The true message of Jesus Christ has never changed. How it is delivered to us however, has changed immensely. I remember my days in the 60’s and early 70’s growing up in a very conservative and strict mainline Pentecostal denominational church. Looking back, that seems like a lifetime ago, and much has changed in the church world since then in terms of the style of worship, the views of what is considered necessary to live a Christian life, and the methods in which the message of the Gospel and Jesus Christ is delivered. Allow me to offer a few examples of what I am talking about.
When I was growing up as a small boy in church during the 60’s, there were many “rules” and expectations placed upon church members. Men were expected to wear white shirts and a tie and keep their hair cut very short. Women were expected to refrain from cutting their hair, wear no dresses above the knee, wear long sleeves and no V-neck or plunging neckline blouses, and wear no make-up or jewelry. Women were not allowed to wear pants to church. It was common knowledge back in those days that in terms of recreational swimming, men were not allowed to swim with women other than their wife, and women were not allowed to swim with men other than their husband. Going to the movie theater or eating at any dining establishment that served alcohol was considered taboo and sinful. I even remember back in those days, my Mother wouldn’t allow me to go to the skating rink due to the fact that you could buy alcohol in the bar area.
Back in the days of the Pentecostal church I grew up in, the only songs that were ever sung were contained in a hard bound church hymnal that could be found resting in a rack on the back of every church pew. About the only musical accompaniment that was ever found in the church back then was provided by a piano and an organ. The morning services back then were often very long. It would be nothing to start at 9:00 a.m. and be in service until noon or even after. Sunday School classes were a trademark of mainline denominational churches back in those days. Back then, almost every church had a church bus that would be sent out into the community and neighborhoods to transport kids to Sunday School. When it came to the preaching, it was characterized by the preacher whooping, shouting, frequently wiping his forehead of sweat with his white handkerchief, and continuing to preach for at least 45 minutes to an hour. People back then almost felt like the louder and sweatier a preacher was the more “anointed” he was. Altar benches were a standard feature at the front of the churches back in those days. An altar call was almost always given at the close of every service, giving opportunities for people to accept Christ into their lives. I do have to admit that I do somewhat miss the altar benches that can no longer be found in most churches today. I appreciate my Christian upbringing and roots, but looking back I realize that the church I grew up in was trying to change a person’s outward appearance and behavior by implementing a set of “rules”instead of trusting that the Holy Spirit would do the work of making the person acceptable in God’s sight. If it were possible for us to clean ourselves up and become acceptable to God by our own works and efforts, then the sacrifice that Jesus made on the cross at Calvary would have been unnecessary. Ephesians 2:8-9 in the Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any man should boast.” ( King James Version)
Wow! How does that picture of what a church going experience would involve compare to your experience of attending church today? I would venture to say that the church environment and culture that I just described to you is vastly different than what you know as your experience of attending church today. I can even remember back in those days, women praying with someone at the alter to help them pray the salvation prayer, only to whisk them away in another room after the praying at the alter to instruct them on what the “expectations” of a Christian were, and to advise them on what they were not “allowed” to do. The church world has changed immensely since those days. The church environment that I just described to you is the epitome of RELIGION. Religion is nothing more than man’s rules to get to God. Religion has never been successful in making a single person acceptable in God’s sight, and it never will. You can follow all the “rules” of any given religion and still not have accepted the free gift of salvation that only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
When you look at the church world as we know it today, and what our church services look like today, much has changed. Let’s face it, since the days of the 60’s and 70’s, our world has changed drastically! In the 60’s and 70’s, the internet wasn’t even a glimmer in anyone’s imagination. Social media was non-existent. Technologies were far removed from what they are today. The world is driven more by technology, social media, and Hollywood than ever before! Society has changed. I attend an absolutely wonderful loving church where the Pastor frequently delivers his message wearing a pair of jeans and a sport shirt. The music is dynamic, but it sounds very similar to what most people back in the day I grew up in would have considered to be “Rock & Roll.” The old church hymnals are nowhere to be found. Church attendees today come to church wearing very casual clothing….jeans, tennis shoes, sandals…you name it. The preachers in the churches back in my days of growing up would have had a coronary if someone would have come into the church dressed like what is common place today. The days of preachers stomping, shouting, snorting, and sweating profusely are largely a thing of the past. The degree of anointing upon a man of God is no longer measure by how loud he speaks, how fast his words flow, or by how much sweat he wipes from his brow.
So by now, you are wondering what point I am trying to make in all of this. My point is that we all have our own ideas and perceptions of what constitutes life-changing and effective delivery of the great message of Jesus Christ. Our ideas of what a church service should be and what constitutes a life that is pleasing to God is largely patterned by our earliest experiences in church. There might be people that would suggest that a Pastor should never wear jeans while preaching a sermon. There could be still others who would say that the modern Christian music that sounds so much like secular rock music, and is frequently heard in church today, has no spiritual value or place in church. Many churches, including the one I attend, use drama to illustrate spiritual truths and messages from God’s word. You would almost never see drama used in the churches I grew up in unless it was a children’s Christmas play. Times have changed. It isn’t that the message of Jesus Christ and the truths of God’s word have changed, but the way that it must be delivered has changed. The changes in the way that God’s word is communicated to the church world today has had to change because we as a society have changed, our culture has changed, and the world has changed. If this wasn’t so, we would all still be listening to sermons spoken in “Kings English” like we read in the King James Bible; full of the words thee, thou, and thine. Nobody talks like that anymore. Why? Because we as a world and society have changed. Some close-minded people would try to argue that the modern methods of delivering God’s word dilute and distort the Gospel. I would have to disagree with that. There are many people today who spend wasted time going around criticizing and condemning the methods other churches or ministries use to deliver the Gospel of Jesus Christ. It is my opinion that the message that is shared is far more important than the method by which it is delivered. As long as the fundamental truths of God’s word are communicated, as long as hearts and lives are changed, as long as people who are lost in sin are brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and the price He paid for us at Calvary…..who really cares how the message is delivered? If you had been praying for years and years for a lost loved one to accept Christ as their personal savior, when you discovered that they had received Christ, I doubt that you would be overly concerned with how the message was delivered to them. It’s all about spreading the message of Jesus Christ at any cost, in any way that we can.
My closing encouragement to you would be to not get overly worked up over how the Gospel of Jesus Christ is delivered. It is the content of the message, not the delivery of it that is important. You may not always agree with or understand the method or logic by which a minister is sharing God’s word, but unless the message that is being shared is going strictly against the teaching of Jesus, don’t knock it. Once the word of God reaches the hearer, it is the Holy Spirit’s job anyway to change the heart of the lost individual. Nothing we can ever do or say, regardless of how we say it or do it will ever make a difference in a person’s life without the Holy Spirit to do the work . Always remember, it’s the message that is important, not the method.
Thanks for reading!
Until next time,