DUNKIN DONUTS, HARLEY DAVIDSON AND GRAPE JUICE: WHEN TRADITION BECOMES A TRADITIONAL SACRED COW

Posted: October 2, 2016 in HOT TOPICS
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new-church
There is a particular scene from the movie “Fiddler on the Roof” where Tevye, the father of five daughters, fights a changing world around him in his attempts to maintain his Jewish religious and cultural traditions as outside influences encroach upon the family’s lives. He must cope both with the strong-willed actions of his three older daughters, who wish to marry for love – each one’s choice of a husband moves further away from the customs of his faith – and with the edict of the Tsar that evicts the Jews from their village. Which causes Tevye to raise his hands in one last appeal to God by shouting, “TRADITION!”.
Yet today, like Tevye, there are Christians holding onto the last aspects of their tradition, but in doing so, they have become so narrowly and earthly minded, that they become no earthly good when reaching the lost. I have seen believers get bent out of shape because churches might change the methods not rooted and grounded in tradition, be it baptism, communion or even sticking to the red letter bible. The point is, the times do in fact change, societies change, ideas change, and what might have worked 100, 50 or even 10 years ago, simply will not work today. I grew up in a traditional, Pentecostal upbringing that had direct connection to Pentecostal revivals in the Appalachian mountains of Kentucky and Tennessee in the early part of the 20th century. I saw those changes beginning to form by the time I was starting in my early teens in the late 1970’s, by the beginning of 1980, the aspects of the old time Pentecostal movement had drastically changed, forever changing the way we see church.
 
Now, someone is upset because a church had a Dunkin Donuts baptism (I’m still trying to grasp that one). Another is upset a pastor rode a Harley Davidson into the church, while others are fuming over Randy Travis singing for the Lord for John Hagee. It’s all about one segment of the body of Christ (traditionalists) seeing the world around them change, while another group (modernists) begin to rise. And let me state for the record that I’m not that fond of every method used in church. However, if we would stop and trace our church history, one would see that even 100 years ago, the church in America was arguing over things which in general were a challenge to the status quo, and it can be seen through of all things – grape juice.
 
Ever since the early church was founded, the church used fermented wine in communion. This was tradition. By the time America was founded, and the church took a more political role in the founding of this nation (its first mistake), the church saw something it no longer wanted to be apart of, using alcohol in communion settings. By the 1800s, America was going thru the temperance movement, whereby the use of alcohol in any form was considered sinful, but what was the church to do? After all, the church in Europe, Asia, and the rest of the world at that particular time used wine (and still does to this day) for communion. But American conservatism, emboldened by the religious political movement of the time, sparked a furor and the church preached against it. Yet what would they do instead? Enter one man – Dr. Thomas B. Welch (dentist) to solve the problem, as well, allowed the Methodist movement that was gaining significant clout in American influence to solve the problem. In 1869, he perfected a juice pasteurization process in his kitchen and began selling “Dr. Welch’s Unfermented Wine” to churches preferring an alcohol-free substitute for Communion. By the early part of 1870s, the Temperance movement had reached its height and churches began to adopt Welch’s grape juice instead of wine. It had nothing to do with scripture, but tradition.
 
When people were introduced to the red letter bible, (the words of Jesus printed in red) they took to it almost immediately, thinking that this was truly the mark of Gods Holy word. Yet they never realized that it was less about the Holy book, but a marketing gimmick to sell bibles which were different than mainstream bibles at the time. Yet Americans were quick to latch onto it, and thus creating a traditional mindset of ‘Red letter only’ scripture.
 
Even water baptism could not escape traditionalists when the baptismal pool began to make its way into many American churches in place of the long held traditional view of being baptized in a creek the way Jesus did it. Many traditionalists, even some to this very day, consider baptismal pools as against the traditional method used since the founding of the early church. The point is, things change, people change, ideas change and yes, cultures change. Yet there must be a balance in that change which does not compromise the gospel to such a degree that the message is so far removed from the truth that it no longer holds any ability to challenge the hearer, and instead becomes watered down by tolerance and relevancy. God’s word remains the same, but sometimes a method can change which will deal with the sinner in a more appropriate way.
 
Keep in mind, Jesus used analogies when he taught the people, which was literally unheard of at the time. Most prophets were preachers, voicing the power of God, compelling men everywhere to repent. Yet Jesus used a tactic which was confounding to many, he used stories as a way to reach the people. One could almost say that Jesus was the first story-teller of the bible. Yet he did so with the intent of using a new way of reaching the lost, yet never relenting its message to a point of ridicule. We can do the same.
 
I live in China, and as such, I can tell you from experience that 85% of what I did in American churches would not, nor has not worked in China today. Why? Because cultures across the world are NOT the same. Every message must be carefully crafted in such a way that it can reach the hearer, even if that method seems offbeat in our own mind and rationale’. The fact is, God gives us direction and guidance, and not every method will be the same across the board, because things change, people change. But the one thing that will never change is the gospel when it’s presented in such a way that will bring an instant response. For that is the nature of the gospel, and why we must not be so hard headed for our love of tradition, but understanding that to reach some people, different ways must be used by different means. Such is the way we reach all mean, by being open minded.
 
“Therefore, since we have this ministry through the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. Instead, we have renounced secret and shameful ways. We do not practice deceit, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by open proclamation of the truth, we commend ourselves to every man’s conscience in the sight of God. And even if our gospel is veiled, it is veiled to those who are perishing. The god of this age has blinded the minds of unbelievers so they cannot see the light of the gospel of the glory of Christ, who is the image of God. For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus’ sake For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” made His light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” 2 Corinthians 4:1-6
From my desk in China,
Christopher
Contact me: christopher152@gmail.com
Comments
  1. Thank you for a great article that highlights the difference between scripture and tradition.

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