I Attend a TRADITIONAL Church

I attend a traditional church.

Don't get me wrong. On an average Sunday you will not find a choir, organ or pulpit in our gatherings.  Padded chairs replace pews. There are no hymnals and the pastor will not be wearing a suit. More than likely you will hear the latest Elevation or Hillsong tune. The room will be dark and the stage will be lit and people will raise their hands during the songs.  Jeans are the most common choice of clothes and most of the audience will look at the Scriptures for that day on their smartphones or the screens. Few will bring an actual Bible to church.  And yet the church I attend is traditional. Let me explain.

Traditional can be defined in a number of ways but the general idea is that a tradition is something that is handed down from a previous generation. When it comes to doctrine, you want traditions. After all, the gospel itself is a tradition that Christians believe has been embraced and passed down to every generation since Jesus and the apostles. Essential Christian doctrine is a non-negotiable tradition.

But when it comes to certain practices, traditions can be healthy or harmful.  Some traditions, particularly those related to the prescriptive practices of the New Testament, need to be preserved. Baptism and Communion would be two classic examples.  Other traditions are a mere reflection of the particular needs or preferences of a group or generation that for some reason get passed on to future generations. Can anyone say Sunday night church?  These traditions, while not inherently wrong in their original intention and purpose, run the risk of becoming unhealthy when they are held on equal plane as the ones prescribed in the New Testament.

Traditions serve a purpose. Some of them need to be embraced, maintained, and passed on. Other traditions simply need to go away like the need and purpose for which it was originally created disappeared. These type of traditions should not be maintained simply because they were effective in the past but no longer serve a redemptive purpose.  As time moves forward and things evolve, some traditions have no purpose in today's day and age.  Let them disappear. It's okay.

So what do I mean when I say that I attend a traditional church?  Truthfully the type of church we attend is probably more commonplace now than what was considered a "traditional" church in a previous generation.  I am sure if you counted every single church in places like the Bible Belt the "traditional" churches of the past still outnumber the "non-traditional" churches of the present. But I would argue that in most of the country the opposite is true.

When I started a church in Las Vegas in the mid-2000s, we were considered a "cutting edge" church by many people around the country.  We were featured in a few magazines. I was interviewed on a number of podcasts and spoke at multiple conferences. We even made a couple of local Las Vegas publications for the "edgy" way that we approached church.  But honestly, we were not that unique.  We were simply a part of a generation that did church in a certain way.  For those of us who run in those circles, it is the norm. It is traditional. It is what we know.

Last Sunday my kids got on a bus to head to camp.  This particular camp is different from any camp that was available to me when I was a kid.  But for my kids, it is normal.  I found it interesting last Sunday before they departed that the pastor's wife of the church we attend told the kids that they are fortunate because they were going to a camp that is similar to the church they attend.  Their camp experience is not that different than their weekly church experience. I am certain that many of the other churches who sent their kids to this particular camp can make similar claims.  Reflecting on that thought later, I was reminded that in some weird way we attend a traditional church.  Non-traditional is the new traditional. 

Our worship band is just like thousands of other bands. The community service component of our church is not unique.  Thousands of other churches have a similar approach. Our philosophy of ministry is common. The small group model of our church, its growth strategies, the teaching style, the leadership structure, the type of people we attract - all of these components mirror what thousands of other churches are doing around the world.  I can't really think of a single thing that is unique in our church. We are the new normal. And that is okay. 

One thing I have learned about those in the "modern" church movement (myself included) is that we love to use superlatives.  We love to label ourselves as the best, coolest, latest, most life changing, etc.  We love to talk about how we are different. We take pride in what separates us from the churches around us who seem to be stuck in a style from a previous generation.  And yet, we are equally as traditional in our own world.

My kids have never really attended a church where they have to "dress up" to go to church. They don't have to sit in pews or try and sing songs they don't understand. Many of the things I experienced as a child growing up in church they will never experience.  And I am fine with that reality.  Many want to "preserve" traditions of the past that are simply irrelevant and useless to a new generation. What I want to pass to my kids are those traditions that are non-negotiable and outlast the latest fad.

I am afraid that in the attempt to dispose of negotiable traditions that many churches have downplayed the important ones. I have been guilty of doing the same.  I want my kids to hear about Jesus a lot more than how awesome or different the church they attend is.  I want my kids to hear the gospel week in and week out - not simply as a springboard into faith or the baptismal pool but as the heartbeat of our faith and the power by which they live everyday life.  I want them to understand that following Jesus is not always easy, fun and cool. Sometimes it is inconvenient, dangerous and unpopular.  I want my kids to walk away from church every week thinking about how awesome Jesus is.

Traditions, regardless of the face they wear, can be helpful OR they can simply get in the way.  They can hinder us from staying focused on what really matters.  There is a "new traditional" in the life of the church. And I love it. I am thankful for it.  But don't think for one second that the new traditional does not run the risk of falling prey to the same tendencies of those we love to criticize.

I am sure there will be a day when at least one of my children decides to go to a church that looks very different than the one they attend now.  It is how the cycle works.  What was new yesterday is normal today and will probably be boring and irrelevant tomorrow.  As a matter of fact, the latest trend is to go back to many of the traditions this generation worked so hard to replace.  The pendulum is always swinging. 

What is important is to make sure we receive, protect, and pass on those traditions delivered to us by previous generations that define who we are and what truly makes us unique.

Paul says it this way: "I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance to the Scriptures, and that he appeared..." And that is a tradition we can't afford to miss or compromise.

I attend a traditional church. And that's okay.

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