Tradition: “the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation.”
Growing Up In Church
- Sitting in the same place every time.
- Using only the King James version
- Members urged to “go forward.”
A tradition created by religious leaders and preachers. Also known as “the invitation” or “altar call.” Reasons for “going forward” or “responding to the invitation” included:
- salvation, asking for baptism
- confessing sin
- requesting prayers from the congregation
- repentance for bringing shame and reproach on the church
Tradition or Scripture?
No where in Scripture is a person required to “go forward.” It’s not commanded, nor are there examples of it and it’s not inferred that anyone did. People responded to the gospel at all hours of the day and night, but there is no sense that it happened on Sunday mornings in church. The gospel was preached publicly, in the marketplace, or in homes with people gathered to listen.
But somewhere in our history, the “invitation” was offered whenever the church gathered, and over time it became a tradition and was elevated to the level of biblical authority. It became a sin to not offer the invitation.
Satisfied Our Justice
It’s legalistic practice grew to Pharisaic proportion. People were embraced or rejected based on going forward, or not. Church membership was tied to the practice of “going forward.”
If a member had “sinned publicly” then that member was guilty of bringing reproach against the church, of shaming the congregation. Therefore, they had to publicly repent and ask forgiveness of the church. Examples of shame:
- Public intoxication
- Sexual sins
- Unwed girls who were pregnant
- Rowdy or unseemly behavior
I’ve witnessed unwed girls “going forward” for forgiveness for shaming the congregation. The girls did most of the repenting, I guess pregnancy is difficult to hide. In forty years of ministry I have never seen a young man go forward for getting a girl pregnant.
And the Lord?
Repentance and Godly sorrow are good things. God is looking into our hearts and sees our humility and brokenness. Its good to seek his grace but I’m not sure that any of us has the right to limit it’s access to the front row of the church.
Too many have been judged and rejected because they failed to live up to the traditional expectations of tradition bound believers.
Here’s some sins I’ve never seen repented of in public:
- Judging others
- Self righteous attitudes
- Gossiping about church members
- Factiousness within the church
- Binding traditions as if they were the word of God
I guess those sins aren’t public enough to warrant walking down front.
the transmission of customs or beliefs from generation to generation
Some are good and some need to die and be buried.