Thursday, June 8, 2006

Tradition Vs. Traditionalism Part 3

This blog is the most difficult of the "Tradition Vs. Traditionalism" trilogy. It is for those who are ministers of the Church of God. Today I will speak to the question of "judgment calls" in the lives of elders, the spiritual leaders of the Church. It is this area that makes pastoring so hard at times. Further, it is this area in which a minister becomes the receiving end of rebellious laity wrath!

What's a pastor to do about specific thorny problems that grow in the garden of the Church of God? He can't say, "I'm going to sit out on this one." He has to make tough choices that may offend a group of people, if not multiple groups.

Earlier I laid down a principle: if something isn't found in the word of God then you can't create a tradition that is as binding as Scripture itself. That is certainly true. However, ministers often have to make judgment calls as different problems surface.

For example, suppose a man in his twenties started bringing a cola with him to Sunday morning worship? His pattern was to open the cola somewhere between the first song and the offering. The cola would be consumed before the preacher began the second point of his sermon.

What do we do with that? There's no New Testament teaching that says, "Thou shalt not drink a beverage during worship." However, it would likely cause a disturbance around him and irk the pastor because of the cola drinker's apparent cavalier attitude toward something as serious as the worship of the Triune God!

What should the pastor do? I submit that the minister should talk to him privately and explain that we should "be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe, for our God is a consuming fire." (Heb 12.28-29 ESV)

Wesley wrote, "For our God is a consuming fire - in the strictness of his justice, and purity of his holiness." To me, that means we should put our cola cans down and act like we are in the presence of the King of Kings!

No, there isn't a specific Scripture for precisely this event; however, I believe the eldership of a church has the responsibility (and authority) to instruct members from general principles in the Bible, applying them to specific occasions as the need arises.

Here's another scenario. A young lady in the congregation is going to have a baby out of wedlock. There's no hiding that sin because the results of her choice grows with each month! (We applaud her that she hasn't chosen abortion.) Some ladies in the church want to host a baby shower for the young lady. Now, here's the rub: where should it be held?

Should it be allowed in the church fellowship hall? If so, is that making light of fornication? If a minister decides that it should be held in a church member's home, is that making light of redeeming grace and adding to the unwed mother's shame (if she's repentant)?

What if the poor pastor isn't comfortable with either choice because he can list pros and cons for each side? That is a scenario that pastors don't like and don't want.

Do you catch my drift? Church leadership is forced to make judgment calls all of the time, and each decision may bring angry phone calls or visits!

I can't tell you that these judgment calls are easy to make but they are unavoidable. When do extemporaneous judgment calls by elders cross over the line and become traditionalism? There isn't an easy answer to that question so we just have to try to do the best we can.