I heard a pastor say once, "The strongholds of the Church are the norms, values, practices or traditions that are in the way of God and the growth of His Kingdom." I'd say one of the those strongholds has been the Bible. More to the point, our interpretation of it.
I became a Christian in a Pentecostal church in NW Washington DC. The next day I left and went to Rome where I joined a conservative Brethren church. Being a new Christian, believe me, I had no idea about denominations, not that it had been a bad thing. The church was a great place for a young, single bloke with his head screwed on a bit crooked. There were some strange things to be sure, one thing in particular I found strange. Women were not allowed to talk in the service. That meant they couldn't pray, ask for a hymn, make an announcement etc. On top of that, they all wore veils. One Sunday a young woman got up and prayed. Her action had an immediate effect. A third of the church walked out. For a congregation of about 80, that didn't leave us with many! The Elders called for an emergency church meeting that evening. I was completely enthralled by the circus that was going on around me!
After a thoroughly round-a-bout discussion the Elders came to the decision that the young lady didn't really do anything wrong, which caused a number of the church members to spit sulpher on the ground, spite the leaders with curses and storm out of the place vowing never to return.
I came away from it with a number of disturbing thoughts in my mind... if it wasn't wrong, then why had they allowed the situation to carry on for so long? What else is happening in the church that comes across as though it is dogma, but really is not? How much of what it is we do actually biblical or just some half cooked tradition made up long ago based on a miscued translation of the Bible?
This has been a key factor in underminig the work of the Church. Too many times I have encountered people who are so staunch in their doctrinal beliefs, believing and imposing it to be biblical, without realising that it's just not biblical. One reason why churches find it so hard to change is because, for some, part of the process of change means acknowledging that some of the ways of the past were wrong.
(Photo by Sander Klaver)