We’ve heard the expression, “That’s the way we’ve always done it!” which Rear Admiral Grace Hopper called “The most dangerous phrase in the language.” There’s a reason why these are words of a dying church—that and, “We’ve never done it that way before!” When people and churches say this, Christ is no longer leading them, the past is. At times, we believe that our past actions that may have worked and brought success should be continued. Christ doesn’t change, His Word doesn’t change, His commission doesn’t change, but methods do because God is leading in the here and now.
In examining Luke 1:57-66, Elizabeth gave birth to a son, to the joy of friends, family, and neighbors. On the eighth day, according to the covenant of Abraham from Genesis 17, she took him to be circumcised. Notice: “And they would have called him Zechariah after his father, but his mother answered, ‘No; he shall be called John.’ And they said, ‘None of your relatives is called by this name” (vv. 59-61).
There will always be pressure to do things the way they’ve always been done. Usually this is due to a desire for security, for validity, or out of fear. Routine, as A.W. Tozer noted, brings about a rut and a rot from which we must be rescued. Yet, God continues by His Spirit, by the Word, and by prayer to guide us in His direction, not simply sit and be beholden to what’s always been.
Zechariah, who had been mute for nine months and left out of the majority of conversations, was approached by signing (by the way, his ears worked fine, thank you very much) and he concurred: “His name is John.” Not Junior! What happened?
And immediately his mouth was opened and his tongue loosed, and he spoke, blessing God. And fear came on all their neighbors. And all these things were talked about through all the hill country of Judea, and all who heard them laid them up in their hearts, saying, “What then will this child be?” For the hand of the Lord was with him (Luke 1:64-66 ESV).
Friends, please know this. Doing things the way they’ve always been done does not guarantee bringing glory to God and joy to others. But when we obey now, not simply borrow the obedience from another time or another place, even if it is outside of the lane and box we’ve always occupied, people will notice. Fear came upon them, conversation ensued, questions were asked—and they saw that God was at work.