In the midst of our current change in pastoral leadership at my church, we've been hearing a lot of sermons on change. How to react, how not to react, etc. I recently heard one that made reference to the so-called seven last words of the church: "We've never done it like that before."
Over the years, I've heard that in sermons many, many times. The point is that as soon as we start to say that in church, we begin to die as a congregation. And I think there is some truth to it. As a church, we can become so stuck in our ways that we begin to worship our style of worship rather than God. (I once heard the following quip: Catholics worship Mary, Fundamentalists worship the Bible, Episcopalians worship their own sense of style. Just a joke, no offense intended to anyone.) But the older I get and the more crazy things I have seen in church, I'm beginning to think saying "We've never done it like that before" is not only not all that bad, sometimes it's required. Take, for example, the Zydeco Mass.
Watching this makes me wish someone had said "We've never done it like this before."
Maybe this kind of thing just points out an inherent problem with Protestantism. There isn't anyone to say no. In churches that are governed congregationally, a majority of the congregation can do just about whatever they want to do. Even in hierarchical Protestant churches, there is a reluctance to stifle creativity. And, of course, the opinions of the hierarchy certainly aren't infallible.
I'm not sure there is any simple solution to how to balance the necessity to be open to change with a respect for tradition. But it seems to me that there are a lot worse things a church can say than "We've never done it like that before."