You know the lady who has her hair facto-baked at the ‘beauty parlor’ rather than getting her hair done at the salon? It seems as though some ladies keep up with the times and others get stuck in a decade. Some senior women, for example, end up with cute bob hair cuts while others look as though somewhere around 1963, they simply stopped caring about their appearance. The same can be said about clothing as well.
Some people, as they age, actually stay up with the current looks and trends while others quit at some point and never move forward. I don’t know when this happens to them or if they ever realize that one cannot be trend-less or unfashionable since everything is a certain type of style, but at some moment appearances became second-fiddle. Did they stop dressing in the current fashions once they found a spouse and got off the attracting-a-mate field? Have they simply never considered how they look to others because somehow that’s been written off as irrelevant? When did they freeze themselves like a stencil? I’m sure the reasons and circumstances vary, but I do know that many churches seem to be just like these out-of-steppers.
Their buildings are remnants to days gone by and their smelly and overly worn pew cushions are their beehive hairdos towering over the people week after week. In other circles, some respond to modernism by creating a home church model that seeks to simplify and redirect. Resistance to change is common and while parts of the church-at-large seem to have followed nothing but trend and common opinion, others seem to be stuck in a century. Facto-baked church services that smell of high medieval ritual and droning pulpits where no electronic gadget may dwell at times attempt to convince the Power-Pointers that they’ve got it all wrong while the “our-pastor-is-way-hip” crowd can wax poetic that their orators use wifi and Hawaiian shirts to convey relevant messages. Neither approach makes sense to me. Nor does the home church model solve all modern problems.
Tradition, in and of itself, is neither good nor bad and no one escapes it; so to trash tradition just because it is ‘old’ is to be knee-jerked and foolish. To think that home model church fellowships are the panacea is to be misled as well. Certainly the facto-baked woman can be just as congenial and truthful and relevant as the lady with the mod hair and surely the fashionable speaker could be laying out more biblical errors than a Benny Hinn interview during a TBN telethon. The packaging doesn’t always reveal the content.
In the same way, changing in order to stay up with the times is neither a compromise nor an acceptance of error. Change is inevitable and I think in many ways it shows that you are not living in isolation. I believe that there is a sense in which refusing to update the sanctuary’s carpeting communicates a certain communal apathy. Where is it that we get the idea that being conscious of the times in which we live is somehow a bad thing? Perhaps it stems from a wrong connection between those who claim to be ‘hip’ and their usual decline in doctrinal integrity. I argue that it is possible and preferable to have both an unwavering commitment to timeless truth and a real sense of contemporary understandings.
For example, one can find great ways to teach the much neglected stories of church history by using flash animations and other visual aids. The two do not have to fight each other; they should be used as compliments. It is a shame to see so many doctrinally sound fellowships not worrying about understanding the need to communicate differently to a fast paced techno-culture that is being raised on sound bytes and the Internet. The same can be said of worship music when we speak of contemporary worship songs or the introduction of modern instrumentation or the non-use of pews in favor of movable chairs. Speaking of such things in certain circles has become almost tantamount to treason. This should not be so; after all, we know that the apostle Paul had neither a piano for worship or a Trinity hymnal and most certainly did not preach from a Puritan-styled pulpit in a suit and tie.
The Emerging Church movement has appealed to many as an attempted rescue from the extreme of cold and dead orthodoxy that has kept itself stuck in a form of historical idolatry making it culturally unconscious. The trouble with the movement (among other things) is that it has overcorrected itself; tossing out the very basics of the faith for an equally horrendous pragmatism. In an attempt to be more relational and accessible to the modern believer the movement has shredded the rich history of confessional faith and substituted it for a synthetic Christ who looks more like he came from a therapy session than from heaven’s realm. Again, both extremes should be ignored.
The accurate place of church practice is that it be both bathed in unchanging truth by maintaining the primacy of the Word of God in all that it does and equally aware of the time in which it functions; not being trapped into thinking it can practice 16th century religion in a 2008 world. To be sure, there will be some practices that will crossover as they remain timeless in and of themselves, however, to unnecessarily pit good tradition against modern practice is to miss the mark entirely. I pray that we can seek to recognize, enjoy, and learn from our great heritage as the church universal throughout all centuries while at the same time purpose to live out our current faith practices both under the guidance of Scriptural principle and prescription and the sense of contemporary consideration. Soli Deo Gloria!