Traditionalism and “Routine-ism”
A very close preacher friend has told me on several occasions, “Some people are like concrete. They are thoroughly mixed up and set.” Unfortunately, over a few short years, I have come to recognize that saying as fact rather than fiction. In other words, some people are thoroughly mixed up in their understanding of the Scriptures and the Lord’s church and so set in their beliefs and ways that they will not budge. These people often mistake their unwavering ways for conviction and faith. While it’s true that we should “be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine,” (Eph. 4:14) we must also remember that many of the Jews were “set in their ways” and ended up crucifying our Savior.
You might think I am describing denominational people, and you are not wrong; but I am also describing many of my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The old Frank Sinatra song describes many – “I Did It My Way” – and they mean everyone else better “Do it my way, too, or I am going to throw a fit.” This unloving, self-centered attitude was characteristic of the Pharisees who basically told Jesus, “Your disciples better do like us and wash their hands before they eat or else they will be doomed to hell.”
Concerning being mixed up and set, I would like to discuss two “isms” that are dangerous to the health and growth of the church – Traditionalism and “routine-ism.” Let me begin with the latter.
“Routine-ism,” as I am describing here, is the act of doing things in a certain way or by a set routine. Most routines are not bad in themselves. In fact, having a routine in our services can help us to do things “decently and in order.” Routines, however, can cause us not to think abut what we are doing. Factory administrators often warn their employees to be cautious and think about the dangers when on the job. It is a well documented fact that most on-the-job accidents occur to experienced workers who became careless. Why did they become careless? They allowed their “routine” to keep them from thinking about what they were doing.
Where is the spiritual application? We can get into such a routine in the worship service that we stop worshiping and just go through the motions. Our spirits cease to be involved in our worship. On occasion, when leading the song service, I have slightly changed the regular order of services, and found a few brethren to seem confused and even upset. How? Why? They almost forgot how to serve the Lord’s Supper or how to lead a prayer. Thus, my concerns have been confirmed. If we are not careful, routines can cause us to stop thinking about what we are doing.
Sometimes, “routine-ism” can become traditionalism. Traditionalism is involved when an act or belief becomes equal to the Lord’s commands. The routine that the Pharisees had of washing their hands before eating, though sanitary, became a religious tradition. They condemned Jesus’ disciples for not washing; but Jesus said, “Why do ye also transgress the commandment of God by your tradition?” The Pharisees were not concerned with sanitary health, they were concerned with everyone doing things exactly as they were doing them – traditionalism. Paul warned about traditionalism, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” (Col. 2:8).
The Lord’s church has become “drenched” with traditionalism over the years. For example, some people think it’s wrong to use a pitch pipe to pitch the songs. Some people believe its wrong to eat your lunch in the building if you are working at the building (cleaning, mowing grass, etc.). Some frown on the preacher making a remark that makes people giggle. I have even known of one who believed you have to write a check for the contribution because, if you give currency, you are “flaunting” the amount you are giving.
I realize that the first step towards liberalism is usually throwing off the shackles of traditionalism, and trying something new. Such is definitely not where I am going with this. However, we also need to realize that the first step towards a stale, lukewarm congregation which does not accomplish the Lord’s work adequately is letting our traditions and routines keep us from performing the Lord’s work in the best possible way.
Let us use the common sense God gave us. Let us learn now to apply the Scriptures and not to make our own man-made laws. Our routines and traditions will turn people away from the gospel and the Lord’s church, thus, keeping us from growing.