The importance of tradition is valued by most cultures around the world. Traditions have always played an important role in Jewish life. Many of the traditions of Jews around the world were initiated by God Himself. Yeshua ministered to others with an awareness of the traditions of His family, His people, His nation, and His culture.
Many of the traditions of our faith started out as creative vehicles to assist in the building the a collective memory of important biblical events and truth.
Unfortunately, over time the the reasons for the practice of many traditions gets lost. It is because of this that I have not placed much personal importance on traditions. My reasoning has been that the observance of traditions for the sake of tradition is often counter-productive and creates unhealthy expectations. It is easy to get caught up in the motions of observing
traditions with no real understanding of what we are doing or why.
Not So Fast
Lately, I have been re-evaluating some of my long-held feelings on this subject. My wife is Hispanic. Her parents have rich cultural and family histories that are partially told through the observance of important family traditions. Their lives have challenged some of my thinking on the power of traditions in the disciple making process.
Several years ago, Noemi’s god-father, Oscar Francisco Garza went home to be with the Lord last. He was 93 years old. He discipled my father-in-law and remained a mentor to him throughout his life. Testimonies heard at his funeral told of the impact of Oscar’s life on others, revealing that he lived very intentionally. Tradition was a big part of his life.
Here is just a small list of the traditions of this faithful servant of the Lord:
• He continually looked for opportunities to share the gospel, and was never bashful about speaking wherever the Lord led. Even into his eighties, he went with younger believers to share their faith door to door in neighborhoods around San Antonio.
• His children went to bed hearing him talk to God and reading his Bible.
• He actively looked for young men to disciple, encouraging them to explore the gifting of God in their lives. Many of these young men went into vocational ministry. My father-in-law is one of them.
• When speaking with others, he made sure that he was completely focused on them and participating in what God was doing in the moment. Each individual felt as if they were the most important person in the world to Oscar.
• Oscar and his wife (Minerva) were avid students of their church’s history. Their large-view perspective helped to encourage others in their trials.
• When the church was open, they were there. When God spoke in a church meeting, “Amen” was always heard from where he was seated.
• He carried a suit with him everywhere he went. Should the opportunity to minister arise, he never wanted to be ashamed of the way he represented the Lord, who always gave His best.
• As a leader of his denomination’s regional conference, he attended all of their annual meetings. Even in years of decline, Oscar could be counted on as a positive voice of support and encouragement. He never hesitating to “speak the truth in love” for correction when necessary.
• He was unafraid of the changes in the world around him, embracing them with relish. Late in life he continued to drive himself to meetings on the freeways around San Antonio. He worked hard with a young lady in his church to learn how to surf the web and use his computer, using the opportunity to speak God’s Word into her life.
• He surrounded himself with the future of our faith, the young people who looked to him for wisdom and guidance.
Faith, culture, and tradition defined the life of Oscar Francisco Garza. Living his whole life in a liturgical community, the seasons of the annual calendar provided opportunities to remember year after year the important traditions of his faith. Not just in the celebration of Messiah’s birth, but at every holiday all through the year, Oscar Francisco Garza remembered that Jesus is still the reason for every season!
Oscar’s great going home celebration gave me pause to reconsider the power of traditions. I’ve decided that I shouldn’t just throw the baby out with the bath. As we look into the new traditions Jesus’ taught His first disciples, remember that He took full advantage of those already in place to teach them important lessons.
Take some time over the next couple of days and think about your own faith traditions. Some of these can be very useful in your own disciple making ministry. Feel free to comment on how God has positively used your traditions in the spiritual development of your family and in other ministry activities.