What to do when your church changes

These days in my retirement ministry, most of the churches where I’m invited to preach have these things in common….

–Almost no man wears a necktie or suit.

–On the platform you find all kinds of musical instruments.

–Huge screens are mounted on the front walls, where the words of songs and scripture are projected.

–Many people in the congregation read Scripture from their phones.

–Worship leaders are often wearing jeans and sneakers.

–In the announcements, you hear of mission trips to foreign countries, regardless of the size of the church.

–Fewer and fewer hymns are being sung, and when the old ones are brought out, they’re given new treatments. Mostly, though, what’s being sung in worship was written in the past 10 or 12 years.

–Churches announce on their outside signs “blended” services, “contemporary” services, and/or “traditional” services.

The times, they are a-changing, friend.  (And they are not through changing either. So you youngsters should not get too attached to the present innovations.)

If you cannot adapt, you may find yourself living in the 1950s.

The other weekend I worshiped with an interesting church in Jacksonville, Florida.  I have not known that church previously, but had learned a little of their story before arriving.

As the neighborhood changed around them, most of their members had moved away. Since the church failed to make the necessary adjustments to reach new residents of their community, it was slowly dying. So, not long ago, the remaining membership–mostly senior adults–asked a larger (and healthy, thriving) church in the area to take them over.  They would be willing to make whatever changes were necessary to turn this around.

That takes great courage, let me say.

Most “older” churches cannot do this. The members are so wed to the ways of yesterday and the methods of the past that they prefer to let the church die rather than change.

Six months after they called a young pastor from New Orleans to shepherd this transitioning congregation, I showed up for three days of ministry.  As always, before and after preaching, I sat at a table drawing people. I was pleasantly surprised by the large number of children and teens and young families throughout the buildings.  Already, the church is flourishing.

The longtime members of that little church are having to get used to a lot of change.  The pastor does not wear a suit or tie or even a sport coat. Music is provided by a group composed of piano, several guitars, and a drum set.  Four or five young adults were the praise ensemble.

It was a blessed service. The singing was great, the people were happy and friendly, and the fellowship was sweet.  They’re getting this right.

Being with such a happy group of God’s people was such a joy.

What would happen, I wondered, if a member who moved back to town after a year’s absence walked into the service.  A large screen flashes the words to hymns and choruses.  The platform is covered by musical instruments, and an air of informality pervades.

Whoever heard of a church changing?  (Smiley-face here)

Churches are always changing. Only the dead ones don’t.

May I repeat that? Churches are always changing–if they are alive.  I guarantee you that Saddleback Church (Rick Warren) in Orange County is always tweaking what they do. As does North Point (Andy Stanley) in Alpharetta, and Celebration Church (Dennis Watson) in Metairie.

But we see this same scenario playing out again and again.

You’ve belonged to that church for many years.  You were attracted to it because of location and ministry, because you liked the pastor and the people were friendly. You have served the Lord there in numerous capacities and your children grew up there. You have a history with that church. And now….

Now, it’s not the same church.

There’s a new pastor and new leadership. They are attracting a different group of people from the lovely group that drew you in.  You feel less and less a part of things.  You’re not at home with many of the innovations they’re doing now.

What should you do?

1) Recognize that churches are always in a state of change if they are alive.

Everytime someone joins your church or leaves it, the church changes. Everytime a member begins to get serious about reading the Word or witnessing or tithing or ministering, or when they backslide, the church changes.  It is never static, never a frozen entity.

2) You yourself are growing and changing if you are alive and obedient.  I grew up on a certain kind of church music, then grew past that.  Later, my tastes changed and to no one’s surprise, have changed again.

3) Your needs and requirements change.

My tastes change.  It’s called “life.”  After radiation treatment of the head and neck a full decade ago, many things no longer have a taste at all, while others are as wonderful as ever.  I  can handle spicy food better than before since I have fewer functioning taste buds.  Life is like that.

4) Perhaps you are dragging your feet and resisting something new the Holy Spirit is trying to do in your life.

You are if you insist that the Lord do something again in the same way He did it before.  You are dragging your feet and resisting Him if you reject the new things He sends because they are outside your comfort zone. Do you suppose Jonah felt comfortable going to Nineveh?  Don’t you know it was way, way outside his comfort zone?

5) Perhaps the Lord has something new for you in the community and you should be in another church.  This may be His way of cutting you loose from those ties that have bound you so you can move forward.

6) Are you open to new things?  New ways?

If you are not, you’re going to have trouble with the Lord Jesus.

“Behold,” the Lord said, “I make all things new” (Revelation 21:5).  He wasn’t just talking about Heaven, friend.

He’s making me ever-new right now. Yep, I said that.  Psalm 92:12-15 promises that. “The righteous will flourish…. They will still bear fruit in old age. They will be full of sap and very green….”

So, what do you do when your church changes?  Grow with it.

265 thoughts on “What to do when your church changes

  1. I so enjoyed you being at Hibernia Hyde Park, Jacksonville Florida. You brought the word into a new light. It blessed my heart to hear you speak. Please, come back and visit again soon. Nikki Smith
    P.S. Thanks again for the cartoon picture!! Loved it!

  2. Not buying it. Change is one thing, but when the church is unrecognizable, that’s another. It seems to me a lot of what you see is a backlash to years without change rather than gradual change.

    Not all churches and denominations are as you describe here. Some are just as vibrant and growing as you describe and still traditional. When these radically changed churches ignore the needs of another segment of the church, that is self centered rather than Christ centered.

    • But…it is what has happened and is still happening. No one is being left behind in the dust. Everyone at the church is being given the chance to accept the change that is occurring. I would say at this point that if a traditional setting is what you prefer, then seek that setting out and enjoy the presence of God there. It’s okay to do that. Really.
      I grew up at this church, and am loving what God is doing there. Praise God for HIS freshness and newness.

      • So, Randy and folks like him are not entitled to their viewpoints? Change just to say you’re changing isn’t justified. It’s hurtful o read these comments that offer no support- just adapt or too bad. That is not the way the church is supposed to work.

        • Friend I understand your point in seeing issue with holding people hostage in a changing environment. To tell others there will be much change and not give any alternative is like holding someone hostage. Any pastor that doesn’t allow time is following the way of the fool. With this said I would like to point out that those in the congregation not willing to change are doing exactly what they are claiming the young generation is doing. They are demanding slow change( which usually means no change) and pushing those away that don’t like it. We must all get the speck out of our own eye and be willing to be a Jew to the Jews or a gentile to the gentiles. – Be blessed!

          • Our (Episcopal) church is very steeped in tradition, but our own parish has solved the problem by having three services using the old, traditional ways in one, a combination of old and new in another, and the praise and worship format at the other. This way, one can go to a service that they feel comfortable going to. It has worked out well with us. Of course, we do have a pretty good-sized membership, but it could be done with smaller memberships if the priest/minister would be flexible enough to accomodate the membeship.

          • If my understanding is correct, the Bible instructs us to make the Lord out lord, not man. In my life I have been a member of 3 churches. Before the Lord made radical changes in each of the earlier two churches, He nudged me to move and showed me where. How blessed I was when I obeyed. One of those times I actually discussed it with the original Pastor as I was still new to discerning God’s voice and was questioning myself with why God might want me to leave and where I should go. Fortunately the pastor was both compassionate and wise, and directed me to a church where I was mightily blessed. That first church was within the same year disbanded and I was spared much trauma by trusting the Lord fully. The second time I sought wise counsel and prayer. After I was resituated into the church where I am now, that church has moved numerous times, and now is many miles from it’s first location, and the pastor was moving into the “do-as-I-say-without-question” mode. If a church is no longer strongly anchored upon solid biblical teaching, and its leaders do not roll model reverence for the Lord and humbleness in spirit, it is time to move. If you sense in your spirit that you are being nudged by God/Jesus/the Holy Spirit to move, after getting wise counsel and prayer to help you confirm you are receiving guidance from your Lord, it is also time to move – with His help and under His direction, as He alone knows and desires to supply all our needs. If the love of Christ for His people is not modeled from the top down through the leadership so that new attendees understand that what is taught in the Bible is real, and that the Holy Spirit can change one’s entire approach to life upon receiving and submitting to Jesus Christ as savior and Lord, it is time to leave. On the other hand if these things are present, and people are learning how to turn in prayer with confident faith to Jesus for healing in spirit, mind, and body – including release from old bondages and distructive habits, looking for and praising Him as evidence arises that they are being set free, this is a church to treasure and support wholeheatedly for as long as the Lord leads – especially as it is going through healthy and God-inspired changes that are bringing greater joy and vitality to the believers, along with a revitalized passion for prayer, God’s Word, and reaching out to others with His Love. Don’t you think?

    • Randy,
      Remember that what is “traditional” was once considered radical and new. The hymns that are sung in our churches (and many of which are well over 100 years old) were not composed on the harp and lyre. So, your “traditional” church is not “traditional,” but just less modern (as far as the music goes at least). Also, I don’t recall a mention of suits and ties anywhere in scripture.

      • Actually, suits and ties are mentioned in the scriptures. You just have to know where to look.

        Were the priests allowed to enter the holy of holies in any old garb? NO!

        The modern representation of the holy of holies is the house of God – what is our modern representation of proper garments respectful? For men – suit and tie. For women – dresses.

        I am not condemning anyone – but you should get your theology straight.

          • Go to Genesis and Matthew to look at what the men were wearing. They also had a Lyre and harps that they played. That is, if they had any instruments to play at all.

            Society as a whole has changed. I know that not all the changes are good but some are. I think the mindset that we have when entering church is more important than what we are wearing. We don’t go to show how well we are dressed. We go to worship our Lord. He looks at our heart doesn’t He? Aren’t we told about this many places in the Bible? Who are we to trust? Man or God? Who do I have but You Lord? Where can I go but to the Lord?

            James 2: 1-13 tells us that if we show partiality to the rich over the poor we are transgressors of the law. (NKJV)

            Isaiah 64:6 We are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags… (NKJV)

            There are churches that have a ‘traditional’ service and a ‘contemporary’ service. Sometimes these services are going on at the same time. I would have a hard time choosing. I love the 100 yr old hymns and the newest ‘contemporary’ songs also. Let us lift our eyes to the Lord. Isn’t the main reason why we attend church to worship the Lord? If it’s not, maybe it should be.

        • Bob, you are not correct….the modern representation of the Holy of holies is our BODIES, not a church building.

          Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20.

          There is absolutely NO way you can insist that clothing determines relationship with God, or that it is necessary to dress a certain way in order to worship “properly.” Nowhere in the NT does it require the disciples or anyone else to wear special clothing to worship. They wore whatever they had, and we don’t even know what that was, other than through a study of the historical traditions of that time, not from the Bible. We ARE to dress modestly, and I grant you, some have difficulty with that, even in your “dresses” (i.e. too short, too low, etc.) Specific clothing is not a theology issue, and certainly not a requirement for corporate worship.

          But the hour is coming, and is now here, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. John 4:23 …please note: NO mention of clothing.

        • Theology has nothing to do with what we wear to church because attire doesn’t change the truth of the gospel. There is a difference between tools and truth, and we can’t confuse the two. We know that He is, was and always will be. Because of that truth Jesus is always relevant to ancient and modern times. In the same way that Jesus used what people could relate to 2000 years ago as a means of getting the truth across to them, He can also work through what we currently relate to in order to get the SAME truth across to us. To say otherwise is the equivalent to stuffing Him in a box and shelving it like dusty old bible, pulling it out in desperate times. We are sacrificing the potential believers of today’s generation to what’s familiar and comfortable to those of us who are well seated in our faith and can afford to make the changes. Yes, at church we are expected to dress in a manner that is tasteful, with adequate coverage and with regard to distraction, i.e.causing eyes to wander. When we walk through the doors we suddenly become honest, polite, and clean up our speech. But if we’re so passionate about the importance of attire and behavior as a measurement of our “holiness” then why don’t we dress and behave like that every minute of every day? It’s just not possible. A friend of my son used to stay with us over an occasional weekend and on Sundays would sometimes wear his skull head pajama pants and black nail polish to church. Obviously, we didn’t adapt our fashion to match his but fortunately we attend a church where the members look past that and just love on him. Regardless of not coming from a church culture, he might have known better but he employs what we in our household like to call the Shock Factor. The future leaders of our churches after we’re dead and gone are coming out of a sector of society that wants to be real and shock others with unorthodox behavior. They knock us back to see if we will step forward. Loving them in spite of whatever they dump at our feet is the code they’re looking for. This young man struggles with things of a spiritual nature and what we call “religion” but until the lightbulb comes on for him and he embraces the truth he will know what it’s like to be loved first. We believe that “rules without relationship lead to rebellion” (Josh McDowell). My children’s generation knows how to be real with each other. My parents generation didn’t allow themselves to be that way. And somehow my generation is stuck in the middle of the two trying to figure out a way to balance both.
          Things…they are a-changing. Faster than they ever have before and even our youth have trouble keeping up with it. How can we expect them to adapt to change if the parents and grandparents can’t cope with it. Oh, we had to deal with change as we were growing up but what authority mandated that we have permission to stop the world from spinning just because we’re tired of changing. The health care industry is thriving and growing by leaps and bounds on the reliability of change taking place in our aging bodies. Granted there are some things that should never change. I’m no scientist but I learned as far back as elementary school that the sun is the center of the universe in which we exist. Even logic tells me that if a planet does not rotate and tilt then one entire side of the it will burn up. Seasonal change is important to the survival of the earth. Now on the other hand, if the sun moves, we’re sunk. Each planet will be thrown off it’s axis. Order becomes chaos. In like manner, Jesus being the head/center of the church, if we revolve around Him then we MUST tilt and adjust. If we don’t do that then we’ll either melt down or become stone-cold hardened. He will NEVER move. He holds everything in a delicate balance and keeps us from falling off our axes regardless of our adjustments, as long as HE is at the core. Whether we are casual or formal in a worship atmosphere is simply a smoke screen and it puts OUR truth at the core instead of HIS truth. Keep in mind that OUR truth is subject to change.
          For centuries our church attendance dress code has been based on tradition. However, when God took up residence with the children of Israel, the dress code was based on law. I believe that He in His wisdom knew that without the Holy Spirit in us we needed those parameters. When He came to us through the flesh of Jesus we were set free from the law because of the indwelling of the Spirit working in us to unify ourselves with Him. A lot of the garments in OT scripture represent something about God’s character and presence…robes of righteousness, breastplate of judgement…intricate and beautiful with precious gems, because He is all of those things to us, and more. All the priestly adornment in the world cannot emit even a glimmer of all He is. For the priest of the flock to wear those items was to serve as a visual reminder, not to flaunt or replace what they represent. He was also to be holy in mind, body and soul, at one with God. The priestly garments were tangible for focusing the attention on God, not on the priest. For the worshipper, a covering for the head was indicative of grace. The last time I checked no one in scripture wore a necktie, nor was there any significance placed on the importance of wearing one. In NT scriptures, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit allows us all to “wear” the elements of God’s character, as Jesus was…and still is. He was God in flesh and we are ambassadors of Christ. Jesus didn’t flaunt the regalia of royalty. He became that. We are the windows of Christ to the world, reflecting the light from within. But when did we decide that our garments were so important as to replace what we are to be? I grew up as a preacher’s kid and I was expected to set an example for the other kids in church, not to mention making my daddy look like he was “raising his children right”. I was taught that we give God our best on Sunday by wearing our best attire. I knew I didn’t have the best but it was the best that I had and it wasn’t much different than what I wore during the week. In today’s white collar job requiring suits and ties, the corporate employee might not want to wear that in church on Sundays because the discomfort of wearing it might be distracting. Comfort not being the issue, I have to say that sometimes I am just flat out distracted by the “bling” that I see in some churches. By that I don’t mean instruments on the stage. Folks have spent many a service staring at stained glass windows, the flowers on the altar table or the feathers in someone’s hat. Traditionally, the common churchgoer owned few enough outfits to get them through the week. Their jobs dictated what they wore to church on Sundays. It’s only logical to not put soiled clothes back on after getting bathed and cleaned up. So why do we live today as if we’re still plowing the fields of yesterday? The point is that our bodies and our clothes are going to get dirty and we could at any moment be stripped of all our wordly possessions but it’s only through the Holy Spirit that our thoughts and deeds can be made pure and undefiled. It is He who cleanses and dresses us in His character. Our righteousness (if we measure it by suits, ties, dresses and all the trappings) are as filthy rags. Fashion changes but the full armor of God is not subject to change. “All flesh is grass, and all it’s loveliness is like the flower of the field. The grass withers and the flower fades…But the word [all the attributes] of our God stands forever.” Shall I go on? The way we do modern church is not about changing the truth, it’s about changing the tools.

          • The sun’s the center of our Solar System, which is on the outskirts of our the Milky Way Galaxy, which is on the outskirts of the Virgo Supercluster, which is close to the center of the observable universe (and this is the case simply because we are the ones doing the observing).But since the universe is infinitely vast, there cannot be any center to it. All that aside, I really did agree with most of what you said. By the way, I’m also a “preachers’ kid,” but the kid of two preachers.

        • If I remember correctly, the only time Jesus commented on what people wore, was when he condemn those religious people who dressed to impress. (Matthew 23:5)

          • …and Jesus condemned people who judged worshipers based on what they wore or didn’t wear.
            James 2:2″Suppose a man comes into your meeting wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in filthy old clothes also comes in. 3If you show special attention to the man wearing fine clothes and say, “Here’s a good seat for you,” but say to the poor man, “You stand there” or “Sit on the floor by my feet,” 4have you not discriminated among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts?”

          • Matt 22:10-14
            10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered together all they found, both evil and good; and the wedding hall was filled with dinner guests. 11 “But when the king came in to look over the dinner guests, he saw a man there who was not dressed in wedding clothes, 12 and he *said to him, ‘Friend, how did you come in here without wedding clothes?’ And the man was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the servants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen.”

            Though this is a parable and it can be argued its application is only tangentially legitimate, I would argue it’s still a powerful argument in being “clothed” suitably for the occasion. Being called together corporately in order to praise and adore our Creator should likely be an event of even greater respect than a wedding.


          • Once we start to playing these little games, my friend–“I know that’s not what this scripture is referring to, however…”–you can go into a thousand directions and make anything we want to do seem spiritual. It’s talking about being dressed for salvation in the garments washed white by the blood of the Lamb. And you want it to mean coats and ties here? C’mon, man.

