Church the way it used to be?


Abandoned ChurchI recently had a road trip through the Bible belt and saw a billboard advertisement for a church that read, “Church the way it used to be . . .”

I think that I get what they are trying to convey, but I can’t say that I agree with it. My guess is that they are attempting to portray a place where the values and message are consistent with what could be expected decades ago in the average church.

The problem with this approach is that this church will be a safe haven for those who are fleeing other churches who have allowed change (good or bad) into their body. This will be a church that grows by defection rather than infection. In other words, growth will come from stealing sheep from other sheepfolds rather than by setting conditions for sheep to reproduce.

In Matthew 9:17 Jesus reminds us of the futility of trying to recycle wineskins. We should not seek to contain a fresh work of the Spirit in old forms and rituals.

If our church demographic looks much different than the demographic at the local mall, we should ask ourselves if we are missing something that God wants to do. I see weird (to me) hairdos, piercings, tattoos and various fashion statements on the young people at the mall. If this is a group of people for whom Jesus died, then it would stand to reason that if we are doing our job of making disciples, some of those pierced and tattooed people should be showing up on Sunday.

The point is not whether piercing or tattooing is a good idea, the point is that it’s already done for a lot of young people who Jesus loves just as much as the ones who have steered clear of these practices. My personal opinion on fashion choices has nothing to do with how these folks are to be received by me or by my church. God loves them the way they are.

As a band from the 70’s encouraged us, “don’t look back.” Even if we could, it would be foolish to try to recapture what was happening 5, 10 or 20 years ago. We must press on and be what God wants us to be . . . today.