A.K.A. Throwing out the baby with the bathwater
This has been an issue that I’ve wrestled with quite a bit over the years, as some people are acutely aware, and I figured that it was about time I tried to formulate my thoughts into a more cohesive discussion. Why now? Well, we had an interesting time during communion at Trent vineyard the other month plus there was a great discussion at small group recently and a comment on Facebook seemed to generate some interest (even though Facebook deleted my replies rather annoyingly)
So what am I basically asking here? It’s a bit difficult to summarise succinctly but basically have a lot of “Modern Churches” lost touch with the good parts of the “Traditional Church’s” heritage?
For many, a “traditional church” conjures images of hymn sandwiches, “Stand Up, Sit Down, Head Bowed, Kneel Down, Stand Up, Head Bowed, Kneel Down, Sit Down” and so on accompanied by a raggedy choir, dodgy organ playing, dusty pews, complex liturgies that are so archaic you can’t understand them and a sermon so dry it makes the Kalahari desert look like a vast ocean.
Counter to this the “modern church” is relevant to today, full of life, full of people, exciting and a great place to be – especially with flash bands, lights, videos and more.
The “modern church” is a success that is growing, the “traditional church” is a dinosaur that is dying out.
Now I *love* the “modern church” and have no intention of returning to a dull and lifeless building anytime soon, but I do think that we have drawn a line between old and new and essentially said that never the two shall meet.
And that saddens me.
Liturgy can be an immensely powerful part of a service – if there is meaning and life and understanding behind it.
Hymns can convey wonderful biblical truths and be an amazing expression of praise and worship – if they aren’t mired in too much Olde English.
The Lords Prayer is *the* way to pray an means far more than just a droning repetition – we preach it on a Sunday, but don’t pray it on the Sunday.
A creed is now “a statement of belief” but only mentioned in welcome literature and membership courses – we never declare it loud and proud so that people know immediately where we stand.
Yes, all of the above can easily becoming dull and meaningless. They can all become “tradition” with no passion to them. But they can also find their way deep into memory so that years later the words pop into your mind and can be a comfort and a reminder.
In many ways I believe that the “modern church” is closer to the New Testament idea of Christians meeting than the “traditional church” is. But I also think that we’ve lost a big part of our heritage, and the legacy that some of the great Christians have left us.
Do I want a hymn sandwich? No. But I would like to sing “And Can it Be” or “How Great thou art” (yes, I know that has Olde English in it) every now and then.
Do I want to return to the ASB order of service? No. But I would like to hear the communion done that way every now and then.
Do I want to recite dull and droning words week after week? No. But I would love to hear a declaration of faith that can be triumphantly proclaimed.
Do I want to have 20 minutes of lifeless prayer punctuated by “Thanks be to God” every Sunday? No. But if we’re preaching the importance of “The Lords Prayer” then surely we need to be praying it and teaching it in our Sunday Schools (or whatever name you want to call your multimedia-kids-meeting)
There are some “Mega-Churches” (which are a separate talking point!) in the States that surprisingly do have elements of tradition – standing when reading the bible as a sign of respect for the Word, declaring a statement of belief in the bible before reading from it. I also know that there are “modern churches” here in the UK that try to incorporate elements from the “traditional church”, with mixed results. I’m not foolish enough to believe that there is a one-size-fits-all solution, and I also know that I’m where I am because I choose to be a member of this Church – and it’s a Church I love.
I love the Church. Forget the “modern” or “traditional” tags – we are The Body of Christ and multiple expressions are a great way of meeting individuals own personalities and preferences. I just struggle with the fact that there are kids growing up in the church who don’t know the Lords Prayer (and yes I know there are parental responsibilities as well), I can’t believe that there is room for people to belong to a Church without fully knowing the core beliefs, and I cannot accept that the only good song is less that 10 years old.
There has to be a balance that can take the best of what history has learnt, apply it to a biblical church and embrace the joys of modern worship, teaching, environments, technology and more.
As a final thought, and I don’t know the answer to this, but would the original Christians have had any form of liturgy within their gatherings – I can easily believe that the Jewish converts would as they would surely have embraced the Old Testament history and their own Jewish roots and applied that to their Christian worship.
Please, feel free to comment below – I’d love to know your thoughts and views!