pour out His disarming true love that saved us, forgave us, gave up his life for us, on a broken and hurting world?
    As a very famous Pastor I know once said “If we are not attracting the people that Jesus attracted…we must not be preaching what Jesus was”! – PK 🙂
    I don’t want to be where the saved people are…I want to be where the lost people are!
    Religion says “Do”, Jesus says “Done”. Religion says “Servant”…Jesus says “Son”! 🙂 <3
    "IT IS FINISHED!"…WOW! Awesome!
    Love from a very broken girl…made whole with a very real encounter with my Savior…outside the church walls (then lovingly nurtured inside them)! Praying I can take the light of Christ's "out" so others can experience the same!
    "I tell you truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these, because I am going to the Father. And I will do whatever you ask in my name so that the Son may bring glory to the Father. You may ask for anything in my name, and I will do it"! – Jesus (John 14:12-14)

    • I agree El! Thanks so much for commenting and being a part of the conversation!! It’s great to hear from you and to hear your heart. I am so excited to see how God is working in you and using you for His kingdom. Keep it going! 🙂

  3. Hi Pastor Kelly, I have been thinking about this all day after reading your message and I have come to the conclusion that I don’t think that our everyday traditions get in the way of every day life. My girls and I live a simple life.My family are mennonite descent and we had traditional ways of honoring God and his Church and through the years it had changed but we know God is with us everyday of our lives no matter how we worship him. No matter our traditions God is always there. So I can’t see our traditions getting in the way no matter what they are because we can be different in many ways but he is always there in our lives. We can be so very different but God is always there…

    • Hi Lorraine! 🙂 Thanks so much for joining the conversation! I agree that our traditions are important to keep in our private lives and in our families and such, but the traditions I’m worried about are the ones that can get in the way of our relationships with others and especially when it comes to our ability to leading someone to Jesus. I’m not talking about compromise, but I am talking about our focus and our purpose. Are we more interested in our comfort or in their salvation? That question must always be on the forefront of our minds, and then we can filter our traditions through that thinking.

  4. Jamila makes a very good point. Tradition for traditions sake (that’s how we’ve always done it) is useless. Some traditions have a very rich, Biblical origin, which is amazing, yet so many don’t understand it. I grew up Catholic. The mass is biblically based, and knowing that makes it pretty cool. However, I grew up completely unaware of it until I was well into my teenage years, and never would have discovered it iuf I had not stepped outside of the tradition. My best friend gave.me no excuse not to attend a youth conference with him at Victory (Fall on the Rock). I met Jesus there and began an amazing journey. My time in the Catholic church provided me with a perspective that I am truly glad for.
    I can honestly say that both sides, he traditional and the not, both have very good points. And both are missing things. Some people belong to the trsditional side, and there’s nothing wrong with that. In fact, I think its great. When we all learn to work together, I believe that we will then see the Church as Christ meant it to be.
    In then end, al I can say is what God revealed to me when I was questioning which side I belonged to: It doesn’t matter where you go to church, as long as they are worshiping the One True God.

  5. Absolutely Trevor! Thanks for your comments. I think Paul the Apostle said it best in 1 Corinthians 9:19-23.

    “For though I am free from all men, I have made myself a slave to all, so that I may win more. To the Jews I became as a Jew, so that I might win Jews; to those who are under the Law, as under the Law though not being myself under the Law, so that I might win those who are under the Law; to those who are without law, as without law, though not being without the law of God but under the law of Christ, so that I might win those who are without law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak; I have become all things to all men, so that I may by all means save some. I do all things for the sake of the gospel, so that I may become a fellow partaker of it.”

    It seems to me that Paul adopted the traditions he needed to in order to reach the person or persons he was trying to reach. He practiced Jewish traditions with the Jews etc. I think the right way to filter traditions is to continually focus on those we are trying to reach instead of our own preferences and desires. I thank God for the variety of churches because it allows the body of Christ to reach a variety of people. Let’s utilize traditions only if they aide us in the reaching of the lost. Mess with the methods without ever compromising the message.