The Danger of Being Traditional

I can remember as if it was yesterday.  My former pastor, Dr. Michael Catt, was preaching a message and made a profound statement.  The statement was actually a quote that he had heard Jim Cymbala, Pastor of Brooklyn Tabernacle, say.

It is easier to be TRADITIONAL than it is to be BIBLICAL!

As soon as I heard these words, my mind immediately went to a warning that Paul gave to the Colossian Christians.

Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.  Colossians 2:8 (KJV)

This simple verse carries with it several deep truths about how easy it is for Christians to be taken captive.  Here are some takeaways for us to contemplate.

  • Every person has been taken or is being taken captive by some philosophy/beliefs/ideas.
  • Christians can be taken captive by false philosophy/beliefs/ideas.
  • When a person is taken captive by false ideas, the false ideas are always patterned after human tradition.

In my estimation, there is no aspect of present day life that is more based on human tradition than schooling.  So much of what we do, when it comes to the schooling our children receive, is based on human tradition.  I will not take the time to make a lengthy list of all the traditions that make up how schooling in done in our culture.  However, we must understand it is easier to be traditional when it comes to schooling than it is to be biblical.  If fact, in many instances, even Christians will be critical if Christian educators attempt to do schooling in a completely biblical way.

The following example is provided to prove my point.  Last week I was conducting a staff development seminar at a Christian school.  At one point in the seminar, I tried to define the term education.  Everyone seemed to agree that education is a multi-faceted process that includes the home, church and school.  It was also agreed that all education prepares an individual for something in the future.  Education is future focused.

With those important points agreed upon, I asked the staff a series of questions.  As soon as I asked each question, a chorus of voices immediately responded in unison.  The questions focused on what most schooling prepared children for.  The discussion went like this.

Question 1:  What does preschool education prepare children for?  Answer:  Kindergarten

Question 2:  What does kindergarten prepare children for?  Answer:  1st Grade

Question 3:  What does elementary school prepare children for?  Answer:  Middle School

Question 4:  What does middle school prepare children for?  Answer:  High School

Question 5:  What does high school prepare children for?  Answer:  College

Question 6:  What does college prepare students for?  Answer:  A Job

In other words, traditional schooling prepares students for more schooling that will end up getting them a job!  It is very easy for any school, including a Christian school or homeschool, to be traditional when it comes to preparing students for the future.  Very good programs can be developed that will prepare students for the “next level” of schooling and eventually ensure them of being accepted into good colleges or universities.  The reason why it is so easy to follow after this tradition is that parents believe that this is what good schooling is all about.  They have been captured by ideas that follow the tradition of human opinion when it comes to the purpose of schooling.

However, it is much more difficult to be biblical when it comes to schooling.  How would one answer the six questions above biblically?  The answers would definitely not be to simply prepare the children for more schooling.  I believe the answer would go something like this.

Schooling must prepare children to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for why He created man in His image.

This is a powerful statement that most Christian parents, church leaders and educators would quickly say amen to.  Unfortunately, I have found few Christians who could clearly describe what that ultimate purpose is.  This is because so few Christian adults have received training that helped them develop a biblical worldview.  Thus, they have to try and explain that statement from a secular, humanistic worldview perspective.

As a new school year is upon us here in most of North America, it would be a good time for parents, church leaders and educators to sit down and give careful thought to what should biblically-based education prepare our children for.  Then, we need to develop biblically-based strategies to make sure this takes place in the home, church and school.   We may discover that we need to make some drastic changes to how we educate future generations.  I would love to know your thoughts on this.  So, leave a comment below.

Glen Schultz

Author Glen Schultz

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Join the discussion 13 Comments

  • Jason Nave says:

    Dr. Schultz, this is a timely and focus-centering post. I agree with you, and we can get caught up in the assembly line of education and forget what the goal is. As an educator, if our kindergarten teachers and fourth grade teachers and eleventh grade teachers are teaching students to “…prepare children to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for why He created man in His image,” then students WILL be prepared for the next grade, but more importantly, they will be prepared to more likely fulfill God’s purpose for why they were created in His image.

    I’m thankful for your post and your heart.

    All the best,

    Jason Nave

    • Glen Schultz says:

      The “assembly line of education” is a very good description for traditional thinking when it comes to the purpose of schooling.

  • Karen Rigole says:

    Students must be taught to think critically. So often in Christian education, students learn by rote. There is very little emphasis on creativeness or problem solving.

