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Fostering a Love for Tradition

This entry is part 31 of 32 in the series

"Toward Conservative Christian Churches"

Read more posts by using the Table of Contents in the right sidebar.

Fostering a right view towards the Christian tradition is part of true Christianity. Conservative pastors will do their best to see the Christian tradition rightly viewed and used in their local churches. Living in an age which assumes that the latest point in church history is the most advanced point, a respect for tradition may not come naturally to our people. Several practical suggestions for achieving this kind of love for the true Christian tradition follow.

First, our sermons can arouse interest in the Christian past when we quote from, or refer to the lives of Christians from the past. I have often seen how one quotation or illustration has resulted in some Christians tracking down a biography or the devotional work in question.

Second, we can teach church-level courses in church history. Some kind of broad overview of the major movements, developments, and personalities within broad Christendom is hugely beneficial to most Christians. Simultaneously, we might teach some points from historical theology, emphasizing the flow of Christian thought through the ages. This helps Christians to see the jagged line that was providentially used by God to bring them the gospel and the Word of God.

Third, we can teach the occasional biographical study of someone from church history. This might not be Sunday morning fare, but there can be a place for an interesting study of the life of a well-known Christian. In line with this, we can stock our church libraries with biographies and more popular-level church history books. Recommendations from the pulpit will also help. We should not forget to find biographies or historical works written for younger readers, to foster their appetite for historical Christianity.

Fourth, we can conduct a study of some of the better known creeds, confessions or catechisms. Not only would such a study increase the doctrinal literacy with the church, it is also enormously helpful in connecting Christians with their doctrinal heritage. The use of creeds in corporate worship may not be acceptable to everyone, but this practice certainly underlines the Christian doctrinal tradition.

Fifth, we can teach on the history of hymnody, and the history of liturgies. This will afford us the opportunity to study some of these liturgies and hymns, and allow our people to see the craftsmanship that went into much of Christian worship before the slap-dash era. Helpful books on the nature and history of hymnody can be placed in our church libraries or turned into a mini-study.

Sixth, and mentioned before, recommending the devotional classics of the church is helpful. Including some of them them in your church library is important. Perhaps even a study through one of them might be effective for discipleship purposes.

These suggestions are aimed at doing more than giving the occasional nod to church history. They are ways to create a climate in which historical Christianity is part of the air that the church members breathe. Everywhere they turn, there can be some reminder of what Christians in history have thought, sung, prayed, believed, taught and died for. An atmosphere like this helps fulfill the eighth mark of a conservative Christian church: a love for and right view of the Christian tradition.

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About David de Bruyn

David de Bruyn pastors New Covenant Baptist Church in Johannesburg, South Africa. He is a graduate of Central Baptist Theological Seminary in Minnesota and the University of South Africa (D.Th.). Since 1999, he has presented a weekly radio program that is heard throughout much of central South Africa. He also blogs at Churches Without Chests.