Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

This year, the Christian calendar begins November 28th. It is the Season of Advent.

Advent House

Catholic, Orthodox, Anglican, Lutheran and many mainline churches observe the Christian calendar. The topic for each Sunday is predictable. Scripture from the lectionary guides the themes, liturgy, sermon, art, and music of that particular time. Traditional? Yes. Useful? I do believe it is.

It provides congruence. Most Evangelical pastors are accustomed to, more or less, speaking about what’s been on their mind recently. This is carefully referred to as “what God has laid on their heart.” (And you’d be a fool to question the movement of the Spirit, right? Maybe a fool, or maybe a blasphemer…if you spoke your thoughts.)

In general, it’s not a terrible thing to follow the leading of the Spirit. (If that is truly what is happening. But, that’s another post entirely!) But does this unformatted contemporary formula help cinch together the Story of God, the Christian Story, and bring a cohesive message of the Gospel, in history and depth, in a palpably connected way? Or, is the shoot from the Holy hip often more of a “bang here and a bit there,” approach?

I’d like to hear your take on it?

I tend to think a healthy mix of several Christian traditions could be very spiritually useful in contemporary times. We are already malnourished on a sound bite way of life as is it.

Chaplain Mike, a one-time Southern Baptist preacher, who blogs at imonk does the whole topic much more justice than I can. I strongly encourage you to link to his specific post with the link at the bottom, if you’d like.

Witness this poignant quote found there:
(It really hit home with regards to my Christian church experiences.)

“Part of the problem is that evangelicals really don’t have traditions,” said Carter. “Instead, we have these fads that are built on the strengths and talents of individual leaders. … But a real tradition can be handed on to anyone, from generation to generation. It’s hard to hand these evangelical fads down like that, so it seems like we’re always starting over. It’s hard to build something that really lasts.”– Joe Carter as quoted by Terry Mattingly

My main resource for this post and a really helpful article is here at imonk. It is most helpful for Evangelicals, and I challenge you to consider a deeper appreciation for the Christian calendar year, starting this Sunday, November 28th.

Thank you for reading.

6 responses to “Evangelicals and Lack of Tradition

  1. I like the general suggestions offered in the first post in the series at imonk (the re-post from Micheal Spencer). He suggests possibly not using the church calander rigidly for the whole year, but for the major seasons, and using the lexionary for the Scripture readings more than the sermons. This strikes me as helpful.

    Right now, we(my church) do Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and usually Pentecost. Not necessarily following the readings, but not ignoring them either.

    Not being in a church tradition that needs to do any of that, we get to if we’d like.

    Overall, I have mixed feelings about tradition. The point about fads and dependance on personality is well made and taken, but at the end of the day, all I care about is making disciples of Jesus – teaching them (and ourselves) to obey everything he has commanded.

    If the calendar can aid in that (and I believe it can) – great. But I seriously have my doubts that it’s necessary.

    • It might be the most helpful for creating a worldview and sense of rich history. If it were me, I’d utilize it some, without feeling bolted to it. We live in quite secular times, and I think this helps diminish the that huge influence some.

  2. I think it has as much to do with the ‘whim of the leader(pastor) as anything. For me, preaching through whole books of the Bible is helpful as it prevents picking and choosing texts by the week or all topical series. Not that those things are bad per se. I would never criticize a church for following the calendar strictly either.

  3. Lisa,
    I’m so glad you addressed this topic. I’ve been theorizing lately that evangelicals generally lack tradition or suffer from a truncated tradition and we’re therefore at the mercy of one particular vein of culture or another. The clash between emerging and more traditional folks, in my view, is most likely two camps trying to figure out what to do with culture after suffering from a deficit of tradition. As we re-engage with our traditions, I think we’re able to overcome some of our divisions that have arisen from culture. I’m not sure if that makes sense, as I’m summarizing pages and pages of thoughts that are still in progress.

  4. “Tradition” vs. “fad” is an excellent and useful distinction.