Overcoming Traditional Barriers with Pastor Augustine Albert
This podcast is a repost originally published on January 21, 2017.
Pastor Priji and Pastor Augustine discuss on various traditions in church and how to overcome them.
Pastor Augustine: The moment we say ‘traditions’, I should be very careful to not offend anyone. It is not meant for any one person in particular.
Pastor Priji: My friend Adil Amin says, “Tradition is coming to God today and expecting Him to do the same thing He did yesterday.” You need to ask God for something new according to His mercies which are new every morning. Anything we repeat without significance and without having scriptural backing becomes tradition.
Pastor Augustine: Tradition involves praying, reading the Word, and going to church, without knowing what you’re doing.
Pastor Priji: How long have you been saved?
Pastor Augustine: I’ve been saved since 2007 and got baptised that year. I’ve been part of the ministry since Sunday school, up to leadership and preaching, and in Bible College. Everything was familiar to me without knowing why I was doing all this. I didn’t really grasp that there is God behind the Word.
Pastor Priji: Have you seen other people living so?
Pastor Augustine: I’ve seen so many people living like this, without understanding and not having a real experience. It has become a part of their life due to their upbringing.
Pastor Priji: When we make this relationship into a religion that is when it becomes tradition.
I wake up and kiss my wife every morning and enjoy it because it is the outcome of the relationship. But the day I wake and do it because I have to, it becomes a duty and tradition.
Pastor Augustine: The change in me started from surrendering to God and asking Him for help. I was battling depression and loneliness. The Bible says, the Gospel is the power of God. I said if the Gospel is the power of God then let it work in my life. I realised it was the problem of relationship. I asked Him to help me in these areas. I came out of the battles I faced, due to the relationship He restored.
Pastor Priji: I realise that one of the best ways to tackle traditions is to ask questions: Why do I go to church? Why should I get baptised? Why should I pray? We have a lot of mental blocks. What are the mental blocks you’ve seen? How can we overcome them?
Pastor Augustine: We should first realise it’s not about pleasing the pastor nor the leaders neither is it about religion. If there’s no importance in what I do, I must come out of it. There is so much in the Word, in prayer, that we must not be content and ask Him for more than what we’re doing.
Pastor Priji: It is important to talk and discuss about these things because for those whose upbringing is traditional, it becomes a mental block through which they cannot see. Discussing it with someone else will help them understand and overcome these issues when they get different perspectives. I always had this mental block against women preachers. I was very condemning and critical until I realised this was my mental block. I even came out of a Joyce Meyer conference exclaiming how much I learnt. Have you had any mental blocks?
Pastor Augustine: My mental block was regarding worship. We used to worship on our knees on the floor. I didn’t actually know why. I did it because I was simply asked to do so. I couldn’t really accept people dancing and worshipping God. I was quite against it. Real worship to me was on our knees. The Lord wasn’t pleased with my thinking and taught me that there are different ways to worship and praise Him that does please Him as long as we stick to what the Word says.
Pastor Priji: What are the traditions in the church today? What are beneficial and what of them are not? Can we make a list? Styles of worship can be one of them.
Pastor Augustine: We can talk of dressing. The Bible does talk of modesty within the church, but in many churches they have an exact description of how one should dress including even the colour of clothing.
Pastor Priji: I know of certain churches you can’t enter if you are not dressed very well (like in a suit and tie) for a Sunday morning. When I go to a church, I need to be free to worship God and enjoy it. Even baptism can become a tradition. Now almost every person before 18 is baptised because they must.
Pastor Augustine: Another very important tradition is the wearing of jewellery.
Pastor Priji: Yes, in India this is a very important and highly debated tradition of all. When the gospel came to India, there was a very high class divide in the society. The rich were too rich with loads of gold when the poor had nothing. So in obedience to James to make no distinction between the rich and the poor, they gave up their ornaments and coloured clothes just so they could identify with the poor.
However today it is enforced but the original intention slips away anyway because though they do not wear gold, they do not mind showing off their wealth through other expensive items like phones and cars.
Pastor Augustine: There is no scripture to back up not wearing of jewellery. From the theological standpoint, one can only misinterpret scripture to support their case.
Pastor Priji: The only scripture they can use is when Paul says I have to be a Jew to the Jew and a Gentile to the Gentile. If I have to minister to a church where they do not wear ornaments, I would choose to keep off the ornaments. What are the good traditions present in churches?
Pastor Augustine: Many traditional churches have the habit of praying on their knees. It shows our humility. But we must not make that a compulsive. There are some churches where they walk and pray. I do that too.
Pastor Priji: Another good tradition is fasting and praying. Anything we do in love for God is good to keep. Now that you’re planting a new church and being aware of how traditions can creep inside, how are you going to try to stop things from becoming just routines?
Pastor Augustine: The foundation of everything we do must be love. Whether we pray or do any other ministering, it has to be done in love and not because I have to. I must evangelise because I love God and I love souls. If I worship, I must worship in love. In 1 Corinthians 13:01, Paul says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels but didn’t love others, I would be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal”.
Pastor Priji: When we take love out of the equation, it becomes religion, a mere duty. It is not a relationship anymore.
Pastor Augustine: We must read the Bible because we love God. We must preach with love.
Pastor Priji: If I teach normally on marriage in a culture of homosexuality, people would only think I am just another traditional guy, but if I teach it with love, they’ll realise I’m not trying to put them down but showing them what the best outcome of their life can be. The Bible says speak the truth in love. That’s the best way to escape traditions from taking hold especially in a new church.
Jesus was known to defy traditions. The best thing is to love like Him. What else can we imitate from Him?
Pastor Augustine: If Jesus was in this generation, we would have never accepted Him as a leader. We would be the Pharisees and Sadducees.
We must learn to accept people. People come from different backgrounds, different clothes, and different looks because Jesus accepted people from prostitutes and tax collectors. We must accept not because however they are is alright, but out of love.
Pastor Priji: Jesus accepted the woman in John 8, but said to her to go and sin no more. Jesus hung out with prostitutes and tax collectors as well as the Pharisees and Sadducees.
Pastor Augustine: Cultivate a tradition of caring for people.
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