Thursday, October 4, 2007

Traditional =

Here's a rather intersting statement I came across the other day on one of my forums:

"We have kind of an odd problem here at our church. Our traditional service is stuck in a rut. We would like to spice it up somehow, and do something different once in a while, but we just don't know how to do it without making it Contemporary. It's just the same thing every week."

I've come across this statement (not exactly this statement, but several just like it) many times. For some reason, this time it really struck me as odd.

My first thought was, this really is not an odd's a problem that I consider to be prevelant in most US churches.

My second thought was, isn't this statement, "Our traditional service is stuck in a rut" a bit repetitive? I mean, the whole purpose of a tradition is to surround people with the things that they are familiar with, make them comfortable, keep them from experiencing things fresh and new...that's what I would define as a rut. Let's face it, the moment you start doing something different and new, it becomes something untraditional.

I've decided that I don't like the term "traditional" when refering to a worship service, and I will never use the term "traditional service" again in our church. If we ever do a "traditional service" again, we will call it something like "vintage" or "old school". There's nothing wrong with having traditions and using them to worship God...every church has traditions, and in fact, I would argue that if your church does something more than 2 or 3 times in a short period of time, it will become a tradition in the mind of somebody in your church. The problem comes in when we begin to allow our traditions to dictate our worship.

But, to have a "traditional service" is basically setting yourself up for having rutty worship. In most people's (Christians) minds, "traditional" means that you're going to do things the way you've always done them, or at least the way you used to do them before you went all "contemporary" on them. Traditional gives people the expectation that you're not going to force anything new or out-of-the-box on them. Traditional assures people that they can come to church knowing what is going to happen (which IMO means that most people come to churchsimply ready to go through the motions).

The person who made the statement above finished be asking, "Any interesting call to worships, prayers, or other suggestions (to help us spice things up)?

My only suggestion was to drop "traditional" from the title of the service.

Any thoughts?

Read Isaiah 29, esp. vs 13-14 to get an idea of what God says about traditions and rituals in worship.



JVP said...

DISCLAIMER: this is the first time I've commented on your blog, although I have been lurking for a while. I try not to make my first comments on any blog be negative, and it's not my purpose here to be confrontational. Rather, I just want to understand your point better and continue the discussion.

That said....

I think Isaiah 29 is talking about rituals and traditions that are empty, merely "commandment[s] taught by men". But I can't quite make the jump from that to a total write-off of ritual. Just look at how God works in the Bible through traditions and rituals. The passover, altars of remembrance, all of the feasts and special days, these things were commanded as rituals to remind people what God had done and who he is.

Turning to the NT, we see Jesus, not abolishing these rituals, but infusing them with new, deeper meaning and significance. And we are commanded to keep at least one ritual as a Church, the Lord's Supper.

I think the question is, when does a certain form or pattern of worship become nothing more than a "commandment taught by men". I would argue that any type of worship service can fall into this trap. That's because the main thing to get right is a heart issue, not an order of service issue ("their hearts are far from me").

What is the pastor teaching about worship? What is modeled by those who are leading? How does everything we do orient our thinking towards God?

If those things are right, I believe that a wide variety of "forms" of worship can be God-honoring, even those that may include rituals or traditions. We have to constantly examine everything we are doing, and struggle to preserve the "why" we are doing it.

MilePost13 said...

I couldn't agree with you more!