Sunday, April 8, 2007

What? Why?

Sometimes I think it would have been useful to have a dollar for every time I've heard the excuse, " I don't do things that way!", or, "We've never done it that way before!". Mind you, most who say those deadly phrases truly think they are mouthing a legitimate reason.

We are all creatures of habit to one degree or another, some more so than others.

There was a lady in a congregation I was privileged to minister to as pastor (I'd rather say elder), who always came in the door of the building in which we met ( it was designated 'the church') ten minutes late. She was ten minutes late, punctually! Every Sunday she would grasp my hand and apologise. One day I said to her, "Phyllis! Why don't you leave home fifteen minutes earlier?"

She looked at me with wide eyed surprise, and said,"I never thought of that!"

During the ensuing years, as I ministered to people in other places, I often thought of those words in connection with how those different groups functioned. I often asked the question, especially of elders and deacons, "Why do you do things the way you do?" Their responses were invariably ones which related strongly to habit, ritual, formalism and tradition, both locally and denominationally developed.

When questioned as to the justification for what was regarded as normal, the answer was that it was Biblical. As you can imagine there were some fairly unusual references given in this regard.

Those many years ago, when I first entered, so-called "full-time" ministry, I looked into why people resist necessary change. I can't remember the source, but some of the results of a study stuck firmly in my mind: 16% of people accept change for the sake of change, 16% of people will change when persuaded that it is necessary, at the other end of the scale 16% would not accept change, even if it meant the destruction of the group to which they belonged.

Obviously, if a Christian group, the first are in dire peril, but less obviously, if they don't have a reality check, so are the latter.

Isn't it true, and I am generalizing, that, like the lady mentioned earlier, we don't really think about what we do as a Christian group, nor why we do what we do?

Why do we think what we do for an hour on Sunday is really worship? Why not what we do every day of our life?

And please don't answer with, "The Pastor said...."! And, I am, deliberately, being provocative!


Alan Knox said...

Aussie John,

A few years ago, I would have answered your question as follows: "What we do on Sunday is worship, because that's what the Bible says is worship."

If you asked a follow-up: "How do you know that's what the Bible calls worship?" I would have answered: "Because that's what I've been taught all my life. It is called a 'worship service', isn't it?"

However, I do not think that what happens on Sunday in a particular place and at a particular time is more of "worship" than something that happens any other time or at any other place.


Aussie John said...


I agree!

Aussie John

Elder's Wife said...

Aussie John-
Great questions! And why do we celebrate resurrection once a year? If you had been rescued from drowning and resuscitated, would you not celebrate life every morning after you had awakened?
The only plausible excuse for failure to worship should be failure to breathe. (And physical death, for a believer, puts us in a place of eternal worship.)
I enjoy your blog after finding you on Alan's site. Keep asking those questions.

Aussie John said...

elder's wife,

Thank you for the encouragement. After many years of ministering in the institutional church I found answers that demanded questions. Those who were my teaching peers in other like-minded churches, refuse to even consider the answers much less the questions.

It's a great blessing to find men like Dave Black, Alan Knox and others who are asking questions and looking for answers.

Aussie John

Renata said...

I guess can say G'day without it playing on stereotypes, as I lived in Canberra from ages 1 to 13.

A few years ago, I realized that my "tradition" was the new contemporary style of music and preaching. For many it was non traditional, but for me it was the way things had always been done. I thank God that He showed me that and sent me on a journey to learn to worship Him in spirit and in truth. I still have much to learn.

Aussie John said...

G'day Renata,

If you spent 13 years in Australia, you're Aussie. I had a squiz at your blog. Obviously you don't have any kangaroos loose in your paddock.

Thanks for your comments. Traditions can be dangerous things when they become permanent religious necessities. A century from now young people will not relate to your "traditions". Too often, when challenging traditions, young people tend to throw the baby out with the bath water.

Onya, Renata

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