        • Actually, Bob….the “temple” and the holy of holies is now in the hearts of men. And the house of God’s Holy Spirit residing within us makes it so. The “house of God” is no longer a building with a steeple or a temple. I promise that God does not wave at the congregation throught the stained glass as we drive away after Sunday services, saying “Bye, bye! I’ll be right here waiting for you next Sunday! Right here in the ol’ “house of God!” He walks out the door with you and other believers as He resides in you.

          That “old temple mindset” died when the vale of the temple was torn in two and God’s Holy Spirit fell on men as Jesus arrived at the right hand of the Father.

          So….unless you wear a suit and tie 24/7…I would respectfully ask you to reconsider YOUR theology.

        • With respect, but “you should get your theology straight”, to use your words We must be careful not to use as doctrine the traditions of man; nor lose sight of what Christians are called to be. Let’s keep our focus on having our hearts right; on glorifying God and enjoying Him forever; and not allow ourselves to get tangled up in and distracted by non essentials.

        • I have a question. Do you really think that Paul, or Jesus for that matter, after a long day of traveling on foot entered the synagogue having put on the change of clothes He carried with Him? Really? Jesus had no place to lay His head. Do you really believe He had “dress” clothes?

        • Not trying to slam anyone here as I can see both sides. I’ve been miserable with the ‘new’ brand of worship for years. That’s not what I’m addressing here though. The Amish are a ‘religion’ that is stuck in the past. They wear the same thing they did hundreds of years ago, speak the same language they did hundreds of years ago, get places the same way they did hundreds of years ago, and sing the same songs they did hundreds of years ago. I don’t think their dress, vehicles, language, etc…are going to bring the lost running to their church. We do (and I sigh loudly here) have to change in order to remain alive. I HATE to say it ’cause I’d be right in the buggy with my great-grandparents if I’d had my way! As long as what we preach and proclaim and worship is from the One True God and his Holy Word, then I suppose I have to change to endure. I admit that the songs don’t inspire me (at all) and I miss the hymns so much it hurts, but for the greater cause I endure it. And that’s what I do…endure. But, personally, I just do not feel like I’ve been feed like I used to.

        • i’m sorry but you can wear what you want, that does not change the man, nor does it add to or take away…the
          God i service and love doesn’t give a rip about what i have on because He is NOT concerned with the outward but, the inward specifically, what my heart…

      • I am with you Randy. It seems much of this push is self centered and entertainment based. It seems- -the trade off that I am familiar with- – is less reverent, and more directed toward self. Sermons are filled with jokes, emotional stories, and often feel like they have been prepared in 15 minutes. Any opposition is treated as old-irrelevant, and cold. I was not raised in a church, and did not start attendance until my 20’s. I had tasted what the world had to offer, and it was bitter. I came to the church to revere God. This equates to honor of all forerunners of the faith.

        • Randy2, I started attending church on a regular basis when I was 19. This was in the middle 70’s, a time when praise choruses were starting to make their way into the scene – thanks to the likes of Bill and Gloria Gaither, among others. I feel very fortunate to have been exposed to both “The Great Hymns of the Faith” and the praise choruses. Then came the Contemporary Christian songs, and the tempo picked up even more in our worship services. The church I go to now (of which my husband happens to be the pastor…), has a Traditional Service (we still have a fairly large Senior Adult membership) and 5 Contemporary Services. I go to the Traditional Service and one of the Contemporary Services – and love them both, for different reasons. I love the TS for the same reasons I loved them at 19, but I participate in worship in the CS – “I get my worship ON!” I’m grateful for my husband’s leadership in trying to honor all 6 generations currently residing on earth, and their individual preferences when it comes to church and worship styles. We are 57 and and not all the changes we’ve made have been comfortable for US – but we are trying to sensitive to the people the Lord has sent us, as well as the community He has placed us in. Jesus did “church” in the most creative and non-traditional ways imaginable. We should seek to follow His example in reaching the Lost and making disciples – especially when it comes to reaching the younger generations. When we all get to heaven, we’ll find out what True worship really is! 🙂

    • Randy, I bet you have grew AND changed. The church is no different. Either embrace the change and find God there or go where you are comfortable and find God there. He is all things to all people. I have a friend who attends a church that has only bluegrass music. I have a friend who attends a church that has only contemporary music. But both friends find and embrace God where they are. God doesn’t care what type of music people listen to, only the message is what matters. Don’t be sad or discouraged that your church has changed, praise the Almighty God that He can be all things to all people. Just because the music or presentation or the music has changed, does not mean God has changed.

    • I have seen Traditional churches grow and I have seen them die. The difference is obedience. I will tell you what I have seen. Two difference stories, one was obedient while the other was not. A young man came into a disobedient traditional church waring shorts. He was a member. The seniors removed him from the building without a word spoken. The young man was obedient in coming to church. While at another church they allowed him to worship. The reason why he was obedient in coming to church was because that’s all he had. See, a lot of churches uses the traditionalism to warrant favoritism. If we compare these stories to James 2, the obedient church sat the man at a place of worship. While the disobedient man placed the rich man at a place of worship. Getting down to the nuts and bolts of this, The disobedient traditional church stopped a man from worshiping Christ because he didn’t match their criteria. This sounds a lot like the pharisees of Jesus’s time.

      If you want to boil it down even more, it’s about the heart of the matter. Is the church led by the Holy Spirit or is the church led by people? You can always tell by the actions of the people. Once again James 2.

      Is the church you are talking about obedient? What fruit shows this? Are the orphans and widows being fed and taken care of?

      • I’ve been around the block a few times – and I’ve never actually seen ANYONE physically removed from a service due to dress – even it the most legalistic of the hardcore Baptist churches with which I am most familiar.

        The Biblical example is come as you are…..and leave changed. Here’s the issue with the ‘new’ church…..

        The preaching is so watered down, so antithetical that it no longer reveals sin, no longer preaches about the blood and salvation – it’s a bunch of motivational garbage fully devoid of the gospel.

        Pick one – any one – and ask that preacher to get up the next Sunday and preach a hard-core Romans Road hell-fire and brimstone message.

        You’ll not get ONE to do so…….why? These people are not looking for the true working of the Spirit – but rather to be uplifted and dance and wear themselves out physically.

        Furthermore – beware of what the scripture says a bout vain repetitions……most of our ‘worship’ music is exactly that – VAIN repetition. It’s all about the leaders – not the worshippers. FWIW, I watch the ‘worshippers’ – they don’t sing – they sway or just stand there bored – because they don’t know the music – and the music is only tailored to the ‘worship’ leader!

        • Bob,
          Unfortunately, I, too have seen a person escorted out of a church in Atlanta that is on TV because the person had a hat on and refused to take it off. An old deacon escorted them out of the building. Come to find out, the person had a hat on because of chemo and no hair. This is ABSOLUTELY INEXCUSABLE. Jesus Himself said he came NOT FOR THE RIGHTEOUS, but for the sick and broken. We need to GET OVER outward appearances and be more interested in the person’s heart, as God says He is!!!

        • If you are speaking of a New Testament Church…did you know that music is only mentioned one time in the New Testament ?When the prodigal son returns home he hears music coming from the house….it does however mention in the New Testament Hymns . The Old Testament…well yes, Psalms yes, but don’t think you want to go there as they killed people for working on the Sabbath and stoned girls who became pregnant before marriage….The preacher quoted” when Christ came old things became new, well I think he was referring to the Old Testament..Don’t think it meant pick up your drums and guitars and shake around in front of the congregation….just saying…

          • Wow Shirley…you need to go back and read the entire book of 2 Chronicles! I think music is just a tiny bit more important to God than you are wanting it to be.

          • We must be careful to avoid the trap of assuming that the way we have traditionally done things in the church is actually biblical. It is important that we honestly compare our practices with what the Word of God plainly states. We should all value worship that seeks to wholeheartedly exalt our God and Savior Jesus Christ! Biblical worship is not a spectator activity, it is rather all-inclusive among born again followers of Jesus. When we worship, we recognize that we all sing and praise an audience of One. A biblical church should seek to develop disciples who have the maturity to appreciate one another’s different preferences in worship styles and Christian music. When we worship, we should recognize that some are contemplative while others are more celebrative. Biblical praise and worship involves the incorporation of many types of instruments (Psalm 150), a variety of musical genres (Ephesians 4:17-21), the clapping of hands and shouts of joy (Psalm 47:1), lifting up of hands (Psalm 134:2) and yes, dancing unto the Lord (Psalm 150:4, II Samuel 6:14). May we all humble ourselves and allow the perfect Word of God to transform our Worship.

        • Amen Bob, I agree with you, God is the same today yesterday and forever, the message has not and will not change, true followers of Christ are to be seprate from this world, after all we are just passing thru.

          • “true followers of Christ are to be seprate from this world,”

            What does this mean? Are not to look like the world, sound like them? I am not sure what you mean.

            I see people mentioning things like suit and ties being worn to church as though this would set them apart from the world as some sort of Holy attire. However, if you look at the way some of the most ungodly and worldly dress for work every day, it is in a suit and tie. Thus, by dressing this way we are doing exactly what the world does.

        • Bob, my husband is a pastor and we have a thriving church. The thing the people love about him (besides the fact that he’s REAL), is that he DOES preach the Gospel – he follows Jesus’ example of confronting us about our sin, while speaking the Truth in love. He knows he’s accountable for every word he speaks to his “flock” and takes that very seriously. Yes, there are tons of churches out there that are going the “feel good” route, but just because a church is growing or “big” doesn’t mean it’s all fluff. As far as the worship styles, I’m for just about all of them – as long as they’re leading us to The Cross. While I love the great hymns of the Faith, it’s the newer songs that inspire worship in me – and I’m 57 years old! If you’re looking around seeing what others are doing, I don’t know how you can focus on what you need to be doing in that moment – worshipping God for yourself. I don’t think it’s really up to you to decide what’s going on while they’re swaying and/or listening to what’s being sung. Only God knows our thoughts and our hearts.

    • I do so agree with you. It saddens me that a generation of kids will not have those beautiful hymns to fall back on in times of joy or trouble. Our church platform looks more like a nightclub than a sanctuary with its Chinese lanterns and neon lights.

      • You think it sad that kids won’t have the old hymns to fall back on. I think it sad that you don’t have the even older Gregorian Chant to fall back on.

        • Some reflection questions. I take it you are a member of one of those open churches that accepts everyone and what they believe? You want to reach out to the community, the world, and other believers? Read your response and ask yourself if your directed response to a general opinion fits with these questions. (You attacked a fellow believer for an assertion that wasn’t aimed at anyone. Is that Christlike? Could it be a reflection of the true state of your church? Could it be the true reflection of you?) I read the statement more as someone who is deeply concerned that most of today’s worship music provides no true comfort as it is not rooted in any true doctrine or word of scripture as hymns are. Then they mentioned that their church looks more like the world then the church. That would be true cause for concern, as Paul told us to be separate from the world, even though we do have to live in it. More people have to be concerned or the church truly is dead. (Dead to God. God doesn’t care about the number of people in a church, because that does not reflect the true heart of that church, which may be black as sin to Him.) If there are people always challenging change, then there is life. If no one fights, it is dead. (Fight in this context is theological/biblical in nature, not sociological.)

        • I don’t think you need to answer her in this way Brian. I agree with Shirley. I also miss the old hymns but I do like a lot of the contemporary ones as well. I just wish they would combine both in the services. That would be awesome.

    • While I would agree, what was also clearly stated here (that I have seen in my own congregation) is that change MUST take place, remember, Jesus was a complete paradigm shift from what was to what is. But, I say that to say, the health of a church is not measured by transfer of letter in, or out, it is measured in salvations that occur because of the work done in & through that local body of believers.

      Church should never be about US, it’s about Christ. If it isn’t Biblical, then it is just preference, and quite honestly, most of our preferences are out of whack with what God inspired in the Bible.

      Just my 2 cents from rural Kentucky.

      • Being a rural boy from SW VA, I guess it is no wonder that I would support your comment. I do not mean to Judge but it seems to me that music and dress actually have little to do with the real reason for churches as a place for folks to gather, worship, grow spirtually, help others and try to win hearts and minds for Christ. (And yep I wear a coat and tie and love the old hymns)

    • Randy, you’re such a crybaby. Nothing is absolute. This commentary is speaking to the majority of churches that don’t change.

      If this was a lone commentary on the state of traditional churches, you might have a point. But churches across America are dying because of man-made rules.

      Jesus, himself, redefined the way things were to happen. The Pharisees threw crybaby fit after crybaby fit – just like you’re doing. “You’re not doing it the way we”ve wanted it done!”

      People like to confuse salvation with church choice/church operation. They want to backhandedly condemn people for throwing out traditionalism as though that’s the only way churches are supposed to be. According to these people, if people go to a church that is more contemporary than 1965, then it’s “not of God,” and those attending are “destroying the church and her traditions.”

      I go to a church that had peaked at 150 people wearing Pentecostal Holiness garb. The women wore what I call “Pentecostal Burkas” – long skirts and long hair that screamed, “Look at me! I’m more of a Christian than you are!” They only sang hymns, and wouldn’t allow new members unless they changed into the Pentecostal garb.

      The Pastor had a revelation from God and made massive changes. He realized he was doing things according to man, and not of God. He threw out the rules and started welcoming people with tattoos, piercings, among other things. He started preaching grace and not condemnation. He welcomed all and not a select few.

      Now, the church is running 650+ and we’re needing to build. It’s fun to be a part of. Sure, I don’t agree with some of the things, but I know it’s not about me, and I realize that I sit under a Pastor that seeks God daily. My place isn’t to undermine him. I am to understand his vision, and “stand under” him and support him. I made the choice to be there and follow his vision.

      The world isn’t sitting back saying, “Hey! Knock it off! The church hasn’t changed, so let’s not introduce new sins, new avenues to sin, or new technology to sin.” It’s changing everyday and enticing people to look at the church and say, “No way. Don’t want a part of that. What a bunch of crybabies.”

      My Pastor frequently reminds us of a few things:

      “It’s not about religion, it’s about relationship.”
      “Churches are hospitals for the sick and broken, not social clubs for the believers.”
      “If you don’t like it, there’s the door. We need your seat.”
      “Loving the sinner doesn’t mean you love the sin.”

      It’s “frequently” because people try to come in and change things outside of the vision God has given him for the church.

      It’s amazing how many people will go into a ‘modern,’ growing church and try to change it back to something that resembles a church from 50 years ago.

      He understands that just because someone has tattoos or piercings isn’t condemned to Hell. Most of our worship team has tattoos or a piercing of some sort. The Pastor isn’t a fan of those things, but he sees the bigger picture.

      We are “undenominationalists.” We’ve fled from the man-made theologies, forced traditionalism, and binding denominationalism from other churches. It’s nice to have freedom to worship however we feel comfortable rather than by man’s expectation.

      But crybabies will be crybabies.

      • How DARE you call someone with an opinion different than yours a “crybaby”. Trust me, it’s the people that demand all this change to suit their own personal selfish preferences that are the cry babies.

        I never thought I’d see the day referred to in Scriptures where”men will no longer stand for sound doctrine, but be lead away by the tickling of their ears.” Well, that day is here and sadly it has come because preachers don’t preach the Word anymore. They’re more concerned about thus saith Rick Warren than what Jesus said.

        • Well said Mac. It is a sad day indeed. I respect my fathers in the faith. In earnest I pray that this respect extends along the long line to back to Christ. It is a question that is seldom asked- -is Christ pleased with my devotion? It is not about gross numbers, but the how Christlike are the followers?

        • It is okay to Worship as you wish, But not go in established churches take over and tell the ones that do not want change to leave, Why not build your own Church instead, as they built this one. just saying, And do not say this is not so because I have witnessed it…I am aware that the Church is the people not the building, but it is their building also that the world may change but His Word never will….

          • Charles Spurgeon: These men steal the pulpits of once orthodox churches, because otherwise they would have none at all. Their powerless theology cannot of itself arouse sufficient enthusiasm to build a mouse trap at the expense of their admirers, therefore they profane the houses which your sires have built for the preaching of the gospel.

      • “If you don’t like it, there’s the door.” This is possibly one of the most anti-Christian statements I have ever heard in a church and I continue to hear it. Where is Christ’s love in that statement? How can that statement be used by a church or pastor and it be supported by Scripture? Ephesians 4:3 speaks to believers maintaining the unity of the Spirit “in the bond of peace.” I cannot think of a more hurtful, and yes, hateful, attitude than to say, “if you don’t like it, leave.” That says, “you are not important here, but everyone else is that agrees with us.” That is self-centered drivel. God is not pleased with this attitude.

        We cannot, as the church, throw people away because it is inconvenient for us to lovingly move them with us. Instead, we say leave. This is wrong and contrary to the nature of our loving God. God could have told all the sinners of the world, “fine – leave.” He could have left it at that and we could all be eternally separated from Him, but He didn’t. He sent His Son to die for our sins. He did this to bring us back into loving fellowship with Him. Can’t we, as His followers do the same? Can’t we put our preferences – no matter what they are – on the back burner long enough to focus on the fellowship of believers? Change is inevitable, but change that hurts people is not. We have a choice to embrace our brothers and sisters in Christ, not run them off. God cannot be pleased when music is placed above ministry, when “style of worship” is put above the hearts and feelings of real people who only want to serve Him in the only way they know how. Non-essential doctrines of “style” and so-called “change” are just that. Perhaps it is best said by David, “Search me, O God, and know my heart; try me and know my anxious thoughts; and see if there be any hurtful way in me, and lead me in the everlasting way.” (Psalm 139:23-24). May the church learn to do things Jesus’ way – by putting others first (Mark 9:35). When will the church follow His model of calling all who labor and are heavy laden to come in as a place of worship and rest? True, only He can give that rest, but the church should follow His example, and not ever say with a prideful heart, “if you don’t like it, leave.” Those are words that should never be uttered from a Christian. If there is trouble with a brother or sister in Christ, follow the prescription in the New Testament for how to deal with the problem – lovingly. Anything else on the part of the church or pastor – is SIN.

        • Thank you for one of the most reasonable responses I’ve read in this discussion. Neither side is without fault. Your comments about pastors and the “if you don’t like it, leave” ultimatum is truly chilling. Hardly the example of a shepherd. Not all pastors have it, but sadly there are quite a few that do.

