Developing Leaders – Tom Yeakley

Taking the Mystery out of Leadership

Archive for the tag “Traditions”

Culture, Traditions and Kingdom Leadership

“You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’ … thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.”    Mark 7:8-10, 13 ESV

Cultures and traditions associated with them are constantly changing.  What is important and vital today from a cultural perspective, tomorrow will seem irrelevant or secondary to something else that is now the topic of the day.  In contrast, the Word of God is trans-cultural and eternal.

In Jesus’ day the issue in question was honoring parents and the tradition of Corban – dedicating to God certain personal assets that could (should?) have been used to care for one’s parents as they age, thus fulfilling the commandment of honoring them.  Let’s make several observations from the above passage and see how this applies for Kingdom leaders today.

First we see that Jesus authenticates the authorship of the passage to Moses.  We also note that He says this is the inspired Word of God, not just some good ideas that Moses came up with.   And Jesus says that the leaders of the day were nullifying the Word of God by their teachings and cultural traditions.

The religious leaders of the day had allowed their cultural teachings and traditions to void the commands of God.  Culture had taken precedent over God’s Word.  Jesus rightly rebukes them for such poor leadership, calling them hypocrites and worshipers of God in appearance only (see verses 5-7).

As Kingdom leaders we bear a heavy responsibility to hold to the truth of the Word of God and not allow the ‘traditions’ of our culture compromise or mute the commands of God.  It’s a ‘high wire act’ with seemingly no visible ‘net’ beneath us as we teach and lead in an increasingly hostile environment.  We need wisdom from above to do this well (see James 1:5).

Don’t let the ever changing culture and its corresponding values compromise the truth of God’s Word.  Yes, be sure to be sensitive and contextualize where possible, just don’t compromise the truth.  Keep your focus on the eternal.  What is important today will be gone tomorrow as another topic moves to center stage and we will find ourselves focusing on culture rather than teaching the truth of God’s Word.

When the servant of the man of God rose early in the morning and went out, behold, an army with horses and chariots was all around the city. And the servant said, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” He said, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.”                      2 Kings 6:15-16  ESV

Cling to the truth, listen and observe your cultural context carefully, accommodate where possible, but never compromise!  God has your back!

Changing Old Forms and Traditions

On the following day Paul went in with us to James, and all the elders were present.  After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry.  And when they heard it, they glorified God. And they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands there are among the Jews of those who have believed.  They are all zealous for the law, and they have been told about you that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children or walk according to our customs.   Act 21:18-21 ESV

Recently, while doing a study through the book of Acts on the ministry forms, I was struck by the above passage.  Paul had just completed his third missionary tour and was now back in Jerusalem.  He was updating the leadership about his ministry among the Gentiles.  The leaders affirmed Paul’s work among the Gentiles and also testified to God’s amazing work among the Jews, having seen thousands put their trust in Christ as their Messiah.

But then the elders make an interesting request.  They asked Paul to join in a vow along with four others as proof that he still lives in observance to the law of Moses (see Acts 21:22-24).  And Paul submits himself to this request, joins the four in their purification rights and presents himself in the temple accordingly.

Some observations:

  1. This incident occurs at least 20 years after Paul’s conversion.  Note that the testimony of the elders is that the Jewish converts are ‘very zealous for the law.’  That is, the Jewish background believers were still following OT Jewish customs and forms.  They had become even more zealous of their Jewish traditions and the OT ceremonial law.
  2. Secondly, the elders concern was that Paul’s appearance among these zealous Jewish believers would be cause for a possible conflict.  Note that it was not the unbelieving Jews who were their concern, but rather the Jewish believers.
  3. It was accepted that Gentile converts were not to follow OT Jewish forms and traditions in their new-found faith, other than the few requests established by the leaders mentioned in Acts 15:22ff after Paul’s first missionary tour.
  4. The elders also assumed that Paul was teaching the Jewish background converts who lived among the Gentiles to leave their Jewish customs and traditions and embrace new forms of worship and lifestyle (Acts 10:21).  He did not refute this claim.

It seems that the emergent Church took many years to leave behind their Jewish forms, traditions, and customs and fully establish ‘new wine in new wineskins’ (see Matthew 9:17).  As more and more Gentile believers emerged, new forms also emerged with them.  Gradually, Jewish forms and customs were left behind.  But it was a long process with many challenges.

Bringing significant change to long-held forms or traditions can be arduous and require much perseverance.  Don’t be discouraged by the length of the change process.  “Mile by mile, it’s a trial; but inch by inch, it’s a cinch!”

Post Navigation

%d bloggers like this: