Know Your Bible

VOL. 8                           April 26, 2009                           NO. 14

A Non-Traditional Spirit

 

            Changing traditions does nothing of itself to increase spirituality. Every church follows a number of traditions. That has ever been so. They follow a pattern in their worship and employ a number of expedients to accomplish the work God has authorized. These practices can be altered without violating the will of God and hindering the fulfillment of goals set forth by Scripture.

 

            Brethren occasionally change these traditions to the consternation of some brethren, especially older ones who have seen things done a certain way for years. Undoubtedly, it is important, if strife arises over these changes, to note that expedients are not bound by God's Word and that we need to be careful lest we view them as laws from God.

 

         On the other hand, there often exists among younger Christians especially preachers, a non-traditionalist spirit that questions expediencies and seeks to overturn set observances for nothing more, it appears, than change itself. The danger of this spirit is that it can easily move brethren beyond what is lawful into the acceptance of practices that have no authority from God. It also encourages experimenting that is disruptive of the spirit of heart-filled worship or service.

 

         I have noticed for a number of years a new generation of preachers who, in my opinion, have this spirit. There are a number of things that I don't like about it. First, I sense in these men an "arrogance" that they have arrived spiritually and the old heads are stuck in a rut of heartless, ritualistic, tradition-bound worship. I've seen them laugh, mock, and ridicule old-timers who aren't informed enough, they imply, to see the groove they've gotten into.

 

         The problem here is that exchanging an old tradition for a new one is not the equivalent of greater sincerity or spirituality. Spirituality is a condition of the spirit that has ingested, digested, and filled itself with the power and energy of God's Word. Excitement and liveliness in worship is not spirituality per se. It may be nothing more than emotional involvement. Turning the lights down low, clapping, or holding hands while praying has little to do with greater spirituality.

 

         Second, I believe the non-traditional spirit has real potential of leading the next generation into apostasy. One brother, for example, according to reports, takes the position that the church can use institutional preachers for meetings as long as what they preach is the truth. Here is a case where the essential nature of the New Testament church is being ignored to accomodate brethren who have "slight" differences with us. Is it merely a "tradition" not to use these brethren? Or, do we believe that they teach error and have created division and faction in the body of Christ (Rom. 16:17)? Where will this kind of thinking lead our sons and daughters, or even the preacher himself?

 

         What's wrong, according to this reasoning, with using a preacher who believes in instrumental music in worship if he preaches the truth during the meeting? Or, one who wears the title "Reverend" and has moved the church into the entertainment business? This is exactly where Carl Ketcherside started in 1957. He had fellowship with brethren from all segments of the restoration movement as long as he wasn't bound to share in their unscriptural practices.

 

         This lasted with Ketcherside for a decade or so, then he began to sing with worshipers who used the instrument, worship uninhibited with brethren who taught the coming of a materialistic millennial kingdom, and join himself in fellowship to groups who didn't baptize for the remission of sins. By the time he died in 1989, Ketcherside had decided that man can be saved by grace through faith in the absence of baptism at all. The church where he once preached is now reported to be "filled with the Holy Spirit," including some of the spiritual gifts, and uses mechanical instruments of music regularly in worship.

 

         Personally, the order of services, the number of songs before or after a prayer, the place of the Lord's Supper in the worship, the amount of grape juice or bread one drinks or eats, how long a service one conducts at the table of the Lord, the length of the sermon, the use of new songs to replace or to be used along with the older songs, employing a sermon-in-song mode of edification, change in all these things from week to week, and such like do not overly disturb me. But what does disturb me is the naivete of some brother who thinks that any one or all of these things gives deeper meaning to worship, stirs greater devotion to God, increases maturity and spirituality in the Lord, or adheres to the Lord's plan for worship more closely.

 

         Variety may add spice to someone's life, but of itself will not resurrect those who are spiritually dead or add one tittle of growth to languishing souls over which death hovers. As some of these youthful "change agents" might say: "Let's get real, brethren."

 

---L. A. Stauffer in Biblical Insights,

Vol. 4, No. 6, June 2004.

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What Are You Seeking In A Church? 

         A letter was recently received that included the following request:  "I am sending this letter to the churches in my new area in the hopes that someone out there will supply me with information about services provided to help me with my decision about choosing a church. Things of importance to me in a new church home include the following: Children's Choir; Non-Traditional Bible Study Class; Children's Church; Children's Sunday School; Youth Activities; Youth Groups; Single Family Activities; Singles Support Group; Inspirational Sermons."

 

         I'm sure we are all in favor of "inspirational sermons!" But, some of the other things mentioned in this list reveal that this individual has a somewhat perverted view of the role of the church. Instead of looking for a church that satisfies all of our own individual preferences (observe that she lists "things of importance to me"), we need to be seeking a church that is actively and faithfully doing God's will. Things of importance to Him are the things that really matter!

 

         "Children's Church," "Youth Groups," and "Youth Activities" are not mentioned in the Word of God. And I don't think "Single Family Activities" can be found there either. Instead, God has given the church the works of evangelism (1 Timothy 3:15), edification (Ephesians 4:11-13), and a limited role in benevolence (1 Timothy 5:16).

 

         More and more we find that people seem to selfishly seek to serve themselves. Let's be careful that our emphasis is on serving the Lord. Think!

 

---Greg Gwin

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