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Toxic Traditions That Are Making the Church Sick

Rev. Margaret Minnicks is an ordained Bible teacher. She writes many articles that are Bible lessons.


Jesus preached against traditional things when He walked the face of the earth. Those teachings are still prominent today. However, they are being overlooked and traditional things are toxic and killing the modern-day church.

Some of the very religious traditions held by the leaders during Jesus' day were actually keeping people away from God instead of drawing them closer to God. The same thing is happening to churches today that are steeped in traditions. Well-intentioned traditions have turned toxic, and they do more harm than good.

Habits become traditions because they are valued and cherished by those who have gotten accustomed to them. People find it very difficult to abandon and replace them even after they discover they are harmful.

Here are some traditions that poison the church and actually make congregants sick.

Seeing Church as an Obligation

Some people say they go to church out of obligation. They do it even if they get nothing out of the visit. They go out of habit because their mothers made them go when they were younger. Now that they are older, they can still hear their mother's voice in their head.

They get up on a Sunday morning and ponder whether they should go to church or not. They give in and go because of tradition just to say they went. They go expecting nothing and they are never disappointed because they get nothing out of the church service because their hearts are not open to receive anything.


Seeing the Church as a Building

When people hear the word "church," more than likely they will think of the building and its location. That's one of the most common traditions when the church is perceived only as a building and not the people in the building. It is a toxic tradition when people pay more attention to the carpet on the floor than to people's souls.

Since people think of the church only as a building, they might be tempted to act holy only when they are in the building. As soon as the service is over, they return to their evil ways in the parking lot. If the tradition is put aside, and the church is understood as its people, then people will treat others with respect even when they are not in the building.

Focusing on the Outward Instead of the Inward

Today, many churches intentionally dress casually, Some older people frown against that practice because it has always been a tradition for them to dress up to go to church. It was one of the only places they could go after working or staying home all week. Therefore, it was a treat for them to put on their "Sunday best" and go to church.

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Sometimes people dress up and act like Christians when they are inside the church building, but they are mean and hypocritical the rest of the week. They should realize that God looks at the heart instead of their outward appearance.

A person can be holy and respectful without dressing up. On the other hand, a person can mean and disrespectful while wearing church clothes.

Praying Ceremonial Instead of Kingdom Prayers

You can identify a traditional prayer whenever you hear it. That's because many people in the church use the same keywords throughout their prayers. They pray a ceremonial prayer for the people to hear instead of praying a kingdom prayer directly addressed to God.

Some prayers are ceremonial and not heartfelt. Ceremonial prayers are not as powerful as kingdom prayers. They are long and drawn out and often don't help people receive hope for their problem.

Teaching Religion Rather Than Relationship

It is traditional for church leaders to teach religion rather than encouraging a relationship with God and with others. They reduce their teaching down to giving people head knowledge rather than teaching them how to use the hearts to be in community with others. People believe that all it takes is to attend church periodically. They fail to realize that God wants them to be in a relationship with Him and with others.

In order to break that tradition is to practice what the Bible says. It is to be obedient to God, to be in community with others, to evangelize, to be a good witness, and to serve in the kingdom of God.


Not Following the Great Commission

Traditional churches do not follow the Great Commission that Jesus taught in Matthew 11:16-20. They stay in their churches where they are comfortable. They do not leave their favorite seat to go out to evangelize and be a good witness to others.

Favors Old Ways

Every tradition has a favorite jargon that says, "We have always done it that way." When people want to keep old traditions and old sayings, then the church is in trouble. Change is all around us, and the church should keep up with those changes.

Unfortunately, most church leaders fail to be creative and think outside the box to come up with new ways to get positive results. They would rather keep on doing what they have always done. That's traditional and toxic.

Like the religious leaders that Jesus taught, many church leaders today might be well-meaning and well-intentioned. However, they cling to many traditions that have become toxic to the church's health and effectiveness. Like Jesus, church leaders should be in a relationship with God that will prevent toxic traditions to dominate the church and make it sick.

  • Symptoms of a Sick Church
    When a person has symptoms of being sick, he goes to the doctor. When a church is sick, usually nothing is done about it. Some members endure the pains, ailments, discomfort, and diseases. Others leave and go to a healthy church.

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