OK, What is TWWADI?
Let’s get this out-of-the-way right at the beginning: I’m not saying that all traditions are bad, but I am saying that all traditions can be dangerous, just like matches aren’t bad, but they can be dangerous. Here’s what I’ve observed over the years: People within a given local church develop over a period of time a certain way of doing things. These things are safe, regular, routine, predictable and comforting. After a while, people attend worship and look forward to their traditions, in fact when they visit another church while out-of-town, they can almost feel like it wasn’t really “church” because that church had slightly different traditions and ways of doing things.
For example, I’ve had people tell me that if the music in worship wasn’t from a hymnal, it just didn’t feel like worship to them. This is TWWADI. The next thing I’ve noticed is that once a local group has TWWADI in sufficient quantity, their spiritual growth comes to a grinding halt. There is a very good reason for this, for you see, TWWADI happens in a setting in which our personal preferences take a priority position, and what is the manifestation of personal preference called in Bible terms? SELF, yes that thing we were supposed to have put to death. A church that is all about TWWADI is almost always also all about self. If you don’t believe me, try tweaking the TWWADI and see what happens…
Here is a trustworthy saying: A person who is mature in Christ, who is a selfless servant of the Lord, fully understands that his or her personal preferences regarding worship and church, are utterly irrelevant. To be clear, I am not talking about aspects of worship that are Biblical, I am talking about things that are not Biblical, such as the style of music or preaching.
We know that worship in the New Testament contained singing spiritual songs, fellowship, the “apostles’ teaching” the breaking of bread and of prayer. It is safe to say that nearly all scholars would say that in modern terms this would be music, fellowship, Communion, a sermon (or lesson) from Scripture and prayer. The style of the music, the way Communion is served, the time and style of prayer, the way the lesson is given and the manner and nature of the fellowship are all TWWADI. When you reach the point where the people can go through the motions without really giving much of a thought to anything, they will grow no further spiritually.
Most traditional churches in America, and by that I mean most churches that do things the way they’ve always done them, are following customs and practices that would have been reasonably familiar in the 19th Century; certainly they would have been familiar in the 1930′s and 1960′s. In the late 19th Century, the church in general was very influential in the culture, and non-believers who would have come in to hear the message would have felt reasonably comfortable; the same is true of the 1930′s. By the 1960′s, however, the culture had shifted quite a bit. Music had changed, language had changed and expectations had changed… and large numbers of people were no longer attending church. After 50 years, most of a generation quit attending church, and the influence of the church in general in the culture was pretty much lost. What do you think America will look like if this trend continues for another 50 years?
A significant reason that the church began to shrink over this time was that its TWWADI didn’t change when the culture did, at least not to any significant degree. At the same time, congregations held on to TWWADI ever more strongly as a bulwark against the crazy culture around them and they didn’t grow spiritually in Christ so their outreach stagnated and became less and less effective, resulting in a gospel that was seldom spread. Oh, I know there were very hard-working people during this time. There were evangelists like Billy Graham who did wonderful work, for instance, but their efforts didn’t reverse this tidal shift to darkness within the culture in general, nor did they stem the flow of people out of their local churches.
Some church groups did try to change their TWWADI, but in a large measure, they did the wrong things, and rather than change the way they presented the message, they compromised the message itself, and God will not bless such things. Some tried becoming more “socially relevant” but this too was not the kind of “making disciples” that the church is called to do, and their efforts have largely been in vain.
Yes, TWWADI is a potential church-killer, both on an individual basis and on a larger level. In the next post on this topic, let’s take a look at specific things that make up TWWADI and see if there can be change within local churches that can stem this tide.
Hint: Yes, there are, and without ever compromising the message of the gospel or the purity of Scripture!