          May God become first in ALL our hearts.

          • Thank you, I was told to leave a church I did not want to leave. I appreciate that there are still some who believe the church belongs to Christ .

      • John, name calling (crybabies you say) is not a thing I’d think a Christian man would say to another person. I think we can discuss things without name calling sir.

    • Change is necessary, yes. However, I see much chamge of today is a watered down ministry. When this happens, you play with fire. Some churches today don’t even have a cross.

    • This isn’t God’s ways. He never changes. I love the old songs. If they aren’t careful they will ignore God’s spirit as well. We have to respect the old ways/tradition.

    • I am stuck. I greatly dislike the contemporary worship. The youngsters smack gum, wander in and out of the sanctuary (or, now, auditorium), swing feet, have no idea about an “order of worship”, don’t know Apostles’ Creed, let alone, Lord’s Prayer. I just cannot adjust. I like the discipline of “Traditional”

  3. Change for the sake of change…and the whims of someone who whisks into a congregation on a “white horse” is a recipe for disaster. Much of the thrashing about in church is due to a “special few” wanting to impose their tastes on everyone else…all for the sake of being “relevant”. Guess what, when you are copying the church down the street, that need is being met. You are simply playing a modern day keeping up with the jone’s in many cases.

    • I agree. I wonder how many people have stopped attending church altogether because they feel they are being given an ultimatum to conform or leave? In all of their effort to stay relevant, no one ever mentions that.

      • Seriously? Far more people have quit attending church altogether because they did not find it relevant to their lives, and could not connect to the “religiosity” of a generation of churchgoers who refused to adjust to the changes in our society.

        • PS — As others have mentioned, the only thing that matters is that the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST is being proclaimed … regardless of the style of worship or the age of the music being played. If you’re getting all caught up in the semantics, then you’re missing the picture — completely. Shame on you.

        • So basically those who truly weren’t for God, just gave up, left the sheep’s clothing at the door and went back to being wolves? They had a video that came out years ago, about Satanists entering churches and trying to change them. Who is to say that those who come into a church and try to change it are actually of God? <- the previous was an unpaid service announcement about discernment in the church (or the lack thereof).

    • if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always got. To expect different results is the definition of insanity.

      Change is not always a bad thing. Changing for the sake of change is most likely a recipe for disaster. It’s true that sometimes a small minority imposes its traditions on a church body for the sake of glorifying themselves. But it is a sad situation when people have to be dragged kicking and screaming into change just because they liked it the way it was 20-30 years ago.

      Look at what God had to do to the nation of Israel when they didn’t want to accept change ordained by God. I think now when we see certain changes in the Church we have to prayerfully question ourselves. Why am I resisting? Is it because I want MY own way. Am I one of those who say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
      OR Am I standing in the way of a work that God wishes to perform within this body of believers? I believe if you ask truthfully, God WILL give you seek. After all, God is incapable of deceiving or being deceived.

      I will now step down from my soap box.

  4. I have been in church for my entire life. So many things have changed and yet I feel there are other changes needed. Why? Needs change for one. Right now I know of a church that is refusing to change anything. They cannot keep a pastor basically because they will not change. This past Sunday there were 5 people in worship – in a church that use to run many more than that. Now look at another church. It is a relatively small church, with mostly senior adults. They asked my church to consider coming in a helping their church to grow so that they would not have to close the door. Eight senior adults met with a group from our church. The changes were laid out. The eight seniors said come on. Within less than a year that 8 has grown to over 100 in worship every Sunday. They have children, youth and young adult couples. These eight people are so happy. So, do we let the churches die or do we do what we have to do to pump life back into the church? Everything changes – nothing remains the same except the Gospel of Christ. That will never change.

    • Janet – Amen to that! Especially the last line!

      “Everything changes – nothing remains the same except the Gospel of Christ. That will never change.”

      The Gospel Christ, by it’s very nature…stays the same…but causes DRAMATIC change all the time, everywhere!

  5. I have just left a church that was on fire – great music, great sermons, wonderful fellowships with each other – then our pastor retired and we were given an interim pastor who felt we needed to go back to more traditional ways. No more praising The Lord with clapping, no more loud fellowship with one another before the service in the sanctuary. I was the organist/pianist for 8 years there and watched this traditional church come alive with a good mixture of Praise music and traditional hymns! We grew and grew over those 8 years, but once new administration took, over my heart broke every Sunday until with much prayer. I resigned and left. I am now attending a Bible Church with great music, great preaching, and I’m blessed every Sunday! This article was exactly what I needed to let me know I did the right thing!! Thank You!!!

    • It’s sad because some of the things we’re talking about fall into a category of style. Style of dress, style of music, style of lighting. Are these the most important things? If style interferes with you being able to worship then by all means find a church you are comfortable in. Both modern & traditional churches are flourishing in our country so style itself is not the reason. Some of us go to church to be challenged. Others go specifically not to be challenged and therein lies the bigger problem.

      We need to focus on worshiping, celebrating and praising our Lord in song, in sermon, in discipleship, in sharing the Good News. If we are not focusing on these things then it doesn’t really matter what “style” we’re doing it in on Sunday morning. We’re not fulfilling our mission on earth to glorify the Father.

    • The inspiration of The Holy Spirit to musicians did not stop at the printing of the last hymnal. 🙂

      Praise to ALL things that bring HIM honor & glory!

      • Actually, most true hymns were written by theologians and pastors, not musicians or songwriters. They are deeply theological, and heavily based in scripture, unlike a lot of Christian music today.

        • Ralph>>>> Whatever! Lets take a walk through a “traditional” hymnal. I will show you just as much fluff as you want to find with more contemporary music. Have you ever counted how many “ME” focused hymns there are? The funny thing is, in 50 years, today’s contemporary music will be in the hymnals. Yes, there is also amazing theology in SOME hymns. But if you have an open mind, I can show you PLENTY of the newest contemporary music that has theology just as good.

          • As someone who is very familiar with BOTH hymns and choruses, I must say that your remarks are unfounded. There is MUCH more “me” and “i” in modern worship songs as compared to hymns. Even worse, most worship songs never even mention the name of God, Jesus, Father, etc. It’s all focused on the feelings of the worshiper. The worse part of all this is that as I look out at our congregation during the contemporary service, most people do not open their mouths. They are spectators. They may be enjoying the music, but they are not participating. Modernists can argue “style” until they are blue in the face, but worship is never a spectator sport. Before you start arguing, “participation” in worship where I am is MUCH more noticeable in the traditional service.

          • Mac…I’m not sure which “contemporary” songs your church does, but I am not talking about top 40 stuff. Try these for example (used in my sets recently – some are older contemporary. They would also be mixed with hymns but with a rock band) …….”Great Are You Lord” (All Sons & Daughters), “Mighty To Save”, “Revelation Song”, “Scandal of Grace”, “Your Great Name”, “Lead Me to the Cross”, “Lord, I Need You” (Passion), “Here In Your Presence”, “Overcome”. “Let God Arise”…I could go on and on and on. Now, lets compare them to some of these very “ME” focused hymns…. “Precious Lord, Take My Hand”, “His Eye Is On The Sparrow”, “God Will Take Care Of You”, “Spirit of the Living God”, Blessed Quietness”, “Sunshine In My Soul”, “We’re Marching to Zion”, “It Is Well”, “Til The Storm Passes By”, “Hiding In Thee”, “In The Garden”……Again, I could go on and on….as far as your congregation goes, it sounds like there needs to be some different approach to leading. I for one have been to many services that offered ear plugs at the door, yet I could still hear the congregation singing (full contemporary) over the band. I know it may sound like it, but I am not just all about contemporary. I love the older hymns. I am just sick of the idol worship of those that come against anything new. This article was right on!

  6. I totally disagree with this article. The church should not change to conform to the world. The world should change when brought into the church. I miss the old hymns. There is a reason they have stood the test of time. I miss people wearing their best for The Lord on Sunday mornings. I would not mind living in the 1950s at all. This was a big issue during the last presidential election. The Democrats tried to scare people by saying if Romney was elected president he would take us back to the 1950s, well that sounded good to me. By the world listening to this falsehood look what we got. The same with the church we are trading the genuine for the imitation.

    • What was right is now wrong. What is wrong is now right. My how we have changed. This change has brought about throwing baby showers for unwed teenagers in Bible Study class. Bringing in the idea that homosexuality is right and just. We welcome gay marriages in our churches now. Got to love that change. Got to love the idea of gays as preachers/priest. Way to go with that progression there. Having coffee cups brought into the sanctuary along with your donuts. Yep, Jesus would be on board with that. Gossip train is running in Bible Study classes in the pretext of prayer request. Then the gossip mongers really come out and start yapping at lunch with the other gossip queens. Better get those mission trips in the bulletin. Can’t miss out on helping other people around the world when you don’t even know your neighbors name and their circumstances. Hey, forget the neighbors, you don’t even know the people that are attending your own church. You have hurting people within your own church. You don’t even have to look outside your own walls. Let’s wrap our arms around this change and embrace it. Be careful what you ask for because you are going to have to answer to it upon bended knees one day.

      • TC and the others who disagree…
        From “gossip train…” on, I agree. There is a real problem in the sense that people cannot come to the church with their problems and receive genuine care and prayer and help, not judgement. We should be taking care of our own people. There is a desperate need for outreach here in America. Most Americans have heard of Jesus, but they don’t know the real Jesus from the Bible that we Christians have a personal relationship with. We do need local missions, but we also need foreign missions. Since you are concerned with the local missions, it sounds as though God may be calling you to that mission. We all are a part of the body. Without all parts working, the body is not fully functioning. It is apparent that the both parts relating to local missions may not be doing their part. Any church that suggests that homosexuality is “right and just” is not a biblically sound church and should be avoided. However, no person should be discouraged from attending due to their sin. We all have sins we struggle with. Just because yours is not homosexuality doesn’t make you any more eligible to be in church attendance. All you can do is hope someone who struggles with any sin will be convicted by the bible based sermon and the Holy Spirit. Why shouldn’t a baby shower be thrown for a pregnant teen? She made a mistake and now has to wear her scarlet letter. Is that not enough shame? We should shame her even more by treating her as though her innocent child deserves nothing. These are the people who need help from the church just like you suggested later in your comment. So we should help so long as it’s not in Sunday School. That makes no sense. There are nothing but sinners sitting in church. We celebrate weddings of people who are marrying for a second time when their first marriage ended in a non-biblical divorce. That’s a sinful relationship just as the homosexual relationship and the unwed pregnant teens. No one says a word. No one gives them dirty looks and suggests they are damned to Hell for their sin. Most people in church church are commuting the sin if gluttony. NO ONE even recognizes it. Look up the definition. Most Americans have this sin in their lives. The list goes on in the department of sins that are ignored. Why? Because we don’t like to acknowledge our own problems. It’s easier to point the finger. Nothing about this post suggests any of the changes you have discussed here save for the mission trips. The changes this post discusses are changes that are needed to stay up with the times. There is a need with our generation to hear the word in a way that relates to our lives as well as addresses things that are being taught in the school and on TV and talked about in public. We need answers to questions that past generations were not faced with. We crave something deeper and more authentic. Those few “white horse” people that Allen talked about are the only people brave enough to speak up. They are by far not the only people who want change. You are just too stuck in your ways to listen. There absolutely needs to be a balance in the change as Randy suggested is not being done in many modernized churches. The church I have attended for the last ten years has done very well in changing enough to appeal to the younger generation while preserving traditions for the older crowd. Without the younger crowd though, your church will die with it’s older members. Balance is key.

        • Kristin,
          I agree that we are supposed to love the sinner and not the sin. That is not the point here. If fact, you are being rather naive with your Christian belief. In the world we live in today, it sounds like you want everyone to have a feel good about everything. Everything has to be politically correct. Everyone has to accept the homosexual lifestyle or get sued, even churches. Accept the “mistake” that a young girl has born. Children are not mistakes. In today’s world, there is no such thing as a scarlet letter. Bearing children out of wedlock at a very young age has become acceptable. Why? The “mistake” can be adopted to a loving couple who would love and adore the “mistake”. Instead, the grandparents end up rearing the “mistake”, not the one who committed the sin. And if it truly was a “mistake”, how come the scarlet lettered teenager keeps having these “mistakes”. Because we have accepted this behavior as the norm now. It should be shown that abstinence is the way. Guide these kids more. Turn the “16 and Pregnant” shows off. Do you realize that kids want to be on that show so badly that they become pregnant? Just to have fame and money? That is where we have lost our way. We are holding kids like that up as role models instead of having kids who wait to have sex as role models. There are plenty of kids in church that could take more of a stand for this.
          Foreign missions? My mission field is the Dominican Republic. What I am saying is there are plenty of opportunities to turn to your seatmate at church and talk to them. New members are joining for a reason. We all can agree on that. What is the reason? How are they ministered to? Sick people within the church. How many people actually take the time to stop by an old members house and just say hi? We are all willing to travel overseas, how willing are we to take a step in our own church and minister to the hurting folks? You have the “Deacon Possessed Church” that does not allow the church to grow. I got that. Loud and clear. Young members have to be brought in. But wouldn’t we all agree that Jesus would be flipping out if coffee and donuts were brought into His Fathers house? We have gone to far in trying to be what the world wants us to be. Balance? I agree. But who states what the balance is? The old guard or the new? Hence a battle ensues and the church splits. That is where we are today in our Christian walk. Would we even recognize the Church that Jesus had from what we have today? I have often wondered that.

          • TC: How did you interpret “She made a mistake…” and “… her innocent child…” as her child being a “mistake”? The “mistake” is the sin, not the child. The child is “innocent”. How did you interpret “All you can do is hope someone who struggles with any sin will be convicted by the bible based sermon and the Holy Spirit” as everyone should “feel good” and be “politically correct”? How did you interpret “Any church that suggests that homosexuality is “right and just” is not a biblically sound church and should be avoided” as “everyone has to accept the homosexual lifestyle”? Who is the “we” that have to “accept” the “behavior as norm”? “We” are the church, not the world. 16 and pregnant is on MTV, not the church. You can’t get any more in the world than MTV. Why are you so hung up on doughnuts and coffee being in church? I don’t recall a single verse related to food and drinks being brought into the church/temple. The only thing I recall is related to people selling stuff. No one says a word when people come selling their CDs. We pick and choose what we want to address based off what makes us comfortable. Who states what balance is? Balance is balance. You have old way and new way together in one. You have old hymnals as well as contemporary songs. You have band style as well as older people standing up to sing old hymnal solos and have the choir. A compromise of style is not a compromise of beliefs. Would Jesus recognize the church today in relation to the church he had? There is nothing in the bible that says though shalt not bring doughnuts and coffee in church. Though shalt praise me through hymns from the Baptist hymnal. Though shalt wear a suit and tie. The list of man made rules that people are so hung up on and call “the church” are not the church of Jesus’s time nor the church of today. Jesus is now who he’s always been. Jesus was/is full of grace. Legalism is not full of grace. It is full of judgment of others instead of fixing your own issues.

          • Kristin,

            There was no misinterpretation. If the child commits sin and gets pregnant, people say that the child was a mistake. (I don’t think the goal of getting carnal was to get pregnant, but to fulfill sinful carnal desire.) How do you interpret mistake to be the opposite of innocent? The opposite of innocent is guilty. To the sinner, the child is the mistake (precautions failed…). This sin is not a mistake, it is willful and with consent (or it is rape…). As for politically correct and homosexuality being right and just part, there was no misinterpretation. The statement was a statement on how things actually are, because of change. If you don’t accept homosexuality as the norm, you may not be in the majority of “Christians” in churches today, because these churches accept homosexuality as the norm, and as “a” norm for believers. (That is you can be both a homosexual and a born again believer.) There are verses in the New Testament about food in the church. (In particular when dealing with communion. It is quite clear when it says that if you partake communion with any thought of taking care of hunger or thirst, you commit sin. You should eat at home prior. (Paraphrase of that section of scripture.) If you bring donuts and coffee in to worship God, it is kind of obvious that your mind would not be/is not on God. (Probably why fasting is considered a big deal.) As for clothing, if you were to go meet the President of the United States, in public, on stage, to shake his hand, would you show up in tore up sneakers, tore up jeans, a tank top, a old greasy cap, and chewing tobacco? Or would you show up in a suit and tie, appropriate to meeting such a person? At this occasion, your husband/wife stands next to you as invited by the president. Would the appropriate attire be ratty old beach clothes? What if it wasn’t the President, but it was God? Well, He isn’t as important as the President, so ratty beach clothes are OK? Or is it because it isn’t in public, and He isn’t important enough? Now if you look into the audience from the stage with the president, you may see groups of people in casual clothing. Yet, anyone who is anyone in the program (the press, members of the political party, etc.), they will be dressed for the occasion. Is there a problem with wearing a tshirt and jeans to such an event? Probably not, though they would probably prefer polo shirts… So picture God as the President, the pastor, choir, musicians etc, are the press and those on stage, believers who are church members are the party members…and everyone else is in casual attire to informal. All I ask now is, should God deserve any less then any man on the planet, even the President? Are we right to give Him any less?

        • Very interesting discussion Kristin. I hope we can all agree to disagree somtimes and accept people for our worth as human beings. I love the old hymns and I also like some of the new music in churches today. I think a Pastor’s job is so much more challenging today than ever before and its a tough thing to “stand up for Jesus” and keep all the generations interested. But STAND UP FOR JESUS WE MUST! It is now, more than any period in human history so important for ALL of us as Christians to work hard at reaching the lost…we have to sahre the gospel and at times coach folks along to understand that they have to make a decision to be into God’s grace or into the world. They cannot have both. I think love and understanding goes a long way…patience too. Too many people claim to love the Lord but thier actions speak louder when they turn their noses up at the lost and needy! Thank you for your comments I think you and I see things along the same lines. To God be the glory not to man!

    • If the church should not change to conform to the world then I’d wonder how you would handle our practices in the typical church of the 50’s that were fairly modern:

      Offering plates instead of the Biblical example of coffers. Passing the hat was pretty much the only way I ever saw offerings collected.

      Popular hymns patterned after secular songs (Amazing Grace, being the most popular) and all those newer songs that played off of American patriotism, like “Onward, Christian Soldier.” Not all of them were bad, but there were certainly some popular ones sung that were modern of the age. It would seem that preferring them and denying the younger generation that same liberty would mean that you have a double standard.

