Church, The Way It Used to Be…Really?

Recently I was driving on I-85 between Charlotte and Atlanta and saw a billboard for a church that said:

ABC* Church and School…the way it used to be (* I will not reveal the name of the church…but if you Google “Church, the way it used to be” you may be shocked at how many churches use this slogan).

I saw this and just thought…HUH? Really? Are you serious?????

“I believe that the cultural and social changes that we have been blessed with have allowed us to better grow disciples that love God and love people.”

I know what they are trying to say…but REALLY? Do you really want things the way they used to be? Do you really want church and school to be the way it “used to be”…really?  Let’s think about how church and school used to be:

  1. Schools “used to” meet in a one room facility.
  2. Schools “used to” not have computers.
  3. Schools “used to” use corporal punishment in excess.
  4. Churches “used to” require that you wear a coat and tie (that is the piece of cloth that men sometimes wear around their neck…just in case you are less than 25 years old).
  5. Churches “used to” use a Latin version of the Bible.
  6. Churches “used to” require their minister to wear a robe to preach in.
  7. Churches “used to” do all of their music with a pipe organ only, if any instruments.
  8. Churches “used to” print bulletins on a mimeograph machine.
  9. Churches and schools “used to” not have air conditioning or heat.
  10. Churches and schools “used to” require men and women sit on opposite sides.

OK…enough of my rant…but I for one do not want to do “church or school” the way it used to be done in the past. I believe that the cultural and social changes that we have been blessed with have allowed us to better grow disciples that love God and love people…and allow us to impact a culture that is far from God. While the message of the Gospel can never be compromised…and the truths of the Bible never forsaken…our means, methods and approaches must stay relevant and contextual to the society we are trying to serve…you know…in the world, not of it.

Let me share one more example.  I have heard for many years the argument of traditional vs. contemporary music in church. This is an argument that does not ring true to me (no pun intended). What is contemporary? According to the dictionary, it means: of the present time; modern. Simply put, it is what is happening right now.  And yet, so many churches have tried to make “contemporary” an ugly word.  Let’s take an honest look at church music. Fanny Crosby is credited with writing dozens…maybe hundreds of hymns that were made popular in the late 1800’s to the early 1900’s.  This era of church history was called the Sunday School Era as that is when Sunday School was first started. Now we talk about how we need to have music the way it “used to be”…which generally means we need more hymns. But the reality is, the hymns of that day were the contemporary music of the day and were considered trite and trivial compared to the great works of Bach, Beethoven, and other great composers of the Middle Ages. Sounds pretty familiar to today.

Now…I am not saying that the music of the Middle Ages is not relevant or that hymns have no meaning or place in our current culture…but I am asking if we really want our churches and schools to be “the way it used to be”.

Think about it.


One comment on “Church, The Way It Used to Be…Really?

  1. Church the way it used to be, would be effective if….., the world was the way it used to be.
    As I age, not so gracefully at times, I can sympathize with the desire for things to be the way they were before. But, when I catch myself thinking of how wonderful the past was, two things come to mind;
    I’ve forgotten many of the negative things of the past. And,
    I’m to serve those here in the present.

    I’m more excited about the perfection that awaits those of us who have “decided to follow Jesus” (see what I did there?).
    At that time, none of us will be wanting things to be like they were before!

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