Can Your Church Let Go of Traditions?

“There’s nothing wrong with a plan, but remember Von Moltke’s famous dictum that no plan survives first contact with the enemy. The danger is a plan that seduces us into thinking failure is impossible and adaptation is unnecessary – a kind of ‘Titanic’ plan, unsinkable (until it hits the iceberg).” –Tim Harford from Adapt: Why Success Always Starts with Failure

In the Church, we tend to start new programs, but it’s very difficult for us to end programs. Ministries and events become traditions. We worship the traditions. We’re unable to stop anything because at least one person may be helped by what we’re doing. We’re unable to stop anything because at least one person loves doing the ministry or event.

What would happen if the Church started doing less, but we encouraged people to do more outside the Church? What would happen if churches focused on what God called them to do and empowered people to do what God calls them to do?

The challenge, of course, is that people hear God telling them to do something, and they assume their church should also embrace that vision. We need to get in the practice of encouraging people to obey God’s prompting in their lives. They need to be challenged to go do it. Feed the hungry. Provide the place to sleep. Give the money. Serve those that need help. Counsel your neighbor. If we wait for that to become a church ministry or event, it may not get done. And more important, people may be missing the life change that God was hoping would happen.

At the same time, churches need to stay focused on their vision–that includes ending traditions that may be failures or need adaptation. What would happen if we begin to narrow down the ministries of the church to what can only happen corporately? What if we focused on what God is really blessing?

It’s entirely possible that the ministries and events of the church are getting in the way of teaching people how to obey God’s prompting to be the Church in our communities.

Are you able to let go of traditions to help people become more like Jesus?

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Tony is the Chief Strategic Officer and founder of The Unstuck Group. For 14 years, Tony served on the senior leadership teams at West Ridge Church (Dallas, GA), NewSpring Church (Anderson, SC) and Granger Community Church (Granger, IN). He's written several books and articles that have been featured with the Willow Creek Association, Catalyst and