      Sunday School and midweek service became a popular institution that really blossomed in the 50’s and really gained traction when it is neither a part of the original church movement nor prescribed by Scripture.

      Church facilities. Period. They are not seen in Scripture but they were a popular innovation of the 50’s…and they expanded past the simple single room building. In my church, which was located in a rural area, I remember the plumbing wars. (You want to do *that* in the house of God???)

      Pews. Yessir, pews. The interaction found in the first generation of church has turned into something different. All those churches (including those of your beloved 50’s) turned an interactive church into something more resembling a spectator sport.

      The pervasive amount of immorality that was unhandled because we all hid our sins from one another and put on a good face has done our country no good. I remember how we treated those young ladies who came up pregnant…who cares if it was forced upon them, right? Better go ahead and shame them real good, just in case. Then I remember how we would act so dignified as she never returned. Hooray, we have maintained the purity of our church and expelled another Jezebel.

      I genuinely mean no disrespect toward you but I’d be awfully careful calling the average church of the 50’s “genuine” when it carried its fair share of hypocrisy and baggage. Aside from the differences in physical attributes between your beloved church and those of the first generation, you use a catch word that caught my attention, “conform.”

      Conformity to the world was shunned (to a degree) but I feel like it was a bait and switch. Churches focused so much on non-conformity physically (Dressing differently, talking differently, not being a part of the community) that they de-emphasized spiritual non-conformity, which contextualizes that popular verse in Romans 12. Spiritually, we were just as ruthless and uncaring to those who didn’t physically conform as someone of the world would be. That’s not to say that all church people were horrible persons, but the level of indoctrination caused us to behave much differently in a church setting than what we might ordinarily be inclined to do behind closed doors.

      • Well said. Thank you for pointing that out. I forgot to address that in my earlier post. I think that if we got back to what the church and its music was like originally a lot of people would be shocked…and unhappy. After all, there were no hymnals or pipe organs in their worship time. The use of organ music came from the Catholic church and was considered very theatrical. It did not originate with the Protestant church. I can’t imagine the conflict that arose to get that approved after seeing the firestorm that has been happening in America over the more modern music. As a worship leader it would be a treat to have a harp or a lyre and definitely a dulcimer. My church is young and modern. However, I do use acapella format as often as I can. From what I understand, the early church did not condone the use of instruments during their time of worship. They allowed music but only in vocal rendition. Maybe the root of the problem in today’s church is idolatry. Our idol? Musical styles, traditional vs. contemporary. Here are a few comments from early church leaders on the use of music in the “traditional” church:
        BENEDICT “In my earliest intercourse among this people, congregational singing generally prevailed among them. . . . The Introduction Of The Organ Among The Baptist.
        This instrument, which from time immemorial has been associated with cathedral pomp and prelatical power, and has always been the peculiar favorite of great national churches, at length found its way into Baptist sanctuaries, and the first one ever employed by the denomination in this country, and probably in any other, might have been standing in the singing gallery of the Old Baptist meeting house in Pawtucket, about forty years ago, where I then officiated as pastor (1840) … Staunch old Baptists in former times would as soon tolerated the Pope of Rome in their pulpits as an organ in their galleries, and yet the instrument has gradually found its way among them…. How far this modern organ fever will extend among our people, and whether it will on the whole work a RE- formation or DE- formation in their singing service, time will more fully develop.” (Benedict, Baptist historian, Fifty Years Among Baptist, page 204-207)
        “The pipe, tabret, and harp here associate so intimately with the sensual heathen cults, as well as with the wild revelries and shameless performances of the degenerate theater and circus, it is easy to understand the prejudices against their use in the worship.” (Augustine 354 A.D., describing the singing at Alexandria under Athanasius)
        “…for this end organ makers are hired with great salaries, and a company of boys, who waste all their time learning these whining tones.” (Erasmus, Commentary on I Cor. 14:19)
        “We need not shrink from admitting that candles, like incense and lustral water, were commonly employed in pagan worship and the rites paid to the dead. But the Church, from a very early period, took them into her service, just as she adopted many other things indifferent in themselves, which seemed proper to enhance the splendor of religious ceremony. We must not forget that most of these adjuncts to worship, like music, lights, perfumes, ablutions, floral decorations, canopies, fans, screens, bells, vestments, etc. were not identified with any idolatrous cult in particular but they were common to almost all cults.” (Catholic Encyclopedia, Vol. III, pg. 246.)
        “The tendency of this (instrumental music) was to secularize the music of the church, and to encourage singing by a choir. Such musical accompaniments were gradually introduced; but they can hardly be assigned to a period earlier than the fifth and sixth centuries. Organs were unknown in church until the eighth or ninth centuries. Previous to this, they had their place in the theater, rather than in the church. they were never regarded with favor in the Eastern church, and were vehemently opposed in many places in the West.” (Lyman Coleman, a Presbyterian, Primitive Church, p. 376-377)
        “If instrumental music was not part of early Christian worship, when did it become acceptable? Several reference works will help us see the progression of this practice among churches: “Pope Vitalian introduced an organ in the church in the seventh century to aid the singing but it was opposed and was removed.” (James Hasting, Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics.)
        “There can be no doubt that originally the music of the divine service was every where entirely of a vocal nature.” (Emil Nauman, The History of Music. Vol. I, p. 177)
        POSEY “For years the Baptists fought the introduction of instrumental music into the churches…Installation of the organ brought serious difficulties in many churches” (Wm. B. Posey, Baptist, The Baptist Church In The Lower Mississippi Valley).

    • The church is NOT changing to conform to the world. The church is changing to bring the world in and change IT. Sounds like you’re hanging on to the things that YOU like and that’s the problem with folks resistant to change. It’s not about us and what we want. We are commanded to surrender what we want in order that the Gospel is heard by everyone.

      • I would respectfully disagree. The church is not changing the world when a modern gospel presentation never once mentions the blood of Christ or the words “repentance of sin”. As the Bible says, “the gospel is an offense to the non-believer”. We can’t just talk about the pretty stuff and never get into the meat of the message. God’s people aren’t always the problem in the church. False teachings abound in the modern church.

        • I agree, I personally have heard from the pulpit long rants on running out of toilet paper at home, another on putting in a hot water heater and all the problems he had. Too many to count tales on his school days and the types of cars he had. His church is growing like crazy, one of the fastest in our neck of the woods !

    • No one said anything about the church changing “to conform to the world” as you have said. The article doesn’t even hint to that point. The problem is with the attitude of Christians who are too self centered to give up their own tradition to reach the world with the Gospel. I believe Jesus would condemn many of our churches for their lack of willingness to accept change. Why are we so willing to accept change in every area of our lives except the church. Most church members who are unwilling to let the church change are enjoying all the modern conveniences at home. They gripe about guitars, drums and modern music in the church but listen to the latest country hits on their high dollar stereo systems in their $50,000 luxury cars. They go home and watch their favorite shows on their DVR then go to church and criticize and try to block change?? Seriously! Without a willingness to change the church in America will be like the church in Europe-dead and non effective. God help us not to be self absorbed and unwilling to change.

    • I agree. Churches are a little too laid back these days to the point where convictions are becoming nonexistent or not as stressed. I know Andy Stanley’s church technique is mainly for the nonbelievers, but at what point does the believer decide to go to a church that is based for believers? I feel like his church style leads people to his church for sure, but leaves them at a level that makes it hard to grow to the potential that they could. Hopefully that is not the case, but I’ve been to Andy Stanley’s church personally and it certainly feels like a concert. And, surprisingly, I went to an event for a different, very similar church and I thought it was actually a christian concert because I was told that’s what it was like in the past.. instead, this year they decided to have the worship leaders sing songs like Free Bird and Stairway to Heaven… no christian songs whatsoever. I came to that church to sing worship songs and to feel closer to God… whereas instead I felt like I was at a Led Zeppelin concert. Church is supposed to be different from the world, shine Christ… not be like the world.

      • Well said… I am a Vietnam vet that became a drug user, heavy drinker and heavy smoker when I returned to USA.. I got deeper and deeper into sin until I met Christ when I was 27.. I was into heavy rock.. Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath..etc.. and met the Lord in a Pentecostal church with Southern Gospel music.. that was many years ago and now I’m finding that a lot of the music in this age is border line Rock to please the world instead of convicting.. but it will not deter my faith or my serving the Lord.

        • Some people cannot “get” that we are not saying all change is good. We are not saying the Gospel changes. We are saying that life is about change, and you yourselves–all readers–are living proof. Look at you, on the computer. Some working from a phone. Is that about change? Your worship service has some new stuff in it, I can almost guarantee, no matter how primitive you are bound to be. Why some do not get this but want to fight over it is beyond me.

          • I agree Joe, everything changes.. my problem is that I don’t understand why there has to be such radical changes like rap music, musicians going and getting tattoos and earrings to be cool with the world.. I came out of the world for that reason..I just remember hating to go to church because of the conviction spirit made me so uneasy… seems like people can come and go every week without any conviction of their sins…. I’m definitely not trying to be negative just trying to understand how far the church will go to get numbers… old fashioned I guess but I still like quality over quantity..

          • Believe me, my friend, I completely agree. As I said in the article (or perhaps it was the followup article), the moment they hand me ear plugs (as one church did), I’m gone.

    • I miss the old hymns; I miss people wearing their best for The Lord on Sunday mornings.; I would not mind living in the 1950s
      well that sounded good to me.
      I think this reply is much of the problem with the elements surrounding the entire debate. People are arguing preference. There is not right dress, there is not right day to meet, there is no right music, there is no right type of building to meet in, there is no right translation, there is not right number of services each week. The church gathering can and will take on different forms. Do you think that the rest of the world things that their church should emulate either our traditional or modern service?

      We are followers of Christ for 168 hours each week and attend church for only a few hours each week. I would venture to guess that most all of us would agree on how we should live our lives outside of the service, even if we have different preferences for those few hours. Selah

    • If I remember correctly, the only time Jesus spoke about clothing was when He was condemning religious people for dressing to impress. Matthew 23:5

  7. My family has been looking for a new church for 5 months now and after visiting roughly a dozen local Baptist churches, we are incredibly discouraged. We left a church that was completely legalistic about the music (among other things) but it seems like there is no happy medium. I have spent my whole life in churches where traditional hymns and southern gospel were the norm. I don’t mind contemporary music. I listen to it at home and in the car all the time, but it appears that the new generation of church leadership is cramming it down the throats of people who don’t really want it. What we have observed in EVERY ONE of these churches is that NOBODY is singing! There is a multi-generational congregation awkwardly staring up at the giant screen in a low-lit room with strobe lights flashing against the back wall and they all seem to be enduring the “worship service” rather than worshiping God. However, when the occasional, familiar hymn pops up, you can suddenly hear enthusiastic voices come to life all over the room! Trying to really worship God with awkward music full of pregnant pauses and repetition that makes one nauseated is like trying to read a bible in a language that you don’t understand. Maybe the message is there, but it’s frustrating and pointless. Even in the churches where the congregational music is fine, the youth department is feeding the teens a steady diet of loud, rock concert-style music in a dimly-lit room. Frankly, it’s depressing to walk by and see what passes for worship in the youth room. It drums up memories of heavy metal concerts from the ’80s where you expect to see everyone swaying while holding lighters over their heads and you can almost smell the pot smoke I the air. I don’t want that for my kids. And since I’m already on a rant, if I have to meet one more worship leader who is my age (45) dressed in black, rhinestone jeans and the untucked, button-down shirt with the studded, flourishing religious symbols all over them, criminally overusing the word, “cool” I’m going to run out of the building screaming!! You’re supposed to be an adult, for pity’s sake!! So, I digress, our family continues to search for sensible moderation: God’s word preached without compromise, A stricter code of conduct for myself with an extra dose of grace for others, music that exalts Christ rather than the performers on stage, and a place to serve and live life with other Christians.

  8. Rachel, I get it. Really, I do…then you end up going nowhere and not worshiping in a House of God at all. That is where we are today. God loves singing. I picture heaven as someplace where we worship eternally God by song. The key, what is pleasing to God’s ear, not the person with their behinds in the pew. People have mentioned the old hymns. The old hymns are mainly bible versus put to song. With that said, this conversation should be all about God. Not us. What would please God? So, let us all turn to the book that has all the answers instead of to “Us”. What does the Bible say? The saying that became popular that was way over used, what would Jesus do? Really, what would He do? Get down and get funky? I doubt it. We are thinking more what would please people than God. I see that in all of our post. What really pleases the Lord?

  9. No church form of worship is perfect, but since the first Christian century, churches have been changing. I suspect we are actually dressing and singing and playing instruments now more like theirs than we were in the past. That doesn’t matter. Those things only describe us. What is prescribed for us is that worship Christ in Spirit and in truth. The outward “stuff” doesn’t matter. Thanks for the article.

  10. I love this. Let go and let God. If God wants traditional worship, He gets traditional worship. If He wants jumping and dancing, He will get Jumping and Dancing. In the end, every knee will bow and every tongue will confess, Jesus Christ is Lord.

    I have learned that a good test for a church is their actions. Are the orphans and widows being taken care of? Is Christ being shown and then taught. Many new churches talk but don’t walk. It’s when you walk then talk is when you have true growth, and that walk/talk can be in any format. The reason is God is the I AM. God is God. So, walk the walk. When you do, you will not care about the “style” of worship. You will care about the hearts of the people because your worship is no longer with your mouth but with your entire soul.

  11. The one thing to always watch for when viewing a changing church is that Christ and His gospel of salvation remain the center of the church. If you see those slipping, do what you can to raise awareness of it. If things continue down that road away from the Word, then it might be time to find yourself a new church that proudly teaches the Word of God.

  12. For the last 2000 years, the Holy Spirit has used all different kinds of music to bring glory to God. It takes all kinds of music styles to reach different kinds of people. To insist that one particular style of music is sacred above all others is idolatry.

    I’m turned off by the arrogance of some Christians who resist modern music and say, “We need to get back to our musical roots” or that modern music “worldly.” Well, how far back do they really want to go? Back to the Gregorian chant? Back to Jewish melodies of the Jerusalem church? They usually mean they want to go back to the music of their childhood, to what momma taught them, or to the hymns written hundreds of years ago.

    To insist that all “good” music was written in Europe two hundred years ago is cultural elitism. There simply isn’t any biblical basis for that view.

    In the book of Psalms you can read that a variety of musical instruments were used in Biblical worship; such as drums, clashing cymbals, loud trumpets, tambourines, and stringed instruments, (see Psalms 149 & 150 for an example). For sake of argument, this sounds like a contemporary band to me!

    Sing a NEW Song…

    At least nine times in scripture we are told to sing a “new” song. What does new mean? It’s the opposite of old! New songs say, “God is doing something… and He is doing it now, not yesterday!

    Throughout history, theologians have put God’s truth to the musical style of their day. For instance, Martin Luther wrote a hymn entitled, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God.” But what most people don’t know is that he borrowed the tune from a popular song of his day, (today, Luther would probably be borrowing tunes from the local karaoke bar). Charles Wesley used several popular tunes from taverns and opera houses in England to write hymns. John Calvin hired two secular songwriters of his day to put “his” theology to music.

    What’s the point? Songs that we now consider sacred classics were once criticized just like today’s contemporary music.

    When Silent Night was first published, George Weber, music director of the Mainz Cathedral, called it, “vulgar mischief and void of all religious and Christian feelings.”

    One of the weaknesses of those who criticize contemporary music is they don’t know church history (as much as they think they do), and neither do they know Biblical Theology on the matter of music. Because of this, they confuse current traditions with orthodoxy. Many of the methods and tools we use in churches today, (such as singing, pianos, pipe organs, altar calls, and Sunday School), were once considered worldly and even heretical. But today, now that these tools are widely accepted, we have a NEW BLACKLIST, such as drums, synthesizers, guitars, video, and contemporary music.
    So wake up and smell the coffee. We live in the 21st century, not the 1950s.

    Hymns or contemporary. Both are good. But at the end of the day, it boils down to preference. That’s all.

    • Ron, you have good point! i just get a little tired (for lack of a better term) Of some of the loud, repititious beats and same lyrics over and over. Its just not for me. i’m 59 and I am still moved and broken by Amazin grace, The Old Rugged Cross and In the Garden. It speaks to my spirit and reminds me what He gave for me!

    • Robert:
      I agree with you. You stated very clearly what many people currently don’t know……….their beloved “classic” hymns were once despised and considered worldly. It’s all a matter of perspective and change. My opinion often is that those who “throw a tantrum fit” about change are showing all onlookers just how spiritually immature they are……..babies still in need of a bottle rather than growing up to maturity in Christ and ability to see beyond externals to baby food and on to meat that nourishes. As to repetition……the Bible is VERY REPETITIOUS………Holy, Holy, Holy, starts early on in the OT and 66 books latter, Revelation is still resounding with Holy, Holy, Holy! If you doubt it, read all 66 books and see for yourself. Psalms is pretty repetitious too……..I’d hate to know how many PRAISE THE LORD, PRAISE THE NAME OF THE LORDs, His lovingkindness endures forever, there are in that book! If you are like me, when I raised my kids, I had to repeat myself over and over and over again….STOP, LOOK, AND LISTEN. That is how we learn!!! Thus, I think that is why the Scripture often addresses us a MY LITTLE CHILDREN or God’s children. We never grow up until we see Jesus and are like Him. There IS something to be said for repetition. When we all get to heaven, maybe some of those who dislike repetition won’t make it there because we’ll all be repeating Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God Almighty for the eons of eternity.

  13. Joe, I love this and every word is so true. Here in the south, people seem more resistant to change than any other place I have lived…especially in the church. I know several churches now whose congregations are 60 years old and up. The services are still done like they were in the 1950s. Their numbers are small and getting smaller. If they don’t change, when the current generation passes…the church will die with them.

    • katrina
      I see that in my church and I’m worried that it may do us in but I also think that if those folks worshiping “50’s” style are really worshiping God, the Holy Spirit will come through like a mighty wind when we lift our faces and truly worship. It seems incomprehensible to me that if we in fact worship as our Bibles tell us…God will provide the increase. We all fall short and want to blame someone else. vbut we have to get b

      • katrina
        I see that in my church and I’m worried that it may do us in but I also think that if those folks worshiping “50’s” style are really worshiping God, the Holy Spirit will come through like a mighty wind when we lift our faces and truly worship. It seems clear to me that if we in fact worship as our Bibles tell us…God will provide the increase… we don’t have that control He does! We all fall short and want to blame someone else. But we have to get back down on our knees and stay there until we wash out all that static that keeps us from a relationship with God.

