I believe that any culture, or group, which spends most of its time defending its past or demanding their traditions are the only right traditions, is dying. They believe, even in their subconscious, that what is ahead of them is not as great as what was part of their past. This is true of all cultures, all civilization, and all instructions that see themselves as above reproach. If we look at the industrial church, which is neither true nor sacred, we see how it is holding fast to traditions, and refusing to look to the future, we see an instruction on the verge of collapse.
For a conceptual mind, the industrial church has become totally irrelevant to human life; that is not to say that God, spirituality, Jesus or his teachings are irrelevant, because they are not. While the industrial church holds less and less value in the human heart and mind, people are still searching a spiritual walk. People, all over, are seeking a deeper relationship with God – the idea is more God, less industrial church. It’s funny how that relationship works. What is even funnier, to me, is this unfounded fear of change. Let’s examine this “fear” in light of two very important realities:
Realization One: God never changes. Now, our perception of God may change, and often does, but God never changes. We may see more of the divine over time, but that is simply the divine revealing more to us. In the case of our understanding of God changing it is not God that changes, but our views, of how God is relating with us as people of God we understand God. Jesus never changes; he is the same today as he was yesterday and will be tomorrow. As with God, our perceptions of Jesus may change and grow, but Jesus is always Jesus.
Realization Two: Everything Changes. Every aspect of our life is centered on change – every aspect of our life. It is a reality that nothing in our lives is outside the reality of change. No part of who we are and how we live does not change. None of us live in the same body we did 10 years ago, 5 years ago, 1 year ago, yesterday our physical being is in constant change. We have moved for oil lamps to electric lights, from horse and buggies to cars, from steam ships to jet planes, from the 20th to the 21st century.
The Paradox of the Two Realities
I love the paradox that everything changes, but God never changes. It’s just cool to think in a mind-blowing reality of God that there is one true constant in the universe. While some see this paradox as a problem, I see it as refreshing and enlightening. When we say, “God never changes, everything changes” moderns hear, “God (and all things related to God like doctrine, church, traditions and liturgy) never change, all things (except those things related to God) change.” For those who think this way, the industrial church is equal to God.
You see, in our paradox the operative word is “change” but for many in the industrial church the operative word as “God.” Many people connect God and the industrial church, and because “God never changes” that must include the industrial church never changes. Some believe the two are not to be separate, but in reality the industrial church has nothing to do with God, and I believe that God has very little to do with the industrial church. But because of that misunderstanding of the paradox people say, “The church never changes, while everything else changes.”
The idea of a non-changing church is foreign to me – it is so outside my realm of understanding that I have a hard time even thinking of a church not changing. Traditions, I have found, have little to do with my relationship with God. Sure, some find comfort in the never changing realities of their traditions, but over time we see that those traditions block many from entering the industrial church. Most, traditions are meaningless today; while they may have had great meaning to those who started them, today – not so much. They lost their meaning to the most people outside the “inner circle.” I remember talking with a member of the church and I asked they “why they did what they did” and the only answer I got was – “I’m not sure why, it just has a lot of meaning to us all.” How can anything have a “lot of meaning” if you have no idea what it is and why you do it?
New directions vs. old traditions
I believe most of the debates concerning traditions centers on the way we see our relationship to our past. Most Christians see our faith as “the faith of our ancestors.” We see ourselves standing looking back at those from our past and believe we need to keep “what they did” alive for our faith to have value. I do not see Christianity as “our ancestors.” In fact, for me looking back is only a reference point and not a distention as it is for many in the church. I believe we can respect out past, but we must not live there. If Christianity if “the faith of our ancestors” what value does it hold to my future and me?
Scripture teaches that we cannot put new wine on old skins. It does not explain why, because people living in the first century knew why. By putting new wine in old skins you run the very real reality of causing the old skin to split wide open, not only ruining the skin, also wasting the wine. Too many churches are striving to do just that – put new wines in old skins. There is no way a church can minister to a conceptual people if it is steeped in so much tradition it can even turn around to see who’s in front of them. I remember “chatting” with Brad Cecil, the Lead Pastor at Axxess, on the Postmodern Theology e-group about the coming of the “New Amish.” It seems that the church is birthing a “New Amish” style group based on the 1950’s and 1960’s (the “good” and “true” years of the church) – they will split and form “closed” churches where everything, doctrine, preaching, style, wording, clothing and all will tend to the 1950’s and 1960’s. You can see it happening, if you look closely.
Traditions are fine, if they are done for a true reason and everyone knows the reason and can receive value from the reason. To simply do something because it was done before is just wrong. I love churches that claim they want to “increase the kingdom” and yet they refuse to change to accomplish the goal. Remember, the definition of insanity is “doing the same things over and over again and expecting different results.”