Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tradition in Meetings

When I attended the BMAA annual meeting, the president of the association preached on the first night. The president’s message has become a tradition in recent years. There has always been an annual message. That is also traditional. But on the first night, one of the vice-presidents got up and did another traditional thing. He expressed the appreciation of the association for the sermon. It is traditional for someone to be asked to get up in front of the association after a sermon, shake the preacher’s hand and express gratitude for the sermon, usually summarizing the message as he does. There is also a tradition of someone getting up to introduce the speaker before the sermon. I’m not sure how these traditions got started, but they have become a part of nearly every church association I’ve been involved with.

At the meeting, a group of us were sitting around discussing a few things and one of the things that came up was the level of planning of the worship services. Considering the type of meeting it is, there isn’t that much and yet the worship services seem to go off pretty well, year after year. Why is that? In a word, tradition.

When we consider an organization like the BMAA, there is the potential of great variety in those who are chosen to lead the association. Some may come from large churches and have experience putting together large structured worship services. On the other hand, it is possible that those leading may be from small churches that don’t plan in much detail. This is one of the places where tradition truly shines. I’ve been in smaller association meetings where the president of the association came up to me right at time to start and said, “Can you lead a couple of songs?” About all you can do at that point is to grab a hymnal, as you look around the room for a piano player, and thumb through the book to find a song. It may not be the best situation, but those worship services looked planned because of tradition calls for congregational singing to occur first, then comes the annual message.

It is good to follow tradition in meetings because it frees us to focus our attention on other things rather than trying to come up with some new plan for the meeting. But as with all tradition, it is sometimes good to reevaluate the need for some of the traditions we follow. That's not because all tradition is bad, but because the tradition may cause us to do things that no longer need to be done.



Whitehawk said...

It has been a real blessing to find your blog Timothy. I am a member of a BMAA church as well. I was a music director for a while and had the same thing happen to me that you described in your post.

I am also interested in writing. I took my first swing at a book through Westbow Pres. I am writing another blog in addition to The Great American Revival blog on Blogspot. I invite you to check it out.

God bless.

Timothy Fish said...


I'm going to read you book. I don't know when I'll get to it, but I have ordered it.

Mary Patrick said...

Does tradition allow for the spontaneous voice of our Lord? Think of all the stories of when people had to step out of tradition to follow the will of God. Two examples come quickly to mind, when Abraham was asked to sacrifice his son and when Gideon asked for 'signs' before acting on what he was told to do. Is God interested in what's traditional (neat and clean) or is he more interested in the messiness of life in general? Isn't there something about using the foolish things in life to confound the wise? The weak to confound the mighty? (1Corth 1:27). Was it traditional to use common people like Rehab in Jericho? I think there are more examples of how Jesus used the non-traditional over the traditional ways of his people. He was quite the radical. In fact it was his non-traditional actions that got him in trouble with the religious leaders of his day (example healing people on the sabbath).

Timothy Fish said...


I actually think that’s part of what I’m saying. We can follow tradition too much, but the good side of tradition is that it gives us freedom to focus our attention on the more unusual things. Even as we look at the story of Abraham and Isaac, we see the traditional mixed with the unusual. As they went up to make the sacrifice, Isaac made the comment “Behold the fire and the wood; but where is the lamb for a burnt offering?” The act of sacrifice had become such a tradition with Isaac that he knew what was required. He wasn’t going up the mountain asking the question, “what is a sacrifice?” Instead, he asked a much more important question. “Where is the lamb?”

With respect to meetings, tradition become that general order that everyone expects, but when something creates a need for the meeting to follow a different order, it can be communicated in terms of how it deviates from the way things are usually done. If for example, there is a guest speaker in a church service, most of the church service will follow the tradition, but there may be some changes to accommodate what the quest speaker intends to do.

Whitehawk said...

Jesus did do some things that were out of the ordinary but He also left us with some tradtions as well. "This do in remembrence of me..." Baptism... There is a need for both. Traditions help us remember things that are important. Spontaneity keeps our worship fresh and real.

Good discussion.

Mary Patrick said...


Nicely stated! Great example of tradition. Yep, we need a little of both. Thanks.