"It Must Be Condemned in the Bible Somewhere!" (Part 1)
I grew up in a small church that didn’t have a kitchen or a dinning hall. Because we were a “sound” church that claimed to things “The Biblical Way” I assumed any church that did things different than us must be wrong. I remember as a young man I was appalled the first time I was in a church that had a fellowship hall or a basketball hoop, or a kitchen….Did they not know that such facilities were an abomination!? One may have responded, “the Bible doesn’t say those things are wrong,” but I KNEW it must be condemned in the Bible....somewhere. The fact, however, was it wasn’t. The verse I would use to say “have you not houses to eat in drink in” (1 Cor. 11:22), was not talking about church kitchens at all, but the Lord’s Supper. This was hard for me to come to grips with, a belief ingrained in me through years of practice was not founded in Scripture.
Humans are naturally creatures of habit, (this is why we always sit in the same spots every Sunday). The challenge with routine and habit, is if you do something one way long enough, you begin to think it is the only way, and since you are the one doing it, you believe it is the best way.
Couple this mentality with religion and you have a perfect storm for dogmatism. If the routine is tied to religious practice you begin to believe that not only is it the only way, and the best way, but it must also be the Godly way. When you observe a religious practice that differs from your own, your engrained response (articulated or not) is “that must be condemned in the Bible somewhere!”. Imagine the stress the first century Jews felt when Jesus and the Disciples came along healing on the Sabbath and welcoming in the Gentiles.
Think about church practices we have done for years. I bet we often feel like anything different must be condemned. I grew up always hearing an invitation/alter call at the end of every sermon, I remember the first time I didn’t offer one at the end of the sermon, I thought for sure lightning was going to strike me. Most of you who have attended WVCOC for years were accustomed to us having two services every Sunday, when we stopped the evening service several said “It just doesn’t feel right!”. Even-though multiple services are not required in Scripture, it seemed as though they must be.
What about other things we do when we gather that seem like “sound doctrine” but might be nothing more than habit and multi-generational religious tradition? Consider a practice that might potentially be more tradition than doctrine: Singing at every assembly; is there a requirement in Scripture that every Sunday our service has to have a musical component? Would it be wrong if on a Sunday we chose to not do any singing? This thought process may make us nervous, we feel that assemblies without singing “must be condemned in the Bible somewhere”….are they? We need to ask questions like these more often. Questions about certain specific gender limitations, number of song leaders, worship styles, praise and prayer postures, and other practices might be just tradition and not Scripture. It is up to us to do diligent Bible study and not just assume that the "status quo" is what is right.
I worry that I often have blinders on that prevent me from honestly examining my own traditions in light of what is in Scripture. This article is not intended to upset or push an agenda, but instead to at least get us to stop and ask “Is what I believe to be true…actually true?”. May we never assume that our way is always the right way.