Traditions Instituted By Man and for Man
I’m old enough to have studied the tradition of church organizations from personal observation. More importantly, I have read what others have said about church history since its inception approximately 2000 years ago. Bible believers will tell you that Christianity is all about Truth, and here is the truth about most traditions in the church…they are man-centered LIES. Most people are aware of the fact that heavy metals, like lead, and mercury are what we call accumulative poisons, meaning they are toxic once they enter the human body, and are unlike many poisons because the body does not readily excrete them. Instead, what comes in the body, stays in the body. Unfortunately, that definition fits for church traditions; once instituted, many will remain, even though there may be no biblical basis for that new tradition.
For any who might read those words in the above paragraph and get their Sunday best clothing ruffled up, (or feathers in your bonnet ruffled, but that bonnet-wearing tradition has passed), let me say that traditions have evolved, and the men who made small changes were not likely trying to purposely deceive anyone. For example, there was a time in church history when people stood, and remained standing, while Scriptures were being read. Then seating was provided, hard wooden benches. Well, as long as we are sitting through a sermon, exciting or boring, like “the standard three-hour sermons” described below, why not sit on a cushion?…thus came the padded pew. Not to be outdone by people meeting in a building across town, why don’t we put in theater-type seats, cushioned to boot? I could go one, but you get the point.
Speaking of church history, the following is taken from an article written in 2012, four years ago about a building that is about 10 miles from where I live. Note that the small log structure in the photo above has had a larger protective shelter placed above it to preserve this historical church building.
For 225 years, Rehoboth Church has been sitting in the bottom of a dimple in Monroe County, W.Va.’s rolling hills, hidden to road travelers. Built when Shawnee Indians raided the region, the log church is sited so that no one can slip within rifle-shot range unseen. Some say it was built to double as a fort, or at least a refuge.
Rehoboth is the oldest Protestant church building west of the Allegheny Mountains. The church was dedicated by the famed Methodist circuit rider, Bishop Francis Asbury in 1786. An iron plaque declares it a place for worship “as long as the grass grows and water flows.”
Although regular services are no longer held in the small, dim building, Rehoboth does open up its plank doors for special occasions such as historical services. The original pulpit remains, but the old book-board is gone, split long ago by the fist of a rousing preacher.
At barely 600 square feet, the structure’s interior is too small to house two medium-sized cars. Still, it was larger than any of the homes where local Methodists had previously been meeting.
When a circuit-riding Methodist preacher came through, people from miles around would arrive the Saturday night before to camp on the grounds. The minister often stood in the doorway to deliver his message to the crowd outside as well as those relative few sitting on the benches inside.
Seating on the grassy slope outside may have been preferable. The backless puncheon benches, still standing in the church, look to be a numbing roost during the standard three-hour sermons. The room would have been tight and airless in summer, cold in winter. Two small windows let in light and air, but there was no stove, fireplace, or any other provision for warming the room, other than body heat.
Believers met in homes for the first 300 years
Order in Church Meetings
26 What then is the conclusion, brothers? Whenever you come together, each one[i] has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation. All things must be done for edification. 27 If any person speaks in another language, there should be only two, or at the most three, each in turn, and someone must interpret. 28 But if there is no interpreter, that person should keep silent in the church and speak to himself and to God. 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should evaluate. 30 But if something has been revealed to another person sitting there, the first prophet should be silent. 31 For you can all prophesy one by one, so that everyone may learn and everyone may be encouraged. 32 And the prophets’ spirits are under the control of the prophets, 33 since God is not a God of disorder but of peace. (HCSB)
Look at some key points 1) Whenever you come together, each one[i] has a psalm, a teaching, a revelation, another language, or an interpretation.
2) 29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should evaluate. 30 But if something has been revealed to another person sitting there, the first prophet should be silent.
One of the frustrations I have had while sitting in church pews listening to ONE MAN talk, has been the inability to ask for clarification. or to challenge the speaker’s “cherry picking” of Scripture verses to make his point (usually not a biblical point) , which has often been in conflict with my understanding of the Bible. AND, the larger the number of people listening to the speaker, the worse the situation. The most egregious case I ever experienced was when a pastor flashed upon a jumbo screen a quote by someone I happened to know is a hard-core new-ager. I remembered enough to do an Internet search when I got home to confirm my belief… I nearly blew a fuse thinking about that rascal’s preaching intent on deceiving those under the sound of his voice. This type behavior in the pulpit is clear evidence to me that a mistake was made over 1700 years ago, and man has been determined to keep that tradition that has absolutely no biblical basis.
Furthermore, if the biblical account as described in the Scripture above is followed, how can one justify congregations with thousands of pew-sitters as in “each one has a psalm, a teaching…” In the past, I have been a member of two church boards in two different states, and two different denominations. I have attended several congregational meetings for extended times (two years or longer). The one thing that was consistent across several, but not all, was that ONE MAN RULED, and you guessed it, it was the man called “pastor.”
