Genuine Reflection on Church Tradition

I remember as a kid I used to genuflect in the aisle before sitting in a pew after I first entered the church. It was something my parents instructed me to do so I didn’t question it. Only when I was older did I ask my parents why we genuflected before we sat down. Their response was that we did it out of respect for the altar. At the time their answer satisfied my young mind.

It wasn’t until many years later, as an adult, that I learned the symbolism of genuflecting as you enter church to worship God. The downward movement to one knee and bowing your head while genuflecting represents dying to self, while the returning upward movement to your feet represents rising in Christ. Learning the purpose of genuflecting changed the whole meaning of the tradition for me. It became a beautiful reminder to prepare for worship by dying to self and focusing on new life in Christ; an act of praise to God for what Jesus did for us.

My experience genuflecting as a kid made me wonder how many other church traditions we practice without really understanding their purpose. Do we just go through the motions because that’s what we do every Sunday or are there things we do just to appease human preferences? In Isaiah 29:13 the prophet Isaiah warns Israel, “The Lord says: ‘These people come near to me with their mouth and honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. Their worship of me is based on merely human rules they have been taught.’”

This verse convicted me to be more intentional in understanding the reason for church traditions and how they bring glory to God. Equally important is that we take time to explain the purpose behind our traditions to those who are new to the church. Just as we grow in our faith in Christ Jesus, may we also grow in how we worship our Lord and Savior. May our time of worship continue to point us toward new life in Jesus Christ, giving honor, praise and thanksgiving to God.

12 thoughts on “Genuine Reflection on Church Tradition

  1. Thank you for your post. May I show my ignorance ~ being brought up in the Baptist tradition ~ of what church do you write? We seem to have lost the leadership we used to have and the traditions we used to practice. Blessings.

  2. This is wonderful. Now being a new part of a church with many traditions, I’m encouraged by your post to examine each. Thank you.

  3. Yes! It’s why God had His people put up markers: so the children would ask what they meant. Parents were to encourage their children to ask about the meanings of these things. We MUST pass these things on to our future generations!

  4. Excellent post, thank you! Our ministry has our visiting/working with different denominations/traditions. From the high church with its many (and meaningful) traditions to our Pentecostal and non-denominational friends with there is little to no emphasis on anything of the sort, we have seen a wide spectrum of worship styles.
    I appreciate your point about explaining what the traditions mean. I often wonder how many good folks are simply doing what they have always done in the traditional sense, without having a clue as to its significance. The teaching of the traditions needs to be done. With proper education, people can participate more fully in the worship experience. Also, a refresher course in their meanings may help long-term members from falling into the trap of repeating behaviors simply because they have always done them without any thought as to why.
    Thanks again for this helpful read,
    Pastor Chuck

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