  • Mrs. Billye Dowdy says:

    Hi Bro. Glen,

    Thank you again for the time you spent with us here at FBC/High Springs, FL. It was very valuable!!!

    As I read today’s post with the Biblical Counsel, I felt I’d like to add one thought:

    “Schooling must prepare children to fulfill God’s ultimate purpose for each student that he/she will understand why He created man in His image.”

    Some times great statements of truth are heard and even agreed upon; however it often goes not applied to “me”. On such occasions, a student may miss the point that God personally cares for each one of us. Therefore this truth is for “me” to value and live out.

    Again, Just my thought,
    Your sister in Christ,
    Billye Dowdy

    • Glen Schultz says:

      If we don’t apply this to ourselves, we will never cause students to understand their ultimate purpose.

  • Thank you, Glen. Another outstanding reminder that God has called us to partner with and not replace parents in raising their children to surrender themselves individually to Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and become His to use to lead others to Him!

    Too often we also forget that education is indoctrination. Education puts in place for all of us what is acceptable and what is not so when we move even 1% off center we are teaching and modeling non-Christian conduct. I always use the illustration of the 50 gallon barrel of pure water. Sweet and healthy in every way. Even one drop of impure water makes the entire 50 gallons impure. The same goes with schooling His Kids. And when we make mistakes, do we model seeking forgiveness through Him, the offended and those impacted by our actions? Someone is always watching. Not paranoid, simply a fact.

    Dr Donald Joy wrote many books. In one I still remember 30 years later his (paraphrased) statement that “we Christians continually give our successes to Jesus to use, but what about our failures? He can use these too! And when you do, it seems to be written on your forehead and only those struggling in that area can read it and will seek you out!” I highly recommend it. I once had a high school boy show up in my (the Supt of Schools) office. He had never been there before and our relationship was one of saying hello. He had not gone to school that morning because he said in his devotions he “heard” Jesus tell him to come and see me right now. What he shared could have gotten him suspended/expelled and it was a failure I had given to Jesus to use just recently. He was not the first one after that to entrust me with life situations I had survived. He continues using my failures today at 71 years young!

    We need to remain faithful, even when unpopular, and we are called all kinds of ugly names. Others are watching how we handle ourselves. Every moment is a teaching opportunity.

    And we all need to remember, the Work is His. All we have to do is remain Faithful.

    Please keep writing. God has truly blessed you with the gift of making all of us think beyond ourselves!


    Bruce D Johnson
    Superintendent Emeritus
    Redwood Christian Schools

    • Glen Schultz says:

      Bruce, Thanks for sharing these important insights. We often miss the real opportunities to “teach” students truth.

  • Good morning, Thank you for an on time message before school begins. We our setback last year because of a traditional mindset. It hasn’t been an easy journey to turn the page together as a staff to Kingdom Education. As I seek and pray, I have been receiving downloads or revelation myself. The Kingdom message is so liberating and communicating that to a religious staff on a tradition mindset. Only God can change that like he did me. It’s so liberating to know that God has raised you and others alongside you to speak into our lives. God is always into something greater. And we owe it to this next generation to receive Kingdom Education. Please keep Oak Island Academy staff our enrolling students and parents in your prayers. Pray for me that I may grasp Kingdom fully to convey it with the heart of the Father. Looking forward to a Great new school year. Blessings to you all!

  • ByrleKynerd says:

    Professor and able Mentor who
    Speaks Truth with clarity, thank you for such insightful teaching.
    Gratefully, ByrleKynerd

  • Mark Kennedy says:

    Thanks Glen, another excellent article.
    At times it’s hard for us conservative, tradition-bound North American evangelicals to admit our past errors, break free from them and enter in ‘the glorious liberty of the children of God’. Traditions are often a blessing, but sometimes, if they’re not true to biblical principles, they can be chains that enslave the mind and the spirit. (“Kids in our family have always gone to secular schools and it hasn’t done us any harm!”) George Santayana expressed it well,“Those who will not learn from the mistakes of history are doomed to repeat them.”
    A couple of decades ago, ACSI senior staff came up with a good definition for the goal of biblical Christian education: it is ‘to prepare children for life!’. By the word ‘life’, we didn’t mean mere existence or prosperity or self fulfillment or never ending education. We had in mind the abundant life that Jesus promises to those who receive Him and put his teachings, His worldview, into practise.

    • Glen Schultz says:

      Mark, I always appreciate your insight and comment. The key is whether or not traditions are based on biblical truth.