Some Experiences of Mine
The Treasurer’s Report – While sitting on the board of one congregational group, I was particularly intrigued each month when the treasurer gave his report. The intrigue came in each month that had five Sundays, and the treasurer had a beaming smile because money was collected from the pew-sitters five times rather than four, a 25% increase in collections, even if not in total money.
The Church Van – The board at another congregational group failed to approve the purchase of a used van, so the pastor managed to somehow use church funds to buy one anyway.
Picnic Shelter – In a casual conversation with the driver of a building supply truck, he commented, “I know how these churches operate. First they build a fellowship hall, and later a picnic shelter, because other churches have them. ”
MY church and MY pastor – This one makes me cringe every time I hear it. There seems to be a worship of one man and the building where so many, or few, people meet on Sunday morning. When I hear of “Pastor Appreciation Sunday” I wonder, “Will there be a Sunday to show appreciation for widow ladies in the congregation?”
In Memory of “Who?” – When I was growing up I had a perfect attendance pin, and add-on bars for 12-13 years. I sat for many Sundays in full view of a plaque at the front, to the left of the pulpit, and a small stained glass window on the right. Each was dedicated to someone in the congregation who died before I was born, 75 years ago. I know of these people and, in fact, am related by marriage to one of them. These memorials are still there.
The 16-inch High Church Building – This one gives me such a vivid image beginning about 70 years ago. My family attended weekly Sunday School at a local well know denominational church. On alternate Sundays, our congregation had a preacher, and the other weeks another domination 75 yards away had their preacher speaking. Many would alternately attend the meetings of the other on “off” weeks. Ours met the second and fourth Sundays, and the other on the first, third, and fifth Sundays. On the fifth Sunday, the “offering” taken in the collection plates went to the building fund. A small wooden miniature church building about 16 inches high was sitting at the front of the congregation on each fifth Sunday, as a reminder that the building fund was the focus of the money collected that day. I watched this as an impressionable boy for well over a decade. Finally, the old small modest, wooden church building we met in, was replaced with a new large brick one… it was never filled with people. Long, long after the pastor passed away, the building stands to this day, and in my mind, as a monument to WHAT? I do have an important side note. The pastor of that congregation also taught Bible class at the public school I attended. I was one of his students in about the 1956-57 school year. I had a lot of respect for him. BUT, this is 2016. I don’t think the tradition of pouring money into building programs for a church congregation is wise while our children are lead away by the millions at government-run schools.
Instant Gratification Is The Problem
As I have studied and analyzed church history, and particularly the non-biblical traditions that bother me the most, I have concluded that these traditions focus on self, not Jesus Christ. I have to ask, why we are so absorbed with OUR new picnic shelter, OUR new brick building, or OUR ________ (fill in the blank). Why do we get our knickers in a knot when the US Supreme Court decides it is lawful to kill babies (as long as your kill them before they are born)? Why do we get upset when the Acting President of the United States says all public schools must let boys and men enter the girls bathroom if, and when they wish. Why do we get so excited about the dastardly deeds of the world around us, and yet we send our children into that cauldron from Hell called public schools, where they will be trained to accept, condone, and eventually promote some of these same things?
Why not train our children biblical principles through private Christian schools, and/or by homeschooling them? Is there no chance for instant gratification? Is that why we ignore the “elephant in the room?” Does the pastor focus on getting more people to come into “his” church, rather than His Church, something that will give him recognition, pride and monetary gain during his lifetime as opposed to giving his talent, biblical knowledge and money to do everything possible to help those under his leadership to train children to become disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ, and to become adults who do likewise, disciple others. HINT: That cannot be done with one hour in Sunday School and another hour sitting in a pew during a “worship service” per week.
AN AFTERTHOUGHT ON THE ABOVE PARAGRAPH. Perhaps we would get better focus on the mission of the Church if we quit paying men to pastor a body of believers, a non-biblical tradition that should perhaps cease. I once ask a local carpenter why the sect he belonged to, did not pay a pastor. He looked at me, exhibited a big wide grin, and said, “Because he might tell us what we want to hear.” BINGO!
Christians: Set Goals That Will Outlive Us
Christians, and particularly pastors who lead, need to focus on LONG TERM goals, those things out 75 to 100 to 150 years into the future. Proper training of our children is key for long term goals, because we should set goals that will outlive us, rather than something for instant gratification. We must raise up several generations of people to do so, and PUBLIC SCHOOLS WILL NEVER DO THAT, certainly not train children the Christian world view. I should hope that if your children have Christian training several days each week under the guidance of Christians, you won’t have to spend a lot of energy worrying about perverts entering rest rooms. Christian schooling is not fool proof, but it far surpasses the chance they have going to a school controlled and operated by a government.
The Church is approximately 2000 years old, and yet, we follow, not the tradition that began, but rather we follow one that was established about 1700 years ago. What is much, much worse is that most of our children are being trained in a system that became a tradition more that 150 years ago, government schools. Do we need to follow a wrong path just because it has been done long enough to become a tradition? I think it was during Bill Clinton’s first presidential race that he made the, now famous statement, “It’s the economy, stupid!”
From that perspective, I say, “Forego some of the self-indulgent traditions, it’s time we Christians train our children, stupid!”