People have the capacity to get rather nasty and ridiculous. Ever noticed that?
In the church, this phenomenon is manifested nowhere more prevalently than during the process of, what can lovingly be described as, the slaying of sacred cows — method traditions rooted in a past cultural framework that are no longer effective, but are nonetheless revered and utilized.
As you may have noticed, the church in America is experiencing a fundamental transformation in method — as the era of the little hymn singing church on every corner gives way to an era of consolidation, modernization, and massively increased quality standards across the board (from programs, to worship, to service, to missions, to preaching, etc.). This state of affairs, in which the desires of those holding to dying or ineffective traditions in the Christian community are continually frustrated — desires to return to a “simpler time” when decades of cultural dominance had allowed churches to be successful while producing mediocre or (in many cases) very poor quality services, programs, community efforts, etc (when compared to the quality standards demanded by the rest of society) — has resulted in a plethora of vitriol from the nostalgic, the unchanging, the fearful and (let’s face it) the incompetent.
This negative spirit, if nurtured and indulged, manifests as pretentious snobbery, passive aggressiveness, placing grievances about successful church methods on prayer request cards, organizing coup attempts against staff members, and even going so far as to writing articles and doing ridiculously flawed “studies” to confirm their biases — all as an expression of rage against the “dying of the light.”
Well, here are the facts boys and girls:
All of the fastest growing churches in North America implement modern worship services. They have skilled musicians and vocalists (generally within a “rock band” style configuration), lighting and audio technicians, and *gasp* haze machines — implementing a professional quality, high-level production on Sunday morning. Head over to Outreach Magazine’s list of 100 Fastest Growing Churches in America to see for yourself.
A December 2016 study which surveyed over 2,000 church-goers and clergy in Canadian churches found that all growing congregations identified throughout the research had two things in common: 1) Orthodox Evangelical Theology & 2) Modern Worship.
THIS ISN’T A BAD THING!
Growing churches (using these methods) are reaching people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ! They are taking the “talents” that God has given them and multiplying them to yield an increase for their master; rather than burying them in the ground to produce nothing! Remember Jesus’ teaching:
Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)
“For it will be like a man going on a journey, who called his servants and entrusted to them his property. To one he gave five talents, to another two, to another one, to each according to his ability. Then he went away. He who had received the five talents went at once and traded with them, and he made five talents more. So also he who had the two talents made two talents more. But he who had received the one talent went and dug in the ground and hid his master’s money. Now after a long time the master of those servants came and settled accounts with them. And he who had received the five talents came forward, bringing five talents more, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me five talents; here, I have made five talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ And he also who had the two talents came forward, saying, ‘Master, you delivered to me two talents; here, I have made two talents more.’ His master said to him, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant. You have been faithful over a little; I will set you over much. Enter into the joy of your master.’ He also who had received the one talent came forward, saying, ‘Master, I knew you to be a hard man, reaping where you did not sow, and gathering where you scattered no seed, so I was afraid, and I went and hid your talent in the ground. Here, you have what is yours.’ But his master answered him, ‘You wicked and slothful servant! You knew that I reap where I have not sown and gather where I scattered no seed? Then you ought to have invested my money with the bankers, and at my coming I should have received what was my own with interest. So take the talent from him and give it to him who has the ten talents. For to everyone who has will more be given, and he will have an abundance. But from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away. And cast the worthless servant into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’
The bottom-line is this: results don’t lie. It is a fact that the vast, vast majority (if not all) of churches successfully growing by reaching the un-churched are not using hymnals. Curmudgeons can write articles and survey themselves over and over to “prove” that their treasured, worn-out methods are better, but they are simply engaging in self-deception. If you are one of these people, ask yourselves … what is my motivation for attending church? Is it to follow and become more like Jesus; being obedient to his command to reach the lost, making disciples of all nations? Or is it to feel comfortable in my nostalgia? Be honest with yourself. If it is the second, consider that the church on earth is always only one generation away from extinction … and God will never let that happen. Don’t be left behind.
Remember not the former things, nor consider the things of old. Behold, I am doing a new thing; now it springs forth, do you not perceive it? I will make a way in the wilderness and rivers in the desert. The wild beasts will honor me, the jackals and the ostriches, for I give water in the wilderness, rivers in the desert, to give drink to my chosen people, the people whom I formed for myself that they might declare my praise. – God (Isaiah 43:18-21)