It is always interesting to see what the crazy new style of uniform the Oregon Ducks football team comes out with. The helmets they wore at the Rose Bowl were wild, very futuristic. The Ducks have worn 12 different uniform combinations in 12 games and 7 different helmet styles. I guess they took the "uniform" out of their uniforms. And it is catching on with other teams. I hadn't given much thought of it being anything more than a Nike commercial for their gear. I'm more of a traditionalist because I'm not crazy about them. I didn’t like it when my alma mater, Baylor, started wearing different uniforms other than their traditional green and gold.
However, I’m told that this is more than about innovative uniforms; it represents a movement in college football to forsake tradition in the name of winning. The theory is that teams focusing a lot on tradition and keeping the status quo like Penn State and Texas A&M actually are at a disadvantage. The logic is that tradition focuses on the status quo, not changing, and to get better we must change. Progress demands change, which tradition disdains. The Ducks and other teams that follow suit are forgoing tradition to focus more on whatever it takes to become a better team. The new uniforms appeal to the 17 and 18 year old athletes and actually become a recruiting tool to help them be better.
I'm not sure how much validity there is to all of this in college football. It has helped raise the Oregon program to a high level. But it got me thinking about tradition and the church and whether or not tradition can hinder us as individuals and churches to be what God wants us to be and do.
There certainly has been a great tension in the church throughout the ages between tradition and progress. The Catholic Church has gone so far as to elevate tradition equal to scripture in forming doctrine. While the protestant denominations don’t take it to that extent, most all embrace tradition and have a difficult time with any sort of change.
Could this focus on tradition actually hurt believers and keep us from being all God wants us to be and do? Is tradition a stumbling block? Hebrews 12:1
1) Tradition helps us remember what is important and plays a key role in instilling in us our faith and values. It is what unites the Jews and helps them remember what God has done for them. The Lord's Supper is one of our traditions that help us "remember" what Jesus has done for us.
2) Tradition can hinder our growth when we place an inordinate amount of time on it. God's work in our lives includes justification (past), sanctification (present) and glorification (present and future). I believe the church has been set back because of an obsession more with the past than the present and yes, individuals have suffered much because of it. Even today Christians have a tendency to want to study more than apply the word. We can easily get caught up with the past and even the future while neglecting the present.
3) If we use tradition to help educate, instill, and celebrate our purpose and our values and give the right amount of time and emphasis to it, this will free us up to be flexible when it comes to determining the path to accomplishing our purpose. Our methods can and need to be dynamic in this ever-changing world in order to best make disciples. The church has lost ground in its purpose of making disciples and in order to be the influence it should be in this world, there needs to be a reemphasis and refocus on how best to accomplish that purpose. As Hebrews 12 states, our focus should be on Jesus. My thought is not the Jesus on the cross, but the Jesus who is alive in us, working to make us like him.
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