The Challenge We Face
Tags: Church Growth, Church Growth Movement, Counterculture Church, church renewal, contemporary praise songs, traditional hymns
There are two ways to respond to the challenge we face today. One can be stubborn. Stubbornness closes the mind and heart to anything other than personal desire. Stubbornness finds its seed in fear. Stubbornness refuses to admit it has been wrong. Stubbornness is born in pride and leads to destruction. For all that is in the world - the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world. (I Jn MKJV)
Instead of blind stubbornness, one can remain steadfast in the faith. Steadfastness comes from our belief in the True and Living God, to seek after Him and Him alone. Steadfastness is founded in perfect love that casts out all fears. (I Jn 4:18) And perfect love has no pride in it and can admit when it is wrong. (I Cor 13:3-8) Steadfastness is all about remaining firm in who we are as Christians without submitting to compromise. Steadfastness is all about influencing society with the Christian conscience instead of being run by its humanistic value system. Its not civilization that corrupts man but the lack of Christian influence in society that leads to corruption and the resultant enticements that cause man to fall and the church to sway from its course. The church ought to stand above all of this while holding firm to what it has always been - the light of the world. (Matt ) Rather than conforming to the philosophies of man, it ought to be holding fast to the doctrines of faith. (Rom
The admonishment here is to remain steadfast. Watch, stand fast in the faith, be brave, be strong.
(I Cor NKJV)
Unfortunately the traditions of the church in many Christian venues today have taken a big hit in the wake of the cancerous counterculture creed that envelops our society. This takes us to a pastor who had taken this path of destruction.
However, long before he had arrived on the scene God had shown the church a better way. Decades earlier a distinguished pastor had successfully moved the church towards an appreciation of contemporary praise music while holding to a remarkable blend of the old and the new. The church had a grand history and was recognized as one of the most prominent and distinguished bodies in town. The pastor had worked for decades with a very talented music minister and the churchs influence in the arts in the community was profound. As the church began to adopt modern praise music, a praise leader was simply added to the mix and a blend between the two styles arose that provided blessing to all. The campus that the pastor had built was beautiful with vast array of very functional facilities. The focal point of this campus was a magnificent sanctuary that contained a grand historical pipe organ and the stained glass taken from the churchs former location. In this magnificent building you could find both contemporary and traditional music played with excellence. As a result of this, the church grew by leaps and bounds while young families flocked to it weekly. The church body and all that it embraced became a model for the rest of the community.
When the old pastor retired, a very liberal teacher replaced him and the downward progression began. The resultant events were an exact mirror of American church history as theological liberalism led the church down the slippery slope with the 60s counterculture at its end. The first thing the new pastor did was to force the praise leader into leaving his post. Then he made the mistake of opening his mouth. As with most theological liberals, this pastor had nothing to talk about. In spite of the fact that he used every visual tool imaginable from a chicken coop to a backpacking tent to a Hebrew replica scroll that he was very proud of, nearly half of the congregation left as a result of his ministry. The once proud church was left in disarray as it found itself suddenly gutted of the vast majority of its membership, including families that had worshipped there for generations.
This set the church up for the zealous renewal pastor who followed. He hired a church growth consultant and followed his advice with enthusiasm. The wisdom of the prudent is to understand his way, but the folly of fools is deceit. (Proverbs 14:8 MKJV)
Slowly but surely the pastor sought to do away with most of what that this church was and stood for. He started by moving members, servants and staff who stood for tradition or disagreed with his agenda of transformation out of his way. He changed everything that he could in order to veil the fact that his church belonged to a traditional denomination. He changed the churchs name, took down the paintings of the pastors who had proceeded him from the foyer, and one-by-one sought to dissolve the traditions that the church had held for over a hundred years. With each transition the church grew weaker and weaker as nothing was ever there to replace that which was eliminated.
He wound up with a staff who did what they did because of what they were against rather than what they were for. The church as a result of all of this grew to be divided with regard to its worship life as its rich musical traditions were replaced by boisterous rock and roll. Congregation members could be seen worshipping while utilizing dance moves that you could also witness in the local clubs as they boogied to the rhythm of the electric band. The sense of decency and respect slowly faded as the quality of the music sank to new lows with each successive week. If you had a traditional music background you would be seldom seen on the platform. Only those who could be used to help the pastor achieve his growth objectives were considered worthy for service, and anyone or anything that had anything to do with tradition was seen as a hindrance. Faithful servants were treated as a means to an end and were worked to the bone rather than appreciated.
The old saints stood aghast as the dilapidated church floundered deeper and deeper into the hole that the pastor was digging. People continued to leave even as neighboring churches experienced unprecedented growth. The reputation of the church among the body of Christ in town sank to newer lows with each successive year. Everyone wondered, What happened over there? The answer lied in the slippery slope of liberalism along with church growth theories accompanied by a strong dose of rebellion against the past. This instance stands out as a real example of the logical conclusion that emanates from the anti-tradition position of many in the church today.
In the example above, a very gifted music minister had managed to thrive during the years he served with the first two pastors. During the decades that he led in song his prosperous music ministry became a focal point of the arts throughout the city. In spite of the music ministers obvious success, at the advice of the church growth consultant, the third renewal pastor turned his attention to new commercial worship. It was not long before the elderly man retired. In the blink of an eye the entire music department was ravished in the modernists hands as that which the music minister had built was systematically undermined.
During the years of his tenure, the music minister had amassed a huge collection of choral music. The proponent of contemporary music would have none of that! It was not long before one of the retired music ministers successors, while claiming that some of this stuff was printed in the 40s, threw the entire collection out to replace it all exclusively with contemporary praise.
One has to ask at this point, Is it necessary to put our churches through ruinous scenarios such as this in order to minister to the world that the countercultural liberals have created? Is it essential to discard the past in order to move into the future? Is it prudent to turn from tradition in order to minister to the world that the modernists have created? I would emphatically argue No!
Traditional hymns have stood the test of
time. How many of our contemporary praise songs will still be sung centuries from now?
Most of the worship and praise songs that came out of the 60s and 70s have
already fallen by the wayside. I would suppose that only a small percentage of the new
songs that are written today will even be remembered a decade from now. It would seem to
be very appropriate, therefore, to offer a great deal of respect for those classic songs
of praise that have remained with the church throughout the ages. The
So beware of counsel of those who tell you otherwise. The thoughts of the righteous are right, but the counsels of the wicked are deceitful. (Prov 12: 5 MKJV) In our exuberance to push into the future, let us not be negligent of our glorious and rich past. One age of music need not be exclusive of the other and the blending of all ages has always provided spiritual blessing. It is this marvelous mixture of the old and the new that ought to characterize what is occurring in the music life of the church today. Let us press into the future while holding tight to those things that have made us who we are.
And who exactly are we anyway? Have we been placed on this earth to grow churches or worship God? The truth is if we make worshipping God our first priority, our churches will naturally grow. There is no need to tear our churches in half over the musical quarrels. For once we discover that we are commanded first to worship God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (Mk ) all of the other pieces will fall into place.
Therefore do not worry,
saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For after
all these things the Gentiles seek. For your heavenly Father knows that you need all these
things. But seek first the
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