    • katrina
      I see that in my church and I’m worried that it may do us in but I also think that if those folks worshiping “50’s” style are really worshiping God, the Holy Spirit will come through like a mighty wind when we lift our faces and truly worship. It seems incomprehensible to me that if we in fact worship as our Bibles tell us…God will provide the increase. We all fall short and want to blame someone else. vbut we have to get b

  14. Pingback: What to do When Your Church Changes | RhemaJoy Ministries

  15. There are times, however, that change is necessary. When the church becomes more concerned with comfort and convenience than with Truth. When the people are more concerned with getting out before noon than they are with receiving the Word. When the message is more about making the people feel good about themselves than it is about taking them to a holy God. When the music is more about how it makes feel than it is about bringing the people into His presence.

    Sometimes one has to choose between staying and compromising and leaving and trying to find a place that is all about the Word and the One who is the Word.

    I am not posting this to bash any particular church. I have attended churches from across Texas to Tennessee to New Jersey where I have seen similar issues. I guess the most basic way to say it is when church becomes more about what the people want and how it makes them feel than it is about Him and what He says, it may be time to move on.

    • Absolutely! We must worship God not man and thats hard for some folks. There will always be those that want to be out to beat the lunch crowd or the preacher beat me up today! But if we are worshiping and the Holy Spirit is moving…HALLELUJIAH JESUS IS AMONG US! We won’t realize we are hungry til its over and we get up off our knees! I need that and I need to be with others like that! i am weak but He is strong!! I serve an awesome God! Thank you for letting me comment.

  16. Pastor Joe
    I am at that crossroads now. I’ve been in my church for 59 years and I am feeling like God has another plan for me. i want to serve Him and I’m praying He will send me where I can not only help others but grow and help myself to the Holy Spirit. I’m a little old fashioned but I’ve also changed a lot having raised a son and now watching my 2 young grandsons learn about God. I so wish that we could somehow enbrace a certain set of values again in our country and set our sights on making Jesus the Lord of our lives. It seems to me that we’ve gotten so caught up in change we have forgotten the most basic tenets of salvation…Jesus…seek His face and humble ourselves and these superflous things will all pass away. thank you and God bless!
    Robert Phillips Folkston Ga

  17. Joe,

    Good article – but it appears to have brought on a hot mess. It’s a shame that people cannot comprehend the relevance and truth behind what you said.

    When I first began life on this earth I could not do anything for myself. I was dependent on others to do for me. If the Lord doesn’t come for His children soon or take me home through death I’ll probably go back into that stage once again – although my Mother lived to 94 years and maintained her own apartment in a Senior Adult apartment complex. I pray I have her genes and outlook on life.

    The point is – I changed, I grew, I learned new things – I became an adult. I believe far too many Christians or those who appear to be Christians haven’t done that.

    There are churches today that rarely if ever use more than one scripture in a service or really proclaim the Good News. You can get a warm fuzzy feel good along with your latte and croissant in the newly invented or renovated hang out spot, You can hear a few motivational points, book review, “How To”lists or see a DVD presentation. You can be part of a fitness or health class, generational group or something else, but while you are there can you actually hear the Word of God so the Holy Spirit can apply it to your everyday life? Sadly not so much anymore.

    If your church lives/preaches/teaches the unchanging Word of God to dying sinful people in such a manner that they truly realize their condition, turn to the only answer, the only sin sacrifice, the only Son of the living God for eternal salvation plus nothing, minus nothing then be very grateful for it. Maybe they don’t sing all your favorites or if they do, they sing them too fast or too loud. Do you realize that probably your ancestors several generations ago said something very similar when some of the newfangled songs of their time appeared?

    Robert T. Coote (The Hymns That Keep on Going, Christianity Today, March 7, 2011) looked at 28 hymnals published since the late 1800s by the six largest mainline denominations (and their main predecessor bodies) and talllied up the most commonly occurring songs. These 13 hymns appear in all 28 books:

    Abide with Me: Fast Falls the Eventide
    All Hail the Power of Jesus’ Name
    Come, Ye Thankful People, Come
    Crown Him with Many Crowns
    Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken
    Guide Me, Oh Thou Great Jehovah
    Holy, Holy, Holy! Lord God Almighty
    How Firm a Foundation, Ye Saints
    In the Cross of Christ I Glory
    Jesus Shall Reign Where’er the Sun
    Love Divine, All Loves Excelling
    O Sacred Head, Now Wounded
    When I Survey the Wondrous Cross

    The table presents the 13 hymns that appeared in all 28 hymnals, as well as 9 others that appear in 27 of the 28 hymnals, and 5 more that appear in 26 of the 28 hymnals. The average date of the top tier of hymns is 1788 (excluding “O Sacred Head”). Still, wide acceptance of these and other hymns did not come until the middle of the 19th century, after a prolonged contest with the once-predominant practice of singing the Psalms.

    One striking observation is that the 13 hymns found in all 28 hymn-books show a longstanding commitment to the traditional understanding of worship and the Christian message. They focus on such foundational themes as the enduring triumph of the Cross, assurance in the ultimate rule of Jesus, and prayer for the continuing experience of God’s love. NOTE: Amazing Grace is not on that list.

    Almost everything and everyone changes along the road of life and I’m glad. My marriage has changed from first love discoveries to a solid relationship together in Christ. Our children have changed – two are married and have given us the greatest gift ever for making sure your kids make it that far –GRANDCHILDREN! Ministry has changed – from the youth/music guy, to the college career/singles/music guy, to the young marrieds/music guy and now the senior adults/music guy.

    Don’t complain – lead, pray, serve, teach, worship or leave and find that perfect church you once knew – if it still exists.

  18. I have read with much interest the article and each of the comments. I am 68 years old and embrace the “traditional” as well as the “contemporary.” Believe it or not there are songs in the “traditional” that I really never cared that much for just as there are in the “contemporary.” Music speaks to me sometimes when nothing else seems to reach me…all kinds of music. I often wonder if those who criticize the new have actually listened to the words! But all that aside, it’s what comes after the music (which is meant to ready one to worship…to bring us into the presence of God) that is also important. Is Jesus Christ being taught? Are we so concerned with what is within the “four walls” of our church that we forget that “church” is what’s outside of those walls? Are we “making disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world” (and yes, I’m Methodist). Are we reaching out in love to those outside of those four walls? Are we loving the least of these? Are we open to anyone who walks through those doors? Do you think Jesus would really care that there are finger prints on the walls and the children don’t know how to sit still? I rather think that He would be rejoicing that the church is being used to reach these for the kingdom. As a member of a church who celebrate with three services on Sunday (two traditional and one contemporary), I love my church and love that my pastors are not afraid to preach the gospel and embrace all styles of music in order to reach all people.

    • Excellent, thank you. I too find so many of the new songs rich and fresh and inspiring, and some of the old standards shallow and stale. Not all, of course, but many.

  19. 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 KJB (13) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. (14) And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

  20. Great article. first, it is great seeing your cartoon illustrations back in the
    Alabama Baptist paper. I know you want remember me but, often would
    visit your church on Wed. nights when I was on business in Columbus, Ms.
    No one likes change however; The church must remain faithful to The Word
    of God. Keep the main thing, the main thing. And that is Jesus. The church
    that remains to be the church on a country road nad does not begin to lead
    as a church that is connected to interstate thinking people will probably
    end up dieing I know alot of rural churches that are thriving and being
    blessed because they were willing to follow their Lord and allow their Pastor to
    lead them to be a innovate church. That means innovate worship, flexibility
    anyone who serves in missions knows the word flexibility. As a former music director, The balance of worship is very important. One can incorporate all styles in worship. Our mandate for the body of Christ is to Be a disciple, make disciples and be intentional with your love for God, love for people, and love for believers.

  21. First, great article. I noticed many of your comments are regarding worship style. I agree with every bit of this. To add to it a little, I’ve also noticed that it’s surprising how little the modern church success has to do with worship styles. Yes, that’s a draw for many younger families, but just today I heard that one of the largest “modern” churches in Alabama is planning to start a traditional service (pews, hymnal, organs, etc.)

    What has made this church successful, in my very humble opinion, is the way they “do church”. They ask members to attend one worship service a week, be involved in a small group bible study, serve in some capacity (determined by their spiritual gifts assessment) in the church, and serve in the community from time to time. By my estimate, that’s maybe 5-7 hours a week at most. At my current more traditional church, we ask (guilt) members into sunday school, am worship, a sunday evening bible study, sunday evening worship, wednesday evening activities, plus others meeting throughout the month (WMU, children’s choir, etc). I’m not sure how a church that is so used to being so program based makes the change to a less busy schedule, but I think it’s a change that must be made if we’re to draw families in today’s society.

  22. GO JOE! I love this! I am a part of a church that just incorporated with a dying FBC that asked us to merge with them. I must say, that the majority of the members are middle-aged or older and live nearby in the neighborhood. They have been AMAZING in the marriage of these two new bodies. No doubt, they probably would much prefer the way things have always been. Our music is more contemporary, yet we do standard hymns often. They have adapted so much better than I anticipated and the harmony and unity have been a true reflection of a work of God. Only HE can blend the two into something beautiful. I praise Him for the work He has done. Your article is right on………..they chose to flex and bend a little outside their comfort zone to stay alive and not shutter the building. Adapt and thrive and live or DIE. Those are the only two options!

      • Mac, if the worship is being directed towards the most high God and the lost are being reached, who cares whether its a true “blend”?

      • Mac – it sounds as if that church they “blended” with was dying anyway. Why would the church that merged with them want to adapt the things which were causing them to die in the first place?

        • Jim, the argument seems to be that only the contemporary churches will survive and traditional churches will die. In my little corner of the world, that’s simply not the case. Our church does both traditional and contemporary services. Our traditional service has young families as well as senior saints that enjoy young people. The contemporary service, however, has much more turnover. Often times, people are seeking something. We give them what they ask for and they are still not satisfied. Yet, they balk at a hard nosed presentation of the gospel as found in the Word. That worries and grieves me.

        • A better observation might be this: it sounds as if both congregations followed the leadership of the Holy Spirit and their labor is being blessed for doing so.

  23. Our church is the fastest growing church in town leading in baptisms every year. Guess what? I preach in a suit and tie. We sing old hymns. We have pews and a choir. We look like a church. 75% of our congregation returns for an Sunday evening service at 6pm. We have that same percentage on Wednesday nights as well. We don’t do anything according to Rick Warren. We don’t preach with strange translations of the Bible. What is our secret??? Preach the Word without apology and pray. Gimmicks bring worldly growth but God brings spiritual growth. Don’t buy into the lie that the church has to look and act like the world in order to be alive and grow. Come on down to North Carolina and we will show you a traditional Southern Baptist Church setting the woods on fire. BTW, we just had over 100 salvations in one weekend. I don’t share all this to brag on me. I share all this to encourage people the old paths still work as Jeremiah preached in the Word of God.

    • Brother Mike, if you concluded from the article that I was panning hymn-singing and dismissing Bible preaching, then I communicated poorly. However, without knowing your church, I would still say that a) your church is always transitioning if it is alive and b) you yourself are changing in some ways. c) God is showing you new things to do in your community or the world and new insights in His word. These things are not bad, but indications of life and faithfulness.

      • I responded that way because everywhere I turn, people keep saying the traditional church can’t reach this next generation. As Pastor, I am only 40 years old and I have tons of people younger than me in our traditional church. I have visited MANY emerging churches and all I see is “Six Flags Over Jesus” The sermon content is weak, the songs are repetitive and there are so many technological distractions that you feel like you are at the circus. I am all for “come as you are” but I always believe you ought to leave changed. Many of these “come are you are” churches have become “come as you are and stay as you are.” Christianity ALWAYS results in change.

        • Mike,

          Come visit our Impact service on Sunday morning and you will hear a vibrant, Holy Spirit-led contemporary worship. You will hear an enthusiastic, scripturally sound sermon delivered by a pastor with a heart toward reaching those who have given up on church or never given the church a chance. Come back on a Friday and visit our Celebrate Recovery service, which is like Impact worship on steroids. You will witness all manner of broken people putting their lives back together. Then I can take you to any of a 100 churches within three hours of my church were similar stories play out on Sunday morning or even Saturday night.

          If you truly believe that whatever number of emerging churches, to use your term, are indicative of every congregation that has chosen to follow the Holy Spirit out of their respective comfort zones, then you are sadly mistaken.

    • Assuming that the style of worship toward which the Heavenly Father is leading Mike’s church in North Carolina is the same style toward which every other congregation is being lead is pure folly. I would posit that the blessings Mike says are being poured out in his church are not the result of him preaching in a suit and tie or having a choir sing old hymns in a sanctuary with pews. Those blessings come from obedience to the Holy Spirit. Further, assuming that any church that does things differently is NOT in obedience to the Holy Spirit, smacks of an arrogance not seen since the Pharisees were in charge. And we all know how things turned out for them, right?

      • Scott, the article is telling us that if we don’t adopt the Rick Warren model of the casual church that we are all going to die. The pastor is merely pointing out the FOLLY of that argument. Much of the transitions aren’t about making the church more appealing to the lost, it’s about making a select few people happy that insist on having their way. Traditionalists haven’t cornered the market on selfishness in church. Generation X is giving them quite a run for their money.

        • I went back and read the blog post — twice, in fact — to try and locate the instruction to “adopt the Rick Warren model or die.” Couldn’t find it.

          Joe references Warren once, in a paragraph that notes how growing, flourishing congregations are “tweaking what they do.” He never says Rick Warren’s way is the only one that works. And that’s not the argument I was advancing in my reply, either. In fact, I will repeat the EXACT argument I made, so that there is no confusion:

          If God is truly blessing Mike’s congregation as he says, it is because his congregation is being obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit. God is using all the tools Mike referenced — old hymns, pews and a choir, etc — to reach a segment of the lost that a more casual style of worship cannot reach. The work being done by Rick Warren and Andy Stanley in their respective congregations is aimed a segment of the lost that a traditional service cannot reach. I’m not sure why you think that’s such a bad thing, but I’m sure you will try and set me straight.

          Elsewhere, you talk about your own church doing two services. Let me share my experience:

          Nine years ago, our congregation was old, median age somewhere north of 50. As those saints were called home to glory, there were no younger families joining to take their place. Had we continued on that road, our membership today would be under 300 and dropping.

          So we added a contemporary early service. Our then pastor — who has since been called away to plant a church up north — preached the very same sermon at 8:30 that he preached at 11, only he did it without a coat and tie and the worship was led by a praise team, rather than a choir.

          Today, that early service outdraws the traditional one by a 3 to 1 margin. Young families with kids are not only being led to our church, they are being led on mission trips, five different ones this past summer alone. We’re outgrowing our present location so fast, we are making preliminary plans to build a new sanctuary adjacent to our recreational outreach center about five miles away. All because we were willing to “step outside our comfort zone,” to, wait for it, CHANGE.

          Look, I get it. You don’t like casual, contemporary worship. That’s fine. It’s not for everybody. As Mike’s church will attest, a church can be traditional and still grow.

          But what you do not get to do, sir, is take that dislike and slap “seduced by the world” on it without an answer from me. Because on this issue, I am ready to plant my flag and die on this hill. If that sounds harsh to you, then you have read my intent perfectly. There are souls who need to be reached and if we are not using every single method we have at our disposal, then we are failing. Period. End of story.

          • I am perfectly willing to agree to disagree, Scott. You are just as passionate in your feelings toward the traditional church as I am toward the contemporary church. If the contemporary church is preaching the real gospel of Christ and not a watered down version, that’s WONDERFUL. More power to them. But if a gospel is being presented (in either a traditional service or contemporary) that doesn’t call people to repentance from sin, no one is being converted.

            Please don’t think that traditionalists don’t care about the lost. You are dead wrong if you think that. We are just not willing to compromise biblical beliefs just because they have become unpopular in the last 20 years. I’m not talking worship styles here either.

            You and I have completely different perspectives because we are in completely different situations. Whether you believe me or not, I respect where you are coming from.

            The reason that I bring up the Rick Warren issue is that I’ve done a LOT of reading on this subject. At one time, I read a LENGTHY documents on his web site called “How to Transition an Established Church”. It was basically a “how to” for pastors that want to take an existing church and turn it into something completely different. The model is where a pastor has COMPLETE authority and little to no accountability. While I personally believe in supporting my pastor and submitting to his authority, I don’t believe that Warren’s model is a biblical one. My comments about Joe’s article are based on my understanding of Warren’s writings. I’m just able to “read between the lines”. I know Joe McKeever and live not far from where he used to pastor. I like him a lot, but I respectfully disagree with his opinion regarding some of the changes in the modern church.

            Feel free to think whatever you wish of me, Scott. However, I assure you that I am not an agent of Satan, but rather a committed believer that fears God and fears disobeying Him.

            Blessings to you.

    • THANK YOU SO MUCH for sharing this, Mike. You have captured everything I feel in one brief reply. Our church has done the two services in different styles for over 15 years now. It’s interesting to see the people coming and going from the contemporary style and how constant the majority of the traditional crowd is (and we have young families that come to the traditional service. The contemporary crowd gets everything they want and are still never satisfied. It’s very telling. Congrats on being part of God’s vibrant work and for not being seduced by the world.

      • Amen brother. My church calls me an old man in a young body because I am only 40 years old. I know I could very easily become a mega-church if I would just compromise some of my convictions. If I did that, I would fatten my pockets and be popular all over the nation but I would also have to stand before God in judgment one day. I would rather please my Savior by feeding the sheep than displease my Savior by entertaining the goats for the sake of pride. I choose to stay on the firing line.

    • Hey Mike …that is Awesome that your church is on fire! Keep doing the work of the Lord in a mighty way. By the way, there is also another “Baptist” church on fire in the great state of North Carolina. That would happen to be Elevation Church in Charlotte!

      • Umm I won’t share my comments about “Elevation Church” but I will say the Pastor sure built a nice parsonage and I love his sermon about if you wan’t doctrine go find a different church because he doesn’t have time for that. Need I say anything more.

