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Why Your Church Hates Tradition

OK, maybe your church doesn’t hate tradition, but if it does, I have a good hunch why. 

Let me start out by confessing something though—I’m a tradition hypocrite. Why?

Well, because I readily embrace tradition in some areas of my life while showing disdain—or at least apathy—toward others.

I discovered this reality on a recent golf trip to Scotland. I was travelling with my dad and brother to tour all the ancient courses on a trip of a lifetime. We played Turnberry, Western Gales and, of course, St. Andrews, among many others. It was a pure gift to swing our sticks along majestic views of the Irish Sea, up and down the heathery knolls, sweeping fairways and lush greens in the very birthplace of the game we love.

If the Scots love their golf, there’s only one thing they love more—their traditions.

I found this out when I walked through the clubhouse with my hat on after one of our rounds. The pro made a subtle noise to get my attention—trying not to embarrass me, I assume—and, like a church deacon, he gave me that classic take-your-hat-off motion. It took me a second to catch on—wondering if we were playing some kind of golf charades—but I finally took it off and gave an apologetic response.

Why did I take it off? And, beyond that, why did I embrace all the crazy Scottish golf traditions—traditions that, by all means, could be considered very conservative, legalistic even? No hats in the clubhouse, no shorts on the course, mandatory caddies, no golf carts allowed, etc. Why wasn’t I revolting against this seemingly oppressive form of golf legalism?

It’s simple. I love the game. 

I respect the heritage and history of golf. There’s also a sense of wonder that I have for the game and its ways. To have the privilege of playing in the very place where it began brought on even more meaning and joy. These rules weren’t oppressive to me—they were opportunities to celebrate something I deeply enjoy and respect.

So, this brings me back to church.

In the golf clubhouse I started wondering why I often dislike tradition when it comes to church? Why do I feel like wearing a ball cap in worship is no big deal? Why do I typically balk at conservative guidelines for worship when it comes to attire and conduct? If someone had asked me to take off my hat in church I might have easily been offended—Jesus isn’t about rules, He’s about relationships!

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Brian is a writer and editor from Ohio. He works with creative and innovative people to discover the top stories, resources and trends to equip and inspire the Church.