Avoid the “Old” Trap

Appeal to authority based on antiquity is not always valid, especially when the appeal is really just a cover for tradition. Have you ever heard someone’s rationale for why we do it the way we do is because “that’s just how we have always done it”? Or maybe you have even heard someone say a certain practice was the way it was done in the early church when we have no evidence that was the case. Age does not equal authority. If it did, all the bad decisions you made in the past would be better than the good decisions you make today and the Old Covenant would be superior to the New. Age/Antiquity does not guarantee superiority.

This was a part of the debate on whether people could meet in homes for small groups on Sunday evening. Some believed Sunday night service must always be at the building, together. Why? The two reasons you typically heard were: 1) That is how we have always done it and 2) The proper place for a service is at the building and not in homes (and #3 – some people will get upset if we change things). What makes the building the proper place for service? Because that is how we have always done it. Around and around we go. Then you get to actually looking at scripture and find the early church usually met in homes and we don’t even see a regular meeting time on Sunday night! To the credit of many elderships, this move was made in many congregations despite some opposition due to some of this type of thinking.

Much of what we think of as old was at one time new. Sunday school wasn’t done in the first century church. Sunday school didn’t exist until the 1780s when a guy named Robert Raikes proposed the idea. When he proposed it, it was a new application of an old idea (study the Bible = old, do it with kids on Sunday morning before the corporate assembly = new). The Sunday school model was the innovation of the 18th century church in England. Some innovations are morally neutral and not all old things are better. Do any of you really want to meet for worship with no AC, electricity, and sound amplification when it is all readily available?

Here is what it all boils down to – Some things we do are morally neutral…they aren’t better or worse, they just are. Meet at the building? Sure, if that is what the elders have called for let’s do it. Meet in a home? Sure, if that is what the elders have called for let’s do it. Location is not a right or wrong issue. But a false appeal to old practices as the norm turns neutral issues into right/wrong or even salvation issues when there is no biblical basis for doing so.

On a totally unrelated point have a watch of Bruce Lee playing ping pong with nun chucks & lighting matches thrown through the air with a nun chuck with a match striking surface adhered to the end.

[HT: Josh Kellar on the Bruce Lee clip]


About mattdabbs
I am a minister, husband, and father. My wife and I live and minister in Saint Petersburg, Florida. My primary ministry responsibilities include: small groups, 20s and 30s, involvement, and adult education.

10 Responses to Avoid the “Old” Trap

  1. Meet at the building? Sure, if that is what the elders have called for let’s do it. Meet in a home? Sure, if that is what the elders have called for let’s do it.

    Unfortunately, the “the elders have decided we should have a Sunday p.m. meeting” defence for having a Sunday p.m. meeting at the building (in the absence of any Biblical data about such meetings is really a ruse. If you do not believe it, let me tell you about my experience as an elder!

    We elders decided we should go to a small group, home meeting format for Sunday p.m. We did not do a really good job of conveying this to the congregation in a way that would let their voices be heard – and we got a HUGE amount of push-back. It was not the elders’ decision about Sunday p.m. that was important to that group; it was that this was the way it had always been done, and by golly, it must be the Biblical way of doing it! To do otherwise was to divide the church!

    These have been a couple of good posts on “traps” to avoid. Keep up the good work, brother! Hope to see you on Oct. 3 at West Orange.

    • mattdabbs says:


      When people use this line of reasoning to support their argument here is my approach. You say, “One of the things I love about Churches of Christ is that we love and respect the Bible and believe it should be our guide in these matters. Do you agree with that? Why don’t we sit down with the Bible and listen to what it has to say on the matter of where and when we worship and we will go along with what we find.” If the person refuses ask them why they wouldn’t want to look to scripture for the answer. If they go along with it, they will see what examples we actually do have in scripture.

      What do you think about that approach? How do you think it would be received?

    • mattdabbs says:

      Do you call them on that Jerry? Do you point out their disinterest in scriptural reasons for doing what we do? I think that can be done in an attitude of love. At least then, everyone can know that the real reason things aren’t be done is not about scripture but more about personalities.

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  3. Conservatives (both political & religious) need to understand this point. Too much worship of old documents, practices, & people gone by without proper honor to the principles they stood/stand for.

    Progressives (both political & religious) need to understand the point of your “avoid the ‘new’ trap.” Too much adulation for new documents, people, and practices without perspective.

  4. Excellent article but I’m not sure that I agree. However, people consider me difficult at the best of times! Cheers.

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