Why Tradition In A Church Is Good And Traditionalism Is Not

Following traditions without giving in to traditionalism.

It hinders reaching the next generations. Traditionalism assumes that almost anything new is a threat to the gospel, even if the gospel itself is never compromised. It requires young generations to become us if they want to follow God. It blocks making necessary change. Traditionalism fights change, often without honest consideration of the options. It doesn’t inform change like tradition does; it obstructs it.

 

Years ago, I heard Chuck Swindoll, long-term pastor and now the chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary, speak about the dangers of traditionalism. More recently, I read his devotion on the same topic, where he defined traditionalism as “an attitude that resists change, adaptation, or alteration.”* Dr. Swindoll is much, much more brilliant than I, but here’s how I describe both concepts in light of the local church:

Why tradition is good:

  1. It honors God for whatHe has done. Tradition, by definition, is tied to the past. Ideally, though, it focuses on God and what He has done, not on what we used to do in the church. Healthy tradition is concerned about glorifying God only.
  2. It celebrates the past while pressing toward the future.There’s nothing wrong with celebrating yesterday as long as that rejoicing encourages us to move into the future. My first church had an annual homecoming service that retold God’s work to encourage us to capture God’s vision for tomorrow—and that’s a good kind of tradition.
  3. It grounds next generations in the work of God.Tradition is good when it helps next generations appreciate what God has done through His people in the past. For example, the Hebrews marked places where God worked so their children and grandchildren could know His care and guidance (e.g., Joshua 4).

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