  24. After reading this article and the comments, I decided to put my 2 cents in.

    I am a female, early 20’s, college age–the precise description of the main population of the more “modern” church-goer of this time and I am exactly the opposite. I switched from a church that was becoming more contemporary when I was a senior in high school and am now, I am an Episcopalian. What I love, is that we have so many traditional aspects of our church. The music is more traditional, the creeds we state have been spoken for thousands of years, and yet like all churches the scripture is the same. Some things change, others don’t. As for the change of churches in general, it’s all about what YOU like. What moves YOU closer to the Lord. There will always be people with preferences in life–the same goes for how they worship. I’m not saying being resistant to all forms of change, but I’m not saying always go with them either. It’s okay to like what you like. If you aren’t fond of more modern church and your church begins going in that direction don’t be afraid to move somewhere that is still more traditional and thriving. The Lord is not condemning you for liking what you like. As long as your worship moves you closer to him the rest is taken care of. On the other hand, you cannot expect a church to stay the same for you. It is up to YOU to find what you like in worship in a church where the majority still prefer it that way. If your church is changing–a majority, (in that church at least) prefer a different style of worship. And that’s ok too. It may not be your style–but who is to say you have to stay and be unsatisfied and unmoved by the Lord?

    Pick what you like. And don’t expect others to conform to that standard. Find others like yourself you prefer in worship what you prefer. The Lord does not see your sexual orientation, race, sex, or even worship preference; he sees YOU.

  25. It amazing how we think we control God’s church. After moving to another town, my family and I began a new contemporary church (Baptist). We loved it because of the more lively worship, or so I thought. After thinking about it a long time, it wasn’t the new music style that drew us. It was the Word that was preached and practiced by many in the church. As the years have passed, we have lost many members who have left for various reasons. Some planted churches and others just moved. I began to lose that “fire” that I first felt. I realized, just recently actually, that it’s never about worship style, preaching style, or other members; it’s all about YOUR relationship with Christ. Am I depending on a church to fill my soul, or am I looking to God to satisfy me? I was recently diagnosed with advanced cancer (43 years old) and I have had to really ask myself where I place Christ in my life. Is He number 1 or is this life and my “preferences” more important. Realizing that He means more than anything because of His great love shown through the cross (even more than remaining here with my family) has been an eye-opener for me. Music style, preacher dress, and any other thing that people fuss about is meaningless when compared with God’s love for us. I struggle daily, and I hope for healing, but what I would truly love to see to a revival in HIS church. It’s not ours, never was.

  26. It is true… change is inevitable. Wisdom is recognizing the difference between positive and negative change. Most of this discussion revolves around music styles and clothes. These are changes related to personal preferences… which scripture would say are related to the “flesh.” The real change we need is the change wrought by the Holy Spirit… a change of heart, which will always result in a change of attitude… taking the focus away from “us” and “our” preferences (or the preferences of those we’re trying to “reach”), and re-directing it toward Him. “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto me.” (Jesus Christ) John 12:32

    • Thanks Gerald, You hit the nail on the head. It’s about pointing others to Jesus no matter the style of worship or clothes or music. Love God and Love each other. This is what he wants us to do.

    • Finally here is the answer…The Holy Ghost, he is the CEO of the church…he adds to the church as he see’ fit. what worries me with all this new age movement, where is the leadership of the Holy Ghost? Sorry for jumping your response , I felt a need to jump in. I’m concerned about the seeker churches, last days analogy. The church is a selected group of chosen people by Jesus himself…I don’t think rock roll will be played in heaven…sorry

      • If I have to use some electric guitars and drums and bang my head to offer praise to the Lamb in paradise, then you better pack some earplugs when you die.

  27. Perhaps your premise needs to be stated differently, if the church is Christ, then your premise is saying that Christ changes.

    Since the message found in the words of Christ HAS NOT changed, then the church CAN NOT change.

    Only the “form of worship” is what is changing to reflect the societal changes that, as with life, are in constant flux.

    Sadly, many, if not most, folks who call themselves Christian put their congregation and form of worship before the Words of Christ! Thus the need for your epistle.

    • Just to clarify, I have always been taught the church was the bride of Christ, not Christ himself, and that we (his bride) would belong to him.
      I agree the that people change in many ways; therefore, the church would obviously change with time.
      I see and hear the battle between the style of worship, dress and music raging because this is the one place Satan can confuse people. As we know Satan is the master of confusion.
      Music and dress have changed drastically over the years and will continue to do so.

      Christ brought to the world a radical change. He upset the CHURCH of his time. He kept and taught the values of tradition while also bringing the hope and joy of salvation a totally new concept that would not be fulfilled until his death, burial and resurrection.

      When we place our focus on the Word of God, the way we celebrate it (whether in Hymn or Dance, dresses or jeans) really does not matter as long as we place our focus on the Word of God.

  28. Bro. Joe,

    I am very disheartened after reading yet another article about how churches must change to become more like the world in order to reach the world. I have read MANY books on this subject and I see the same lame arguments made time after time about change. Baptists are in a WORLD of trouble because so many of our leadership have chosen to follow Rick Warren or Billy Hybels instead of Jesus. No where in Scripture to I see a spiritual church defined by merely a large attendance and a large offering. But sadly, many pastors today use that as a gauge of success. I never dreamed that I would see this scripture come to pass in my lifetime–“that men will no longer stand for sound doctrine, but be lead away by teaching the tickles the ears”. I know I took liberties paraphrasing here, but you understand what I mean. Today’s church is carnal and pleasing to the flesh of the congregation. That is a terrifying place to be.

    I have always had respect for you, sir. However, on this matter, I have to agree to disagree. I have seen too many of God’s people hurt in a “changing” church. The worst part of this is that all the people that demand and get what they want are NEVER satisfied and they end up moving on to another church to cause trouble in.

    God help restore YOUR church before it is too late.

    • I have no idea how your congregation worships, but I am assuming, based on the tone of your post and that it has been posted here to begin with, that it falls on the traditional side of the fence. Please correct me if I am wrong.

      If God is blessing your church, if souls are being saved and lives being changed, then all glory be to God. My prayer is that He will continue to enlarge your territory and that His hand will continually be on you.

      But when you suggest that any church that does not follow your path is peddling unsound doctrine that merely tickles the ears, you have made a very dangerous leap in logic, sir. Calling such churches “carnal” or “pleasing to the flesh” is far more terrifying to me, because you are doing more damage to the body of Christ than Satan could ever dream of doing and the adversary doesn’t even have to lift a finger to help you.

      I pray God opens YOUR eyes before its too late.

      • First of all, my congregation has both traditional and contemporary worship. Most of our congregation is not that concerned about musical style, but our minister of music was. He put all of his energy into building praise teams, bands, etc. and treated long-time, faithful, committed, and humble choir members like red-headed step children. Four young thirty-something women had his ear and caused most of our once great 40 voice choir to drop out. Those four people got exactly what they wanted and STILL left our church to find somewhere else that “met their needs”.

        Unless you have walked a mile in my shoes, I would ask you to refrain from lecturing me as a “servant of Satan” just because I’m not impressed by changes in God’s church that are far less than spiritual in nature. For the record, I keep my opinions TO MYSELF in church. Most of our traditional members do the same based on the shabby way some of our “leadership” has treated them. God is healing our church from some of that.

        All of the mega churches that are redefining how to do church are discovering after 20 years that their congregations do not feel like they are growing in the Lord. Dr. Al Mohler wrote an excellent article several years ago on that very subject. The sad part was that the people were going to do more “research” about why their methods were not making disciples. If only, they would spend more time in the Word.

        If it helps you to understand where I’m coming from–in my experience, the contemporary crowd is much more critical and harsh in their behaviors than the traditional crowd has ever been. Contemporary folks often have nothing but disregard for anyone with an opinion different than their own. I realize that may not be true in all situations, but it has been the reality of my world.

        When I refer to worship as “carnal”, I’m not necessarily talking about worship style. I am referring to worship that is centered on the worshipper rather than the Father. Christ should be worshipped for who He is, not just how we FEEL about Him. Christ is worthy whether we feel it or not.

  29. Since when was becoming a Christian, Being Saved, and Living for God a two way street. As sinners, we have to make the commitments and go all in. God does not meet anyone halfway. Change is, has been and will be until the end of time, introduced to us through the interpretation of men. It is something that is going to happen, but to the degree we, as Christians, congregations, or pastors allow it to happen is where we can make a stand. Living a righteous, Holy, Non-Compromising lifestyle is the only way that we can stand strong for what we believe in. I agree that we all change, but I also believe that the change I am speaking of has to be centered around your beliefs based upon the knowledge you have of the Word Of God. Our Freedom to Worship is something that we should not take for granted. At the same time we should hold it as close and tight as we can. Beware and never let an evolving world force us to change what we know to be the Gospel.

  30. There is something to be said for both traditional and contemporary worship, and some things that both lose out on. Traditionalists do seem to get stuck on things that don’t really matter to the spread of the gospel, such as using ONLY the KJV Bible, and only singing hymns in a boring, repetitive manner. However, the gospel doesn’t change, and neither does Jesus, so keeping the focus on Him and on the truth is important. If traditionalists would keep the focus on the gospel, but just be a little more modern in their approach to the scripture versions they use, and maybe not be such legalists when it comes to personal dress or musical style, things would be better.

    On the flip side, the modern movement that seems to be sweeping the nation’s churches seems to focus far too much on being modern, and not appearing to be backward or staunchy, they they forget who it is that we serve, and why we as believers are here. We as believers are here to worship Jesus, to learn of Him from His word, and to spread His truth to the world. What place does a 20 minute orchestral presentation, or an Irish dance presentation have in this? It’s ok to wear jeans, and to sit on the floor, if that’s what you want, but don’t forget to live for Jesus while you are so on fire for change.

  31. I agree with those who say that the church does not need to look and sound and preach like the world. The church needs to let the Holy Spirit act within the church and congregation, and visitors will either like what they hear and see, or they will move on. God’s Word cannot and must not be changed; and those who do so, are leading their congregations down a road of watered down religion, which serves no purpose in God’s eyes.

    • God’s word says that the true Worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth. Though I do agree that changes need to come in some areas as long as they don’t go against Gods word, I believe that in todays world the worship service is watering the harvest with the watering of the Word to encourage us in this life.This is good as long as we are not watering down the Word. I have lead worship and it is directed to the Lord as true worship.

  32. Some things in church ought not to ever change: 1 John 1. The biggest question to ask of a changing church is whether it is change in a way that centers it more on God, or on man. Ditching certain songs or styles just because “I prefer something different” isn’t a good reason to ditch them. Ditching them because they distract from who God is and what He has accomplished for us through His Son is a good reason. God calls all of us to bear patiently with the weaker brothers and sisters, per Romans 14. Some of us wear ties out of a weak conscience. Others of us wear shorts out of a weak conscience. Do we truly love and build one another up by sniping at each other? I think not. Christianity isn’t about us, it is about Christ. It isn’t about my subjective experiences, it is about the objectively Risen Christ. We can demand church conform itself to what makes us comfortable, or we can conform ourselves to what God calls us to.

  33. This is a very heart-felt, mission-minded, loving post about churches that are alive and making a difference. I find it unfortunate that rather than focusing on the positive aspects of this post and how we can use it to move the Kingdom…God’s Kingdom…forward, we are still dividing ourselves in the Church over such minor things as neckties, worship style, and sneakers. Where’s the discussion about the HEART of the Church? We are the bride of Christ. I have my doubts that arguing over such menial issues actually makes Him smile on us.
    I love the Church and I will always stand up for it. But I refuse to lower my standards among the ‘saved’ so that my Christian character matches that of how the ‘unsaved’ world sees us.

  34. I believe change is good to a point…change just for change’s sake is of no value. I really feel that some of the changes/trends have done nothing to build the Kingdom or to grow disciples. We must be intentional about building relationships, sharing the Gospel and discipleship… not worry about catering to our preferences! With that said, I still will never understand the thought that we must change everything to reach young people…you do not throw the baby out with the bath water! I have a big problem with the push to change everything to meet one group’s preferences and eliminate the preferences of another….basically, saying if you don’t like it, then go somewhere else! We have failed to teach our children the importance of some of the things we do, and have not been the example that we should be to them, so that they see that our worship is authentic and not a bunch of rituals! On the other side, we must be willing to evaluate whether what we do or have been doing has any value at all. While I like a variety of music, worship styles, etc., I still value the old hymns because they are valuable testimonies of what The Holy Spirit has put in someone’s heart! They also share the doctrine of our faith, I will say that each one of us is affected differently by different music…what leads one to a state of worship, may be distracting or disruptive for another. If you have a good worship leader, they will be able to utilize a variety of worship styles, blending them, so that most everyone is led into worship. As for attire, I believe that we must not make others feel uncomfortable about what they wear, but I also think that we can go way too far with treating worship services like a ballgame, concert, etc. If we can go to the trouble of dressing appropriately for work, why shouldn’t we do the same for more for Our Lord? What we all need to remember is that church is a body of believers, imperfect and complicated. We must learn to work together and not against one another, for the lost are watching and we will be responsible for the example we set! Worship begins in our private lives and overflows into our corporate worship!

  35. I can agree with all on some points, myself as a leader of a small congregation in a southern baptist church have changed much over the years, but NOT GOD”S WORD. For the lords word has and will remain the same until the end of time.
    What the bible teaches we still teach. what was wrong 2000 yrs ago is still wrong today. God did say in scripture, present yourself with your best in the assemble of his house,meaning why wear jeans if you have a fine suit hanging in the closet? we are supposed to change to fit the lord, the church should not have to change to fit us, amen? Thank you

  36. When you get older and more forgetful you remember more of what you learned by rote. I feel really sorry for this generation when they get older and can not remember the songs and words that comfort them in their feebleness. POW’s have recounted that what kept them going was what they could remember in their minds and hearts. Singing a new song just to be singing something other than the known and calling it change for the better is not always leading a congregation to a better existence. I have family members who have special needs and when all the change is going on it is too disconcerting for them to follow the service. Telling us we need to change when the new ones joining our church think we need to change is a little offensive, for what reasons did they join our church family to begin with? I have a real hard time wanting to go to corporate worship when it seems to split the members down the middle, how is that good fellowship?

  37. “Jesus Loves Me this I know, for the Bible tells me so.” Contemporary or Traditional? It is the job of the Christian to go forth and tell others about what Christ has done in their lives, whether we tell it in word or song. I love the traditional church and the values it brought to all personas regardless of their disparities. I love the contemporary church and the hope and joy it shows to all persons regardless of their disparities. The “CHURCH” is the people. Whether we like it or not, the “CHURCH” is always changing. Maybe the building we worship in is the same, maybe it changes. Maybe the music we sing is the same, maybe it changes. Personal preference is always available; but stubbornness and selfishness, regardless of which you choose to ground yourself in, is not Christ likeness. When I was a child I thought like a child. Fortunately I have grown up and am able to recognize the needs of others before the needs of myself. While knowing I can only take care of others if I take care of myself. Jesus prayed and before we get on a band wagon of criticism regarding dress and music, I trust we will all pray for God’s guidance as we adapt to the changes of the “CHURCH” in our lifetime. I pray we will always remember, Jesus loves me this I know, for the Bible tells me so!

  38. The assumption underlying the author’s position is that all change is neutral: neither adverse nor constructive, just different. The unhappy reality, of course, is that church-change follows the same pattern as the larger society. For the last 60 years, under the ‘guidance’ of those sharing the author’s view, liturgy, like society, has become ever lazier and less demanding through continual degradation of bahvioral standards. These changes are not merely stylistic (as suggested by the author) but substantive. Doctrine’s entire purpose is to prescribe a rigorous manner of living life which is pleasing to God but difficult to achieve, a never-ending battle toward personal perfection. The focus is upon self-denial, altruism, discipline and obedience (i.e. outward), not self-indulgence through personal ‘feel-good’ measures such as bands, TVs, comfy clothes and “fellowship”. The correct solutions are, therefore, precisely the opposites of those advocated by the author. Churches must begin again to advocate rigorous personal standards of behavior, both in and out of church (proper grooming and dress, active charity, and courtesy/deference to, and focus upon, others rather than self). Further, they must restore the order and solemnity of liturgy by doing away with gee-wiz gizmos, pop music, and pathetic dress and manners. Finally, another generation must be shown the unmitigated beauty of the traditional religious music showered upon us by Bach, Mozart and Haydn, music which served 16+ generations before succumbing to the ‘wisdom’ of the 60s-era crowd. The author is a fool.

  39. “a rigorous manner of living life which is pleasing to God but difficult to achieve”

    This sounds like the view held by many in the NT that Jesus spent much of his time responding to and correcting.

    “proper grooming and dress”

    I have a sense that John the Baptist would not be welcome in your church.

  40. I do think the issue of dress went way too far a few decades ago and church became an opportunity to show off your wardrobe (e.g. Easter Parade), and that took the focus off Christ and His message. I do have concerns about immodest dressing which is mentioned in scripture. But we are admonished by Christ himself if a poorly dressed person comes in the door they shouldn’t be treated any differently that a well-dressed one. As for people being kicked out of church that is awful. Everyone should be welcomed and discipled along. As for music, I do love what I grew up with but that’s what I’m comfortable with. However there are many, many Christians that didn’t grow up the same as me. God Himself created music and it, like all His creation is vastly diverse.

  41. Jesus Christ the same; yesterday, today, and always. Although society and culture changes He does not. Here we are debating first-world issues…
    I thought I’d share this this quote that landed on my Facebook feed recently: “The Bible doesn’t need to be re-written, it needs to be re-read.”

  42. I agree with randy but I’d Also like to point out something else as a shepherd you are to watch your flock and make sure it does not walk away from it’s home. By what you’re doing is your leading your flock away from home and into dangerous territories which could have unforeseen consequences to the spirit of the souls you guard. Let me put it another way. Say you have a computer to take care of but then you put in programs on it which have no proof of any legitamite and safe person who made it. Few second and it works fine but if you wait longer you find that a virus of some sort has gone in and when you find out it’s too late. The computer has intergrated with the virus either you have someone fix it or WIPE THE COMPUTER CLEAN and erase the virus and the INFECTED files as well … With such saddness we take care of our mobile phone and computers but we don’t take care of the spiritual connection and the spiritual instruments that GOD has left us to connect with either whether the Eucharist or the bible or the Desert Fathers and Mothers wisdom of how they related christ in everyday life. We have LOST OUR SIGNAL to our GOD and our spiritual heritage and our history and we have so much history and we need to go back … Go back and learn from the early church learn of how the early Christians worshipped GOD and how they managed to survive after 2000 years. We need the Truth!!!!! We don’t need new things we Gods way not Our Way. Cause back then they Christians were simply called the followers of The Way. I recommend reading “the story of Christianity” by David Bently Hart he has a good summary of Christianity cause face it … We are a mess.

