Thursday, September 06, 2012


New York City
"Tradition," in itself, is neither bad nor good. Just because we've done something over and over again doesn't mean it's worth something.

The idea of "tradition for tradition's sake" (= "We've always done it this way") is spiritually immobilizing and a sign of a dying church. The real question is: Is God in this? Here's an example.

When Linda and I arrived at Redeemer 20 (!!!) years ago one of its traditions, on every Sunday morning, was to call the children forward and invite adults to come and place their hands on them and bless them. When we saw that happening we loved it. 20 years later we still love it. God tells us "It is good for you to do this." I sense much life in this tradition. So, we'll continue it unless God tells us to let it go.

But some traditions have been left behind, at the counsel of God. For years Redeemer had Sunday morning Sunday School and a Wednesday evening service. They were traditions that came out of our Baptist roots. Both had morphed into "programs" that had to be be maintained because this is what we have always done. I have seen that striving to sustain institutionalized church "programs" is spirit-and-life draining. So, we stopped them. Because God told us to. Now we have a more organic situation with various small groups and home groups. In those groups there is much life.

My great passion is for the Jesus Movement, not the Jesus Institution. My pastoral focus is on the soil, not the building. Cultivate the earth, plant the seeds, and God not only will give growth and life but will grow up what he desires. It's not that our plans may change, but that they will change. And life-giving traditions will remain in the midst of the organic growth.

It's also not true that "If you build it, they will come." If God doesn't build the house, we're wasting our time. "Structure" does not bring life. But where there is life, build structure. Maintain it until God says, "Now I want you to let this go."