I was thinking about my church tradition. There is a lot to be ashamed of in my tradition, yet there is much to be proud of as well. My tradition is like a mother who raised me in my faith. She taught me to value scripture over human reasoning and church tradition. She taught me to value the local community of faith. She taught me to care about people who didn’t know Jesus and to do something about it. Most of all, she taught me to love Jesus. My tradition has shaped me and remains a vital part of who I am. My worldview is largely that of a Restorationist.
So it is with great sadness that I find myself without a tradition. My tradition educated me right out of herself. She taught me to think and to ask questions and to prioritize and, like a good student, I drank deeply from the lessons she taught and, like a good student, I practiced those lessons until my tradition could stand me no longer. I practiced those lessons until I was disowned by the very tradition I sought to honor. In the vein of a good Restorationist, I honored God before my tradition and that is something she just could not tolerate. I find myself increasingly saddened that I have become a man without a tradition.
There are many like me who have been abandoned by our mother. There are many young pastors who, like me, have stayed true to our Restorationist roots and have adapted our congregations to the changing culture in order to become more relevant—in order to reach more people with the good news of Jesus. Across the country the numbers are growing of churches that are doing things differently: not leaving the Scripture or leaving the heart of the Restoration Plea, simply leaving the formula whose days passed long ago.
Why were we pushed out of the tent? Is it not big enough for everybody? Is there not room under this tent for diversity? Is there not room for those of us who seek the same goals and keep the same values? What will become of a tradition that is too small to keep the sons she nurtured under the protection of her shade? What will become of a tradition that refuses to allow the young to patch her holes and repair her poles? What will become of a tradition who loses her agility, whose momentum is slowed by brittle bones and a frail mind?
There are many like me, brothers banded together as wounded orphans. We find commonality in our desire to be loved by our mother, yet we are united in our unwavering loyalty to our Father. Perhaps our tradition will come around. Perhaps she will expand her flaps and allow us to enjoy her shade once again. Until then we take solace that the Father is pleased.