  43. Joe,

    Your Mom passed this article along to me. We are facing LOTS of positive change in our church here in Sun City, AZ. Can be quite a battle at times, but faith sees things through, believing that God actually has plans for his church beyond mere nostalgia.

    Also interesting timing. I just posted an article in my Web Site this afternoon about resistance to change and innovation. It lends well to your article.

    Keep the faith and the vision.

    Dr. Steve Minor
    Sun City, AZ

  44. We must be careful to avoid the trap of assuming that the way we have traditionally done things in the church is actually biblical. It is important that we honestly compare our practices with what the Word of God plainly states. We should all value worship that seeks to wholeheartedly exalt our God and Savior Jesus Christ! Biblical worship is not a spectator activity, it is rather all-inclusive among born again followers of Jesus. When we worship, we recognize that we all sing and praise an audience of One. A biblical church should seek to develop disciples who have the maturity to appreciate one another’s different preferences in worship styles and Christian music. When we worship, we should recognize that some are contemplative while others are more celebrative. Biblical praise and worship involves the incorporation of many types of instruments (Psalm 150), a variety of musical genres (Ephesians 4:17-21), the clapping of hands and shouts of joy (Psalm 47:1), lifting up of hands (Psalm 134:2) and yes, dancing unto the Lord (Psalm 150:4, II Samuel 6:14). May we all humble ourselves and allow the perfect Word of God to transform our Worship.

  45. After reading this article I have to wonder if we are there to worshgip or be entertained. I have been to a few services where I expected the performers to smash guitars on stage or holler “Thank You and good night”. There is nothing wrong with the old hymns unless people like Don Moen wants to change music or put a twist to a lyric. Call me an old fuddy but this is the way I was raised. I enjoy some of the contemporary praise but draw the line at Christian Alternative. Excuse me but I just don’t believe God is in this kind of music. Give me an old country church with a God fearing hellfire preaching Pastor. It fills my needs and pleases God with a soul winning church rather than an alternative type of church that rocks the congregation every Sunday. Clothes should be as clean as you can have them; but more importantly, God cares more for the condition of your soul.

  46. First, after reading through these comments, my heart is broken. To see members of Christ’s church argue back and forth about things that don’t matter eternally is just heart-wrenching.

    But my main reason for posting is this: I wholeheartedly disagree with the statements that the modern worship music is empty, or void of meaning, or whatever else some of you have been claiming. Not every song speaks to the every person every time.

    But I think I we can all agree that there have been times when certain songs of worship, or hymns for that matter, have truly captured our hearts.

    For me personally, a particular song that was “stuck” in my head (in a good way) got me through the hardest time of my life.

    I was exactly 21 weeks pregnant. My water broke unexpectedly early on a Sunday morning. My husband rushed me to the hospital. As a nurse was prepping my arm for an IV for magnesium that would stop my contractions, I asked her “What are the chances…..?” I couldn’t even finish the sentence. I knew that the chances of my baby surviving were slim to none. The nurse looked at me and said “It’s possible…. but not very likely.” At this point, I started to prepare myself for a miscarriage. The best chance to survival was to make it to “viability” which was 24 weeks (3 weeks away). I remember crying and clinging to my husband, crying out to God to spare the life of my unborn child.

    My contractions stopped. They sent me home on strict bed rest after two days and told me to come back once the contractions started again. My contractions started back up at the start of week 23 and they admitted me under EXTREMELY strict bed rest. I wasn’t allowed to leave the bed under any circumstances. I was on a magnesium drip that would slow my contractions, but also slowed the rest of my muscles. I had IV’s in my hands, allowing me to do very little. I couldn’t move much in the bed because certain positions would bring on contractions. And all the while, a song played constantly through my head. I would sing it when all I could do was stare at the ceiling tiles I had memorized. It went something like this:

    My foes are many, they rise against me
    But I will hold my ground
    I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
    My help is on the way, my help is on the way

    Oh, my God, He will not delay
    My refuge and strength always
    I will not fear, His promise is true
    My God will come through always, always

    Troubles surround me, chaos abounding
    My soul will rest in You
    I will not fear the war, I will not fear the storm
    My help is on the way, my help is on the way

    Oh, my God, He will not delay
    My refuge and strength always
    I will not fear, His promise is true
    My God will come through always, always

    I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
    I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
    I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
    I lift my eyes up, my help comes from the Lord
    From You Lord, from You Lord

    Oh, my God, He will not delay
    My refuge and strength always
    I will not fear, His promise is true
    My God will come through always, always

    Oh, my God, He will not delay
    My refuge and strength always, always

    I endured 10 days of contractions on strict bed rest and that worship song gave me the peace I needed to endure another contraction, another hour, another day. When I was too exhausted from labor, when I couldn’t lift my arms to open Scripture, this song gave me a way to cry out to God with my burdens.

    Well, I made it to 24 weeks. 24 weeks and 2 days to be exact. I gave birth to a beautiful little boy who weighed 1lb, 6.5oz and 11 inches long. We spent six long months in the NICU and he has now been home 10 months. Every day, I’m continually reminded of God’s grace and I praise Him for sparing the life of my son. We named our son Jonathan, which means “God has given.”

    Please think twice before you condemn modern worship. Just because it wasn’t powerful for you at that moment does not mean it wasn’t powerful for someone else. You have no idea what other people are going through in their personal lives at that moment. A particular song, perhaps with a repetitive chorus, might be just the thing to get someone through to the other side.

    • Thanks for sharing your thoughts, and especially your opening remark. The song is “Always” by Kristian Stanfill. They that are so stuck in their old music and traditions, that they are blind to the presence of God in the hearts of believers, are lost in ritualism. They are full of their own brand of self-righteousness. Very sad.

      I thought Joe wrote an excellent article that tells it like it is. I didn’t read in his article, as many are upset about, that the church must change, but that if your church is dying, you might want to do a self examination to see see why. Much of the article was directed at technology and style. Technology is scary, but our grandparents did learn to put up with cars and airplanes, and eventually embraced them.

      • Thank you, Steve. Yes, I knew the artist, I just didn’t include it because I thought the lyrics were the most important.

        These comments really just tear me up. I was talking with husband about it tonight, who is a youth minister, and he said that when it comes to worship, if someone has a problem with it, it most likely has more to do with the worshiper than with the style of worship. I completely agree.

        Jesus truly is the same today as He was yesterday and will be tomorrow. But culture is going to change. Preaching style is going to change with it, along with worship, along with how people dress for church. Some day, all of us who are used to this contemporary style will all be considered more “traditional” and be asked to embrace the change within our church walls as well.

        As long as the church is preaching about and worshiping the same Jesus, the same God and the same Holy Spirit, what authority do we have as members of Christ’s church to say that it isn’t good enough? Just because it pulls us out of our comfort zone a little bit (or a lot)?

  47. I like this discussion but would like to put in my two cents worth. being of the over 65 crowd I’ve love both ways of worship, an old hymn can bring a tear to my eye. But a new chorus can do the same when I see younger people praising The Lord in worship. Are we coming to church for our own edification ?( a fortress thinking), or are we coming to celebrate what God has done for us this week and to become equipped for the next week to be salt and light to the world . A book written by McDonald ? Called Who Stole My Church is a very good resource on this. For me I’d rather be where the Gospel is being preached and lives are being changed.

  48. Pingback: What to do when your church changes | Pastor Joe McKeever | METROLINA BAPTIST ASSOCIATION

  49. So we are in this position right now. Our church of 19 years have drastically changed the way they do worship. I love the contemporary songs and I also love hymns. What I’m against and struggle with is the way it is done. I feel like I’m at a concert every Sunday and I’m supposed to worship the people on stage and not the living God. We are totally in the dark in the sanctuary except for the lights on the stage. I’m not against any of the instruments that they use, the songs they sing etc.
    I am not able to hear myself sing sometimes let alone my husband next to me or anyone in the congregation because it is sooo loud. The base usually vibrates my chest. We have 3 screens to look at which used to be ok when they would just put a nice background up and the words to the song but now they project the people on the stage onto the screen along with the words. So all you see if you look forward is the people on the stage or the screens with the people on the stage. They also use a fog machine and have swirling lights. It literally feels like a concert. It is so distracting and I find myself struggling to worship. I maintain a good focus on what worship is on Sunday mornings and I go in wanting to worship. I can sometimes accomplish it when I go in and just close my eyes the entire time. I also see other people just standing (because we are told to stand) and not singing. We are totally isolated. We have gone to some other churches recently and really haven’t found one that we want to continue pursuing. We love our church. We love the people and we love the pastor. Worship is such a big part on Sunday’s though that I come out of service more frustrated and sometimes with a headache because of how loud it is. We are just really struggling on what to do. We have talked to our pastor and pretty much have been told in a round about way that this is the way it is. There have been many people that have left recently and it saddens me.

    • Okay, my friend, those are serious issues, and I would speak up. The thing to do is a) find out if anyone else shares your concerns and b) ask the pastor, “What’s the proper procedure for raising a few questions about how we are doing church on Sunday?” Find the procedure, and then go. Do not go alone. Repeat: Do not go alone. I agree that a) the lights should not be turned down, b) the music should not drown out singing, and c) do not throw up faces on the screens! This is not a television broadcast, for pete’s sake. So, speak up. Please. These people have lost their way and someone needs to bring them back to reality and quickly.

      • Bro. Joe, I greatly respect that you have given such wise and sound advice to this suffering lady. You were wise to tell her to speak up, but not do it alone. What I fear is going to happen though is that the leadership will treat her poorly with the “get used to it” attitude that is so prevalent today. I am very passionate about this subject for this reason most of all. I have a WIDE range of tastes in church music and I don’t hate modern music–although I often HATE the way it’s orchestrated and the VOLUME. Our churches contemporary service is not quite as bad as what this dear lady described, but it’s not far. Our overhead lights are off and the stage it highly lit up and the music is just LOUD and booming. As much as I like the people who are in our band, they don’t handle constructive criticism too well about such things. Conversely, they never have any problem saying what they don’t like.

        The worship issue can be so divisive because the definitions of what is “traditional” and what is “contemporary” often vary greatly. I’ve been in some contemporary services that I could enjoy–even though not my taste. Even as a more tradition person, some traditional services are completely dry and void of any meaning.

        Bro. Joe, I know that from your years at FBC that you are NOT a shepherd that “scatters the sheep”–far from it. But I have seen some local pastors tell their people to “get over it or get gone”. People left these once thriving churches and now there is hardly anything left.

        Forgive me if my passionate beliefs on this issue insulted you in any way. That is not my intention. I can easily agree to disagree with any believer on this subject. I am a product of my experiences (some of which I hope no other person ever endures in trying to serve Jesus through the music ministry of the local church). Both sides of this issue need to get our eyes back on Jesus and truly putting Him first.

  50. I know one thing for sure. Most of the modern music leaves me feeling barren and cold. Because most hymns are based on scripture that touch hearts and souls in way the praise hymns don’t seem to do. Yes, I gladly acknowledge
    I am a senior adult and my gospel music so reaches to my soul I really don’t
    need music just because it is jazzy or fun. I know when music touches my soul.

  51. What you should do is look at those NOT wearing the ties and suits. Just because you have a “thriving” church, doesn’t mean you are following the path of God.
    Matt 7:15-20
    15 “Be careful of false prophets. They come to you looking gentle like sheep, but they are really dangerous like wolves. 16 You will know these people by what they do. Grapes don’t come from thornbushes, and figs don’t come from thorny weeds. 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 In the same way, you will know these false prophets by what they do.

  52. Some times Christians are dumbest people on earth. So infatuated with wearing jeans and not a tie to church. Like that’s really cool, and such a forward change.
    Yet if they are business people they dress their best for a respect of the professional look. Andy Stanley is way over rated. Oh but he’s cool and says God is a cool dude.
    I think sometimes the very formal churches have it right. No opinions from the pulpit, no personality contest, just sing hymns and read scriptures in an atmosphere of total reverence. If large numbers is a sign of spirituality, then General Motors is very spiritual.

  53. I can handle the changes as long as they come from above. When “man” sticks his finger in the pot and begins to stir, I’m going to buck. I’ve been to a few “rodeos” in my day and have seen the manipulations. Worst was the “Charismatic” and the “gifts of the Spirit.” It was more of a money-maker for televangelists that it was the advancement of the Kingdom of God. I don’t mind the casual dress, the new style music (although I can’t understand 90% of the words). What I do mind is the multi-million dollar buildings, lavished & ornate, senior pastors, pastors, junior pastors,, youth pastors, a dozen secretaries all with bloated salaries – and then the church budget has no room for feeding the poor & homeless in their own communities. God help us when we put all this unnecessary garbage above “the least of these…Matt 25:40.”

  54. pastor Joe’s article is right on. Do some homework. Look back to the 1800s or the 1700s. The church and worship is always changing because people change. Life changes. Find a Bible based church and stick with it no matter what. Live , grow, learn, witness, praise, fellowship and worship the way that works for you. Join a church that is loving out loud! Be extremely careful when condeming other ministries. Remember, the Christian church has not always had hymnals and Paul did not use the KJV. Our worship is a reflection of society in the way we communicate the truth of the Gospel. Unforturnately, many congregations change too slowly or not at all. Sadly, they do die. When this happens all ministry suffers. When one church fails, we all hurt. Though different, all churches are connected. We share one God, one Faith and one Hope. If there is a lesson to learn, it is that we need to adjust faster and more efficiently.

  55. Food for thought: Jesus was arguably the greatest change agent in history. He turned the world on its head and made a lot of people VERY uncomfortable. Why did Jesus bring change? Was his mission to draw people to himself? If the answer is yes, should the church’s mission be the same–to draw people to him? Whatever the mission field, it is wise to understand the culture and language of the people who you are trying to reach and to communicate with them in a way that resonates . The world is changing, friends. If one mission field is the people right around us, do Christians truly endeavor to understand the culture and language? The message of amazing grace remains the same, but the method of communication (worship styles, etc) may require some change from Christians and the church. In my opinion, this requires a lot of humility, grace, and respect from all members of the church.

  56. Reading this article confused me mostly because Joe does not describe what the Church of Christ is. To me he is making it all about material things such as clothing, building, type of music, amounts of people. He should make it clear that the “Church” is not a building where people gather. God’s Church is a unique spiritual organism designed by Christ himself, made up of all born again believers. Change is one thing but making the Church more like the world is exactly the opposite of what Christ tells us to be. The world should be changed when brought into the Church not the other way around. Based on this article “a Church is dying if they are not making these changes,” but how can the body of Christ be dead? Just because a Church closes its building doors and may have to go worships in a parking lot or a field if they are a part of the true “Church” they will NEVER be dead!!! Joel Osteen has one of the biggest Church’s in the World and by this article it would be described as him having a successful Church because of the success his Church is having but it is self-centered rather than Christ centered and I do not want ANY part of that change. I am very passionate about this topic of the “Church” because, I’ve been a part of that change I attended a church with lots of people, big screens, awesome worship band but it also included Sermons filled with jokes, emotional stories, not much scripture, and often felt like the Pastor had prepared it in 15 minutes. Yes it is appealing to the flesh but it does not grow believers or teach scripture correctly. I wanted the children’s center they had available for my boys, filled with lots of other kids. But I was making it about my kids not about Christ and that was wrong! They did not need to be entertained they need Christ! Joe also states in this article that “Your needs and requirements change.” I disagree with him fully on this statement our needs and requirements have not changed and will never change this World requires and needs God to save them, that is all we need and require that is ENOUGH! God is the same today, yesterday, and forever, the message has not and will not change. Hallelujah

    • Excellent comments!! I’m sure a lot of people will argue with you and that’s OK. This is the most compelling statement I’ve read here. I’d love to know where in Scripture it says that the fruit of the Spirit is a big crowd and a big offering.

  57. SO…reading all of these comments was a little heart breaking. Maybe the “church” in America should reach out to the persecuted church worldwide to help us redefine “needs” and “WANTS.” This applies to both sides of this debate. We (the church) exists for the people who are not there. We are called to love God and love others. If our body is more concerned about pleasing itself than reaching those outside of it, it doesn’t matter if we have smoke and lights or are sitting pretty in our Sunday suit singing How Great Thou Art…we have missed the mark! Our pastor recently gave the statistic that ONLY 4% of the millennial generation (those born after 1983) profess to be Christ followers. Can you imagine what America will look like when this generation is sitting in Congress and the White House? We should be doing whatever necessary within the gospel to reach this generation. Each individual church can discern how that will look in their community but the goal for how a service is conducted shouldn’t be made on the basis of what it’s members are most comfortable with, rather what will reach the lost beyond those walls. Wake up church…our own apathy is literally killing (an eternal death) so many in this country. I hear the above argument way more than I hear anyone discuss how to care for the orphan, the widow or the poor. I see so many church’s put years of effort and money in huge building campaign’s but few ever mention feeding the hungry or helping the homeless. I know there are pockets of believers that make the instructions from scripture a priority but not nearly as many that seem to enjoy complaining and arguing about worship styles. Let’s all refocus our attention to Christ and loving others. Then the 20 something that loves Chris Tomlin will not be so bothered by the suggestion of adding a hymn to the worship service and the 50 something will be able to concentrate on worshipping our creator even though there are drums on the stage. God Bless friends!

  58. My problem with contemporary worship is that it all seems to be about the “praise team” on the stage. To me it is an attempt to worship God by appealing to the flesh of men and this is unacceptable to God. God is a spirit and we must worship him in spirit, not in the flesh.

  59. No wonder so many people have been turned off to the church today. The churches want to fight about unimportant things such as clothes, music style, and Bible version.

    I am in the unusual situation of attending two different churches. One is a small rural church (about 65 people) and the other one runs about 2000. They have very different music and worship styles. The large one is vibrant, reaching out to the community and around the world. The small one is inwardly focused and getting older and slowly dying. Although they have very different music styles, I do not think that that is what makes the difference between them.

    Both churches have pastors that preach deep and biblical sermons. They preach against sin. They both preach clean living. There is a great difference in the results though.

    The small church is traditional (only old hymns allowed), KJV only, no emotions allowed in service. Every service has an altar call with almost no response. They do everything right according to the traditionals but no growth and almost no salvations.

