I’m reading a really great book right now called Better Off Without Jesus, by Chuck Bomar. I know that’s a rather shocking title. It comes from when Jesus told his disciples that it was to there benefit that He leave so that the Holy Spirit could come. The book is all about learning to listen to the guidance of the Holy Spirit. It is a really great book and I encourage everyone to read it. I will do a full book review on it as soon as I finish reading it. Stay tuned for that.
In the mean time I wanted to share a thought that was spurred by this book. In the book Chuck mentions Mark 7:13. In this passage Jesus tells the pharisees, “You have nullified the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down.” WOW! Jesus made a habit of rebuking the pharisees, but this one had to burn especially bad. You see these men thought themselves to be among the most spiritual of people. They memorized huge amounts of scripture. Yet, they didn’t know how to live it out. What Jesus is telling them is that they were focusing on so many things other than God. They were focusing their energy on a bunch of things that, in the grand scheme of things, didn’t really matter. These things had no eternal importance.
So, what does this have to do with us?
Well, I would say it has much to do with us. You see, I grew up in the church. In fact I have been in the church since the time I was born. During that time I have seen and heard about many arguments that I would say “nullified the word of God.” Here are a few examples:
Music: Seems like this fight is as old as the church itself. Some say the music must be old. Others say it must be new or “relevant”.
Decor: While it may seem very strange I have heard of churches splitting over the color of carpet. I heard of a youth pastor that lost his job because he painted the ceiling in the youth building black; after he had been given free reign over the space.
Bible Version: “If it’s not King James then it’s not the Bible.” I have heard this said by church leaders. The funny thing about it is the Bible was around for hundreds of years before the King James version. The Old Testament was even longer than that. Jesus quoted scripture from the Old Testament, even though he didn’t have a KJV Bible.
There are many more such things that we, as church leaders, can squabble over. At the end of the day, when it comes to such things I have to ask myself, “Does the Bible give specific instructions on this?” If the answer is no, then I have to keep this in mind and know that whatever we are doing probably represents more tradition than Bible.
Far more important than the style of music, the color of the carpet or the version of the Bible the your preacher uses is THE GOSPEL. Trends in ministry will come and go. Architectural styles will come and go. Musical styles are constantly changing. And, so long as the english language continues to change, new Bible versions will be needed and will come.
We can not allow ourselves to focus so much on these things that we forget to teach the GOSPEL. We can not focus so much on these things that we neglect the Word of God. We can not focus so much on these things that our actions “nullify the word of God.”
Please understand that I am not saying that traditions are all bad. Some traditions are very endearing and can even make people feel like they are a part of something. However, we CAN NOT put our own, man made traditions, above the word of God. I encourage church leaders and Christians to examine your practices. Ask yourself if they are Bible or simply tradition. Next ask yourself if your traditions have been placed at a higher level than the word go God. Then take action to remove, change, or re-prioritize anything that might be higher than the word go God.