This article was first published here on February 1st 2018.
Not long ago, I was at a meeting with a powerful apostle/evangelist who blasted 'tradition' as the main block to the move of the Holy Spirit, transformation, and the miraculous. This is a common refrain. Ironically, the worship service that was presented followed the exact pattern that one would expect from his church stream. It was indeed a traditional service from that point of view.
Is Tradition Bad and the Barrier to the Move of the Holy Spirit?
I have taught and spoken much on the importance of tradition and even liturgy for giving us a sense of rootedness rather than just being adrift on the sea as every new thing is used and then discarded. Jews, of course, are the people of tradition, and maybe overly so. And I would agree that tradition which is applied in the wrong way can indeed be a factor preventing the move of the Holy Spirit in our midst. So we need a more balanced analysis. To clarify the issues I want to describe two streams.
First Stream: Congregations that Formerly Pursued the Manifestations
The first stream is the congregations that used to pursue the presence of the Spirit and welcome manifestations of the Spirit, with the invitation, "Come, Holy Spirit." Some were linked to the "Vineyard". Others used to have Holy Spirit conferences. There were tongues and interpretation, prophecy, ministry by trained altar ministers after the message and much more. But somehow these congregations decided that such an orientation was not helpful to growth, and that reaching the "lost" required a more predictable orientation. They do not do liturgy, but they are traditional in their own way and people can set their watches according to the timing of different parts of the gathering.
Second Stream: "Traditional Worship" Congregations with a Spontaneous Move of the Spirit
I contrast this with Holy Trinity Brompton, in London, led by Nicky Gumble. This Anglican evangelical church, while rooted in tradition, is famous as the center for the 'Alpha Course' program in evangelism, with many thousands of people having been brought to the Lord and many churches planted and renewed. They incorporate ancient liturgy and old hymns as part of the worship service. After the message, they push the chairs aside and return to worship and waiting on the Lord for His Spirit to move, in a spontaneous Holy Spirit time!
Comparing the two examples, one can see that the former "Come, Holy Spirit" churches are much more rigid in their "non-traditional tradition" than this particular Anglican church with its explicit use of tradition.
In Messianic Jewish congregations which I have led and overseen, we have sought to model Jewish-rooted liturgy that is adjusted to be New Covenant oriented, while also inviting moves of the Spirit such as prophecy, healings and more.
Tradition Applied in the Wrong Way
So the issue is not tradition, but how tradition is used. The assumption is that tradition is best/safe/reliable and that the Spirit will be content to operate within tradition's parameters. This results in applying tradition by planning everything, and thereby not making room for the Spirit to come and do things that are not planned. Without space and time for the move of the Spirit in the main services and in home gatherings, we fall into rigid patterns just as much as the most liturgical churches and synagogues. Why does this happen? Here are the three main reasons:
Leaders are unsure of how to govern these open, "Holy Spirit times". They do not feel confidence and discernment, and are not relaxed about it; they feel threatened.
Leaders conclude that Holy Spirit "stuff" is contrary to winning unbelieving visitors. Yet so many have been won by the real moves of the Spirit.
Leaders fear taking a risk or losing control, yet faith has a risk element and requires surrender to the Spirit!
Many of us long for the moves of the Holy Spirit and believe they are essential. As we pray for revival it is important to correctly diagnose this barrier. The problem here is not tradition, but tradition that is applied and used in the wrong way.
Donate to support the vision of Restoration from Zion.
There have been comments to this article ...
03:59pm 01Feb18, DB: I rejoined an English Anglican church, some 20 years ago as the "Toronto Blessing" was in its final phase there. Although treated with great enthusiasm, it petered out with a change of leadership. I can't help feeling that in retrospect it aggravated confusion between style and content resulting in a short lived tradition of - quite frankly - 90 percent silliness. After a long intermediate spell of management based leadership we are now seeing yet a new younger leader coming in with a flexible approach that seems to be subordinated to the need for relationship with the Almighty: giving Him a chance to get a word in edgeways rather than yet another performance. I sense that people are finding it "like water in a dry land". May all people who hope for such things find the answer they long for ...
4:45pm 01Feb18, Henri Nissen: This is a true and important analysis. We need to change the "new" charismatic traditions and the noise and "professional" music in order to get back the genuine move of the holy spirit.
4:52pm 01Feb18, Kathy: Very fine insights in this article. I am appreciative for the insights that come from Zion. My pastor once gave a sermon castigating all tradition, and I just didn't fine it helpful at all. But this article definitely is.
5:24pm 01Feb18, CS: I thank you very much for your description of how the Holy Spirit can and does move through a traditional liturgical church service. Recently I brought a friend with me and I was concerned that our service was too rigid for those used to more movement of the Holy Spirit. I can't explain it but I have, seen felt and been a part of the movement of the Holy Spirit in our traditional service. I have seen people who go into church with one mindset leave with a more open and compassionate heart. I have seen people come in places with a heavy burden leave with a lightened and happy heart. I have seen people that haven't got along for years leave together, one in spirit. I wish I could see a more contemporary look and feel to our church and feel comfortable enough to raise my hands of Callahan I feel lead to do such a thing. But I also am very careful not to do something that will bring attention to me instead of God. I will continue to struggle with this but I know that the Holy Spirit has me right where I belong.
-- Dr Juster replies: This is perceptive and does show the dilemma that some find ourselves in.
5:50pm 01Feb18, Nancy M: The Holy Trinity Brompton approach sounds amazing to me. Having been raised in Virginia's Episcopal church tradition -- unsaved and lacking a personal relationship with Jesus, but thinking I was a believer -- I had to leave the denomination to grow in faith after being born again. Once baptized in the Holy Spirit, I could see the wisdom and beauty of the Episcopal liturgy with new eyes, yet I'd never want to give up the freedom of flowing in what Holy Spirit wants to do in the non-denominational charismatic gatherings I attend. The Brompton approach sounds like the best of both worlds. I'd love to visit there.
-- Dr Juster replies: Yes, I think Brompton was quite amazing. The days of charismatic expression in the Truro Episcopal Church in Northern Virginia under John Howe, before he became bishop in central Florida, was also quite a model.
7:34pm 01Feb18, Richard Hanner: Excellent and balanced!
11:28pm 01Feb18, Mary Anne Biele: The Holy Spirit will come to a true seeker of GOD no matter what the setting, however mostly there is too much noise and fanfare. Remember we are to seek Him in our 'prayer closets', which means 'alone time' with the L-RD, one on one time. A good teacher or leader will share the Word of the L-RD and encourage people to seek Him with all their hearts and humble themselves before Him, their Creator GOD!
-- Dr Juster replies: Yes, this is good point. Corporate seeking is also valid for revival.
8:07am 02Feb18, Miriam Maranzenboim: A prominent leader said that the appropriate time for a prophecy to be uttered is after that group of songs in the beginning (we're still standing). But how many would speak up if the congregation is not used to such an outburst?
-- Dr Juster replies: Not many, probably. It has to be encouraged.
12:02pm 02Feb18, Carolyn Raham: Great article! I definitely agree!
6:51pm 09Feb18, Ruth: While battling depression, I found a messianic congregation and discovered the liturgy extremely helpful. Sometimes prayer is difficult, the liturgy guides that, and encourages me to pray - not sit and watch someone else. Church is supposed to be a house of PRAYER. I visit other churches frequently, many have brief prayer times. That prevents the Lord from showing issues and root causes to be dealt with, and reassurance that God has our back.
TIKKUN INTERNATIONAL, PO Box 2997, Gaithersburh, MD 20886-2997, USA