Same message…different delivery
The true message of Jesus Christ has never changed. How it is delivered to us however, has changed immensely. I grew up in the 60’s and early 70’s attending a very conservative and strict Pentecostal denominational church. Looking back, that seems like a lifetime ago. Much has changed since then in terms of the methods used to deliver the Gospel. The style of worship in churches today is very different from churches of the 70’s. Views of what is necessary to live a Christian life have greatly changed. Allow me to offer a few examples of what I am talking about.
When I was growing up as a small boy in church, 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 short. Women were expected to refrain from cutting their hair and wear no dresses above the knee. Long sleeves and no V-neck or plunging neckline blouses were part of the expected “dress code.” Wearing make-up or jewelry was frowned upon. Women were not allowed to wear pants to church.
In terms of recreational swimming, men were not allowed to swim with women other than their wife. Women were not allowed to swim with men other than their husband. Going to the movie theater or eating dinner somewhere serving alcohol was considered taboo and sinful. My Mother wouldn’t allow me to go to the skating rink because alcohol was sold in the bar area.
The message delivery of the past
Back in the days of the Pentecostal church I grew up in, the only songs ever sung were contained in a hard bound church hymnal. They could be found resting in a rack on the back of every church pew. The only musical accompaniment was provided by a piano and an organ. The morning services were often very long. Services would start at 9:00 a.m. and last until noon or even after. Sunday School classes were a trademark of mainline denominational churches back in then. Most churches had a church bus that would be sent out into the community and neighborhoods on Sunday mornings. Preaching was often characterized by the preacher whooping, shouting and frequently wiping his forehead of sweat with his white handkerchief. Sermons would last at least 45 minutes to an hour.
Religion tries to make people conform
People back then seemed to think 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 then. An altar call was almost always given at the close of every service. This gave opportunities for people to accept Christ into their lives. I must admit I do miss the altar benches that have disappeared in most churches today. I appreciate my Christian upbringing and roots. But looking back I realize the church I grew up in was trying to change a person’s outward appearance and behavior by implementing a set of “rules”. They should have trusted the Holy Spirit to do the work of making the person acceptable in God’s sight.
It’s impossible for us to clean ourselves up and become acceptable to God by our own works and efforts. If we could, 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)
Religion never saved anyone
Wow! How does that picture of church attendance compare to your experience of attending church today? I would bet what I just described to you is vastly different from your experience of attending church today. I can even remember times when women prayed with someone at the alter to help them pray the salvation prayer. They was great, but unfortunately they would be whisked away in another room afterwards to be instructed on the “expectations” of a Christian lifestyle. They were advised on what they were not “allowed” to do.
The church world has changed immensely since those days. The church environment 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 succeeded in making a single person right with God. You can follow all the “rules” of any given religion and still not have accepted the free gift of salvation. True salvation only comes from a personal relationship with Jesus Christ.
Today’s churches are different from those of the past
When you look at the church world as we know it today, much has changed. Church services are very different. Let’s face it, since 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 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, and sandals are all common church attending attire now. 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 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 how much sweat he wipes from his brow is now considered irrelevant.
Society has changed as well as the methods
We all have our own ideas and perceptions of what constitutes life-changing and effective delivery of the Gospel. Our ideas of what a church service should be is largely patterned by our earliest experiences in church. Some would suggest a Pastor should never wear jeans while preaching a sermon. Others would say modern Christian music sounds too much like secular rock music and has no spiritual value or place in church. Many churches 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. The message of Jesus Christ and the truths of God’s word have never changed. But, the way that it must be delivered has changed. The changes in the way God’s word is communicated has changed 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.
Keeping an open mind
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. Many people spend wasted time going around criticizing and condemning the ministry methods of other churches. The message that is shared is far more important than the method by which it is delivered. What matters most is that the fundamental truths of God’s word are communicated.
The most important things are that hearts and lives are changed, and people who are lost in sin are brought to the saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. If this occurs, does the delivery method really matter? If you’ve prayed for years for a lost loved one to accept 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.
Focus on the message rather than the method
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 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 to change the heart of the lost individual. Nothing we can ever do or say, regardless of method, 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,