Is the "Modern Church" too disconnected from the "Traditional Church"?

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!

3 Replies to “Is the "Modern Church" too disconnected from the "Traditional Church"?”

  1. Hi Mike,
    Some good stuff here and very well put.
    I guess that the Psalms would give a clue to the way in which the Jewish converts would have hinted at a possible liturgy. I must dig out some of the stuff I have on the subject of early Christian worship.
    Intersting you use the phrase that used to haunt me as a Methodist local preacher…the dreaded hymn sandwich. I had a trial service at which I was to be assessed and they had talked so much about the’H.S’ at the preachers meeting. I got bored with the subject and started thinking of different types of sandwich. That trial service, I presented the Baz sandwich… a doorstep!!! thick bread (hymns/songs/choruses…a whole debate in itself!!) at the beginning, older and newer at the end, with thick cut cheese and meat and in the middle. I was astounded at how well it was received, especially at a very traditional evening service!!! I used to start with a ‘call to worship’ probably a short section of scripture, perhaps a psalm, to focus thoughts. The Methodist system had ‘essential ingredients’ such as hymns, prayer and a selection from the liturgy.
    I am not a fan of responsive prayers, which some find helpful. I used to sit trying to remember the response and didnt feel part of the prayer and often missed the start of the response.
    Like you, there are times when some of the old stuff is helpful and a joy to be taking part in. It is great to get to midnight mass for instance at some village, parish church and hope to do that again this Christmas.
    I guess I was so bogged down with the liturgical aspect of the traditional service, that I am enjoying the freedom at Kingsgate. However, some things, such as communion can sometimes feel almost dismissed as an optional extra, which appeases the masses and is not woven into the rich tapestry we call worship, in the way the traditional liturgy did. That being said, I have taken part in communion in a home group, where the Bread was passed from person to person with prayer and time taken to really pray and prepare. The wine (best red of course) was poured into medium sized glasses and those glasses raised as a celebratory toast to Jesus….a VERY powerful time!
    One of the biggest problems with the worship service, is that we tend to look at songs/hymns as worship and everything else graded second place?? If I did a ‘call to worship’, I would usually say that ‘we will continue our worship by singing….’ the congregation sometimes looked confused!
    Have often thought of doing a ‘raffle book service’ everything given a number and we just draw the next number out and see what happens!!!
    Anyway, perhaps it all begins within our hearts? there is no reason to stop our personal preparations starting at home or in the car, with the creed, Lords Prayer and even the odd hymn. Worship is a lifestyle, since we present our bodies as living sacrifices. We would then be able to live out the Lords prayer and creed.
    Sorry for the rambling, will speak soon.

  2. Hi Baz,
    Thanks for the comments. Worship is a whole different ball game – something that I am very passionate about and the misrepresentation of worship as merely being “singing a few songs” (or even hymns) really grates with me. A phrase that has gained popularity in some churches is that they have “a worship experience”…. I could really get going on that score (maybe a future blog post :-D)

    I agree with what you say about communion – I’ve had, and had the pleasure of leading, some really powerful and intimate times of communion that bear little or no resemblance to the ASB version. I think communion is sadly a lot like the Lords Prayer in that it is frequently marginalised within the modern church and even pushed to being “something you do in your small groups” rather than something you do every time we meet.

    Your last paragraph is great – my only thing with that is that sometimes there is a different impact when you do some things on a “corporate” basis rather than an individual. I’ve had amazing times praying through the Lords Prayer (as my testimony mentions!) and the creed is something I love to read every now and then – I just miss that sense of declaration as the Body of Christ in unison.


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