    The large church has contemporary music along with hymns. They allow the Holy Spirit to move and control the service. Often during the worship service (yes contemporary music), the Holy Spirit moves people to go to the altar and kneel to get saved or to repent and get things right with God.

    What is the difference? It is not the music. It is not the preaching. It is the pastor and the church allowing the Holy Spirit to move. The church that stifles the Holy Spirit and does not let Him freely move on people’s hearts will never have the results the church is supposed to have.

    Just my opinion, but let’s quit arguing about music, clothing, size of church, Rick Warren, Bible version, etc. These things are driving away the exact people that we are supposed to be reaching with the Gospel and making the disciples of Jesus Christ.

  60. This is the current church movement. Post-Modern. Emergent. Young Reformers.
    Business, run by a pastor who is like a CEO rather than a shepherd.
    Y’all can do your research on the topic, but it is not the way church is to be done in the New Testament.

    “Churches are always changing. Only the dead ones don’t.
    May I repeat that? Churches are always changing–if they are alive.”
    This statement is pretty much business brain washing from Peter Drucker.
    Leadership Network, including Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Andy Stanley and more. Most of the church movement we see today is finally adapting to this model. I think it is sad.
    Growing in number is the bottom line.
    Get on the bus or get kicked off or hushed until you are ignored to leave, if you do not like the latest church paradigm.
    The older people are the most frequently ignored and feel that they no longer fit, if they don’t “get behind and rally for the pastor’s vision.”
    Is this how our Lord Jesus shepherds?
    Jesus did not teach “blessed subtraction” like Mark Driscoll, or “planned abandonment” as Peter Drucker calls it.
    Jesus kept all of his sheep except for Judas who was not one of the fold, as it had been ordained.

    Get back to the word of God — Titus, 1&2 Timothy. God set it up for us, but we want more, we think we need more. The Bible is sufficient for true church growth. He adds to the family, daily. God grows the church, but we use worldly wisdom from business models to make it happen. We are easily deceived.

    • Dean, are you still driving your ’66 Falcon or have you changed? Is your computer the huge desk top model, or have you changed? Still wearing the clothes you bought 5 years ago, or have you changed? Do you have a cell phone or still using the rotary dial phone? You love change, but not in every area, I imagine. Just saying. –Joe

  61. ^^^ And, here, folks, is ‘The Church’ for all the world to see. I don’t know that it’s so much what we do INSIDE the building, but OUTSIDE.

  62. When I was a kid Church was done right/the kids did not run around screaming like now.They did not have pooltables,pinp pong tables,basketball courts and etc. you had Church.Kids will knock you down,and you can,t start Sunday School without doughnuts.I can recall the only time you eat it was Homecomning,and that was it.And bathrooms outside,and song books. The churchs in Livingston Co. Kentucky HAVE WENT TO THE DOGS,Especially THE POTTERS HOUSE,IT IS THE WROST,GIVE ME THE GOOD OLD DAYS WHEN CHURCH WAS CHURCH, NOT A NON PROFIT CLUB>

  63. The problem with the church and the reason I walked away for a few years was because of the PEOPLE! As we are discussing “theology” people need Christ OUTSIDE of our building. CLEAR THE STAGE, DESTROY ALL YOUR PRECIOUS TRADITIONS, and BURN THE BUILDING DOWN. Then have church in the smoldering ashes of where you were once so comfortable. Not changing to reach the people that need to be reached, is essentially telling them to go to hell. Wake up! We are alive!

    • You rejected the people of Christ out of your love of Christ, Paul? Allow me to say that did not happen. Other forces were at work there, and you grabbed this as an excuse.

    • Some are, true. But we must be careful of attacking all of God’s churches with such a statement. This is the Body of Christ, whether they wear jeans or 3 pc suits. This is the Body of Christ, whether they worship with guitars and a banjo or a Hammond organ.This is the Body of Christ, whether they have a large screen on the wall so people can see the words to hymns and can read the Scriptures or whether they’re squinting trying to read the text in their pew Bibles and hymnals. Go easy, friend.

  64. Change for the sake of change is useless. Change for the better is good. But remember the frog in the pot of nice, cool water. It felt really good to begin with. So good, in fact, that he didn’t notice that the heat was turned on and it was getting hotter. Finally the water scalded the poor frog to death. If we aren’t careful, we’ll let these changes in our church lull us into losing our focus. True worship demands sacrifice. We are instructed to be holy, even as God is holy. He hasn’t changed – He will not change. Why should we?

  65. I am 73 yrs. old. I also was one who completely resisted change. I did not like contemporary music in church. I still don’t like some of it…….but now I go to a church that offers a mix. Some of the new music is so wonderful……some not so much. I still don’t like loud rock music in church. Especially when it’s so loud it hurts my ears…….but some of the choruses are so uplifting and powerful in the message. As to dress……I don’t see a problem with casual dress. I don’t wear dresses at all…..I wear nice slacks…….But I do have a problem with immodesty. I see some women in dresses that look like they should be worn on the beach with not much left to the imagination. That I don’t like. I think it shows a lack of respect to God and other church goers. I don’t turn my back on those folks….I don’t dislike them as people….but I do wish that they would think about that before they do it. A lot of ladies look more tasteful in pants than they do in dresses. I don’t like grungy t-shirts on guys for the same reason. Casual yes……ugly, dirty and with un-Christian like words I don’t like…..But to sum up…..I am adapting….I’m not being forced to….At one time that was the case. But now I go to a loving, active and Godly church. The preaching is Biblical…..The change is still difficult at times, but God directed us to this church and He knows what He is doing. I close with my favorite saying….”God is good….all the time”…….and He is still in charge…..we all worship in different ways…….just so we worship Him and not the world.

    • I agree with the comment on Sept. 26 from Dee. The church I go to has seen a lot of change. Some have left because they didn’t like it but others have came in their place. When I worship I know the present of the Lord is in this place.

    • No, God does not change. That’s why you will not find us writing about Him changing. But people do, cultures do, languages are morphing all the time, and so forth. You may not like it, but it’s life. You probably own a computer and a cell phone, both of them are–dreaded word–changes from 20 years ago.

  66. This entire argument of what to listen to or what to wear in church is exactly what the devil wants us Christians to get stuck on. Meanwhile, as we become ineffective in our witness, he becomes bolder in his actions. Stop the bickering and get busy about the Father’s business.

  67. I’m truly saddened as I read the comments on this article because they reinforce my fears that most people go to church to be “entertained” rather than to worship.
    I don’t care who you are, what type of service you prefer, which songs are the best, etc…, if YOU leave home and go to a church with the single purpose of WORSHIPPING God instead of being entertained or worrying about what somebody else is doing or wearing, YOUR WILL HAVE A WORSHIP EXPERIENCE.
    I know there are many churches and pastor’s who have watered down the Gospel until it is unrecognizable, but a lot the blame goes to the people who come to church for the wrong reason.

  68. I partially agree with this. I walked into a church that my fiance had attended occasionally and I did not like it at all. It was full on rock concert with people dancing in the isles, strobe and spot lights, drummers cage, etc. The message had a total of 3 verses used in it, and the message seemed to be centered on self happiness. I only went once, and maybe I picked the wrong day.

    When you get down to it, the outside can change, the inside can change, the music can change, the clothing can change, but you cannot change the message. Many churches have turned their preaching away from what God wants of us, to what we want from God. You cannot make that change.

    This article fails to point out that the message cannot change.

    • I attend a contemporary church (we just left a very traditional church that we also loved). I’m not in favor of the Harlem Shake videos that I’ve seen, and I don’t think our new contemporary church would consider doing it. Regardless, my kids would not participate if they did.

      Our new church’s message is the same as our old church’s message: sin is wrong, it separates us from God, and Jesus is the only way. The Bible is the only accurate guide we have in life and we all need to read it and study it.

      • And yet the leading churches on ‘change’ have videos of their youth groups doing the Harlem Shake. Saddleback is one, the church all churches have been encouraged to copy.
        Were these parents aware of what the youth were doing?
        I am just interested in how others see this type of change, and where is the line drawn.

  69. Amen and Amen !! I serve on a parking team at our church. We are in a growing period and doing out best to “reach out to the community”. I will do just about anything short of sin to attract people to our church. There are soo many folks out there who haven’t a clue who and what God is about. We seem to be too puffed up to LOVE, LOVE, and LOVE some more !! Whatever it takes to win lost souls to Christ and make disciples of them, like He did for us !!

  70. I was directed here from an article that a friend posted on Facebook and I have to wonder if it was directed towards myself: I left his church because of change. In fact, the pastor’s announcement was partially that: “Chris left the church because he didn’t like the changes that have occurred–the direction.”

    The premise of the article is a bit simplistic and overlooks valid and invalid change by making a blanket statement such as this: “Churches are always changing–if they are alive”. Like my pastor’s simplistic and overlooked statement of my departure, this author pinpoints style and direction. I have no doubt that people leave the church for immature reasons such as dress code but the mature Christians I know that have left churches did so not because of change in dress code or flashy lights. Like myself, we left because the church lost its first love. Yet, pastors like the author like to fumble around telling you that it’s because of church style.

    Let’s look at scripture about change and while we’re at it vibrancy:
    Revelation 2:4 – But I have this against you, that you have abandoned the love you had at first. <- This church changed, it lost its first love

    Revelation 2:10 – 10 Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. <- This doesn't sound like a vibrant church at all.

    Revelation 2:16 – Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth. <- Sounds like the vibrant change that's needed here does not include dress style, worship style, etc.

    Revelation 2:20 – But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. <- Once again, vibrant change is needed in spirit not style.

    Revelation 3:1 ….I know your works. You have the reputation of being alive, but you are dead. <- Is it possible that a church that appears vibrant and changing can actually be dead?

    At the root of these verses lies the vibrancy of the church: Jesus Christ. The changing or statistic dress code or method of worship has nothing to do with vibrancy and I wish the author had pointed this out. A church that is forever changing can be as dead as one that doesn't change and one that is changing can be as alive as one that doesn't change.

    Here are pertinent characteristics needed in churches today to be "vibrant":

    Christ centered, focused and honoring, a brotherly love, prayer, a body that is able to use their gifts, a dedication to knowing the Word of God and the fortitude to apply it, humility, accountability, discipline, easily yoked and lightly burdened, etc.

    • I agree. What I am seeing is the “latest” to be culturally relevant, even to the point where ears are being tickled and sin and repentance are softened or not even mentioned. Unfortunately many churches believe they must be entertaining to bring people young people and the Word of God is watered down. The other thing is the article brings up Rick Warren, a pastor whose ecumenism and ties to Robert Schuller and Peter Drucker should raise red flags.

  71. Pray, listen for God’s response/direction, obey. And trust and praise Him every step of your way as He reveals His plan and your part in it.

  72. My husband and I planted a church 3yrs ago, this past March (after a year of praying, meeting, talking, praying, planning and more praying), we relaunched. We merged with an older, established congregation. We had been meeting in their gym and now we are one church. We had to walk through the uncomfortable. We were the crazy young, lets go love our city, change our city and be the church. We are loud. We have loud kids. We prayed and asked the question if we could be better together. It has been 5 months. The things I thought would be hard haven’t been and the things I thought would be easy have been hard. It is a process but we have moments where we sit back and see different generations doing life together and see what we believed enough to walk into whatever lay ahead…we are better together. Oh…and my loud kids? No one seems to mind but me 🙂

  73. In regard to what we ware in church. I believe God receives our worship in what ever we are wearing, but I also know that we are to give God our best of everything. For that reason if we have suits and good cloths that God has gifted us with, we should honor him and take time to ware them. After all, if we attend a wedding, we war suits and dresses, if we attend a funeral, most of the time we dress in honor of family and the decease.
    why not give the God honor that we give others even the dead.
    However, if your not gifted with these items, by all means ware what you have. I believe that pastors should be different, as many expect them to be.

    Does not the Christian need to be feed? I find that the changes in the church seems to exclude the older seasoned Christian, and appeals to the younger persons who have not made a commitment to God, and seems to preach a feel good watered down version of the Bible. The Bible doesn’t teach that everything will be wonderful after you come to know God, it tells us that we will have bad times, and that there is a Heaven and Hell. God teaches us that He will see us through all things, just turn to Him for his guidance and direction and be ready to accept His answers.

    I also find that some of these changed churches rule the church like a business, and have stopped loving people through disagreements and just telling them to leave if there not happy. Many of these people have loved and supported a church for years and are just told to leave if they do not like things. They have no room for compromise. If music is a problem, feed all with some of each kind. Tradition is not all bad! I do see the need for change, but not to just throw out the tradition and people who have lived with for there lives. Love them and take them on this journey with you.

    As you can tell, I have experienced change. It can be very great in the right way.

  74. I was disappointed with this article. Change???? What I am seeing happen in the church today is that the church is becoming more and more like the world. It’s wrong. What’s going on does not honor God. Jesus did not become like the world to attract people to him. What attracted people to him was because he was different. This “change” is the act of the enemy. We are changing like frogs being cooked in a pot. Little by little churches have become like the world. It’s Laodicea, people!

    • Totally agree!! The church has become culturally relevant to the point that sin and repentance are no longer preached and the Gospel is almost non-existent.

  75. Pastor Joe
    Usually I’m always in agreement with your posts. But, yes there’s a but this time. I have to respectfully disagree. Change for the sake of change in a church to “keep up with the church down the street” is questionable at best. Forcing out pastors, upending choirs for worship teams, removing hymnals from the sanctuary (which is now called the worship center), life groups instead of Sunday school classes are but a few of the reasons my church has lost half of the membership. Its turning into a side show atmosphere, big screens and loud music. The Church in my opinion could do more for the Kingdom than to follow Rick Warren’s mantra for putting behinds in the seats. His marketing plans are not a one size fits all template. More harm is being done than is realized. Churches are suffering, believers in Christ are confused and being left to wander aimlessly. I know I’ve seen it and been a part of it. Believers and non-believers need to hear and be taught the word. The price of sin in our world needs to be taught by our pastors, not a sugar coated message to again bring in the money!

  76. I saw a comment that said “not buying it.” You don’t have to. But like all other truths, including gravity, you don’t have to buy into to make it true. History is the proof. I am glad that Jesus makes all things new! We are admonished over and over in the Psalms to “sing a new song” and in the end we will even learn a new name for Jesus that has not yet been revealed. New is good. Change is good.

  77. Excellent article! This is exactly what has happened at my home church. A contemporary praise and worship service was made to feel so uncomfortable at a local church that my home church (once a vibrant congregation in the 70s and is now down to 30 elderly people) invited them to come worship at their large campus. The attendance has grown to over 500 and although many came over with the “exodus” , the majority of the attendees are new, unchurched YOUNG FAMILIES! While I grew up in the traditional style of worship (and still love it), I do realize that sometimes change is necessary in order to continue drawing more people into that “intimate relationship with Jesus Christ.”

  78. Where to begin…… how about at the beginning. Matthew 16:18; And I tell you that you are Peter,[b] and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades[c] will not overcome it.
    Notice the use of the word “Church” and not Churches. The fundamental problem is so many Churches to choose from. I like to refer to that as ” the Church of what’s happening now” We all can thank the Reformation for getting it wrong. Moving on to John 10:14-16 “I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. ” One Flock and on Shepherd ” Thankfully the Church , The Flock and the Shepherd has continued to remain as Scripture (s) promised when Jesus spoke . God Bless everyone

  79. This was a good article to help me understand more about the churches my friends attend and the changes they have gone through. Here are some of the observations I have seen at The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. I have attended for over 35 years now.
    All those I have seen leading church services are 100% tie/suit wearers. 98%-ish of the congregation still wear a tie or suit. We still have an organ and piano only for singing the hymns that have been gathered. We do not use a projector/screen during normal church services, but have them available during special meetings. We’ve always had missionaries and they go for 1 1/2 years for 19 year old women or 2 years for 18 year old men. They go all over the world where permissible. We only have traditional services.
    I have been in 30+ different locations in the United States of America and 4 locations outside of the USA. All have the same format of worship services, worshiping Jesus Christ and partaking of the Sacrament being the most important parts of the worship services. I write this only as a FYI, to let others know what I have experienced. Thank you.

  80. Unfortunately this is another example of being seeker sensitive and trying to be culturally relevant. If our Lord and Savior, His Word and the Gospel were being preached and practiced the church would be alive and vibrant. It’s a sad day to see churches still changing to the “Church Growth” model promoted by Rick Warren and Bill Hybels, who are more interested in tickling ears and promoting ecumenism, emergent and New Age teaching. I encourage Pastor Joe and others on who have replied to this post to watch the updated video “Church of Tares”. It shows how Warren and Hybels and others following in the footsteps of Robert Schuller and Peter Drucker. Please be informed dear brothers and sisters of these wolves in sheep’s clothing! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R9y9ly6YvCw

    • Romans 16; 17-18
      “I urge you, brothers and sisters, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people.”

  81. I disagree. God never changes. The Bible is His Word, and it never changes. I attend an old fashioned Bible-believing fundamental Independent Baptist church where the Word of God is faithfully taught. We sing the old hymns of the church. We don’t put the words on a screen. We don’t even have a screen. We do have a few instruments. Two trumpets and sometimes a clarinet or flute. They play along with the piano and organ on the congregational singing. We don’t have any drums. The church runs about 650 and is well-filled Sunday morning and evening and Wednesday morning and evening. The church is not dead. It is growing. Souls are being saved almost every Sunday. We support over 25 missionary families. We have an annual missions conference along with our Vacation Bible School. The missionaries that come are used as teachers for the children during the day and speak in the evening services all week. We had about 750 children in VBS this year, and about 75 were saved during VBS. Honor the Lord in all things. It really works. Never compromise with the world.

    • You know, friend, you ought to read the article before disagreeing on it. Did I say God changes? C’mon, man. The methods change. If you are using radio or TV or sending missionaries overseas by plane, then your methods have changed from those used by Spurgeon.

  82. Why is it so hard for these churches to offer 2 services? Traditional & Comp. The pastor I have heard of does not visit the elderly & have told them they were more or less not needed as deacons. The elderly folks that were life time members do not have a pastor to preach their funeral .I am not saying the churches are bad they just are interested in the younger generation. I am just speaking about the ones I know about.

  83. Pingback: What to Do When Your Church Is Changing – Dev Preaching

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