Tradition or Christ?

By November 26, 2018Public Blog

There are some buzzwords and phrases that have caused me great concern over the past several years.  I hear these words from leaders in churches, schools and other ministry organizations.  When these statements are made, they really sound good and something we all should want to pay attention to.  Some of these phrases include:

  • research-based
  • data-driven
  • effective school research
  • research indicates

Before I go any further, I want to say that I find it helpful to keep up with research, polls, surveys and data so that I know some of the trends that are taking place in the world.  However, I am concerned when I hear ministry leaders say that they want to make data-driven decisions and that we must follow the latest trends in ministry based on various studies and research.  Paul cautioned Christians about this in his letter to the Colossians.

Now this I say lest anyone should deceive you with persuasive words.  For though I am absent in the flesh, yet I am with you in the spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the steadfastness of your faith in Christ.  As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him, rooted and built up in Him and established in the faith, as you have been taught, abounding in it with thanksgiving.  Beware let anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.  For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.  Colossians 2:4-10 (NKJV)

In another translation it reads, see to it that no one takes you captive.  This is a very strong warning that Paul gives to Christians.  He lets us know that we can be deceived and taken captive by persuasive words that follow human tradition.  I will never forget when my former pastor, Michael Catt, made a statement in a sermon that sent alarm bells off in my mind.  He wasn’t referring to this specific passage of Scripture but my mind immediately went to verse 8 when he stated,

It is easier to be traditional than it is to be biblical!

Wow!  When we base our decisions and practices on the latest data, research or programs, are we merely being taken captive by ideas that are following after human tradition?  We must honestly answer this question, if we want God to bless our lives and our ministries.  It is foundational to all we are and do.

Jesus had some stern words for the religious leaders of his day that relates to this very same topic.  In Matthew 15, the Pharisees and scribes asked Jesus why His disciples broke the tradition of the elders?  Jesus’ answer cut to the core of the issue.

He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?  Matthew 15:3 (NKJV)

Jesus gave a specific example of how their traditions were actually going contrary to Scripture.  He followed this example with a scathing rebuke.

Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition. Matthew 15:6 (NKJV)

In another translation of verse 6, it reads that you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.  Unfortunately, it is easier to do schooling according to human tradition while it is very difficult to do it biblically.  When we look at Christian school education around the world today, we need to ask the question,

Is it being done biblically or are we simply trying to Christianize the human traditions of how schooling is to be done?

When we get down to the basics of what research and data actually are, we would have to realize that research and data are compilations of human opinion on any given subject.  It could be said that research and data may actually deceive us with persuasive words.  Again, I want to be clear that I believe it is important to know what research indicates but any data from research must be filtered through the truth of God’s Word.  Whenever I try to broach this subject with others, some will quickly criticize me and tell me that we must stay up with the times in order to be relevant (I will address this in a future blog) with today’s culture.  That sounds good but, once more, is that saying human opinion and research should be the driving points for how we educate our children and youth?

Here is my challenge for all of us as we look at research and data.  I believe it can be valuable to be data/research-informed but our decisions must be Bible-based and Spirit-driven.  For this to be a reality, we must spend more time in the Word and prayer than in studying the latest research.  We must surrender our lives and our ministries daily to the control of God’s Spirit and make sure our traditions/methods/etc. don’t make God’s commandments of no effect.  I would love to know your thoughts about this very important topic.  Please leave a comment below.

Glen Schultz

Author Glen Schultz

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Join the discussion 5 Comments

  • Rick Yost says:

    Glen, so many of your posts and much of your writing pierce the hearts of Christian educators as well as parents and “the church”. This word is for US, the leaders and teachers in Christian schools. Your words really struck a chord with me and reminded me that even the analysis/prognostication that we receive from books and writings of other ministry leaders tend to influence our thinking/planning more than God’s Spirit and God’s own Word. Even further, He has called each of our schools to be unique in their operation/philosophy/culture, and we must seek Him in our planning, giving careful attention to that truth as well. Quite honestly, as you say, Brother Glen, we must consider it all, but give the greatest heed to what God Himself is telling us to do!!

  • Veronica Brokenberry says:

    Very well explained and written! The difficulties of making Bible based decisions will send you back into generational, religious curses. Thankful for freedom from the sins of my parents. The latest research can be found in the Bible!

  • Glen, you are SOOOOOOO right on! When I hear phrases like “research shows,” immediately a yellow flag goes up in my mind. Not necessarily a red flag, but certainly a yellow one. How exactly was the “research” done? What was the population of the “research?” What questions were asked? By whom? Where was the “research” done? Who funded it? Etc. It’s kind of like the political polls. Remember the election of 2016? Most polls were “pollar” opposite of the actual results, weren’t they? You are totally correct about our need to ask what the Bible says, rather than ask what “the research” says. Excellent post, Glen.

  • Jacob Franklin says:

    Awesome, thank you!

  • Mark Kennedy says:

    The great problem when Christian education leaders undiscerningly adopt contemporary trends and latch onto philosophy laden educational buzz words is that it tends to make us eternally out of step with God’s leading. And therefore we become far less relevant in the things that really matter. So much of biblical Christianity is counter intuitive. It doesn’t fit the mould of research based “best practises”. Just consider: the world’s Saviour born to an impecunious unwed mother from an obscure and fractious Palestinian tribe? the necessity of His unjust execution? the improbability of His rising from the dead? What modern strategic planning committee would propose such things? The point is that man’s ways are not God’s way so the best we can do is intentionally align our thoughts and actions with the principles of Scripture, seeking first the guidance and discernment of the Holy Spirit.