It is that time of year again, The Running of the Idiots…er…Bulls, I mean Running of the Bulls, at the festival of San Fermín held every July 6-14 in Pamplona, Spain. Made popular by Hemingway’s writings and featured in many movies like the opening sequence in City Slickers starring Billy Crystal.
Every year 100’s of people are injured running with the bulls and Since 1924 there have been 15 people killed, including one fatality this week. Even so, tens of thousands of people annually flock to Pamplona to partisipate in this traditional event. Now personally I think running with the bulls is nuts… yet I ride a motorcycle and people think 500K of us converging on Sturgis, South Dakota is nuts. On one hand I get it. Life is full of risk and everyone has to decide how much risk they are willing to take. What is acceptable for one person is just too great of a risk for another.
Amazingly in the church, tradition works just the opposite, keeping the church stagnate and preventing it from taking risks. Over the years, the church has forgotten the origin of many of its traditions and just continues with a “that’s what we have always done” attitude. Unfortunately, this attitude has become a road block for reaching people for Christ.
When it comes to the church our theology, the gospel, is set in stone, it never changes. Our methods for communicating the gospel however must constantly be evolving… and that is where Tradition gets in the way. Now those under age 40 tend to think that the problem with “traditional” thinking is with the “older generation”. However, if we are not careful the new methods we introduce into the church today will become the traditions we cling to tomorrow while a new group of young people fight to bring their “exciting new ideas” to the service to reach people of their generation.
To help me keep this in mind I have this lithograph in my office. It is a constant reminder that what might seem great to me today will probably seem incredibly stupid to future generations tomorrow. The last thing I want to do in my later years in ministry is to be running with the idiots…bulls…running with the bulls.
More on this topic and my talks with churches on this subject next week.