Thursday, May 17, 2012

Going To Church Sure Is Different

I caught some flack over the article posted (What Has Happened to Churches) last week, and I’m sure to catch even more from this one. It seems that some readers didn't like having the "status quo" of their churches questioned or even compared to days gone by.  I received eMails (not posted on the blog for fear of revealing themselves) stating that "times have changed, and you need to get into the 21st century."  "Stop putting down churches that you know nothing about. You have never attended this church, so how can you dare compare it …" (That one sounds as if I really stepped on some toes.)  

I am not making these posts to demean anyone or their church but merely to show that "times have, in fact, changed," and it’s not necessarily for the better. The descriptions of the actions I speak of are a combined reflection rather than a precise characterization of any one church, so no one can say, “Ah-ha, I know where that church is” … “I know Ticker went there, and he is picking on them because …” Well, folks, it’s not true. However, if you see yourself or your church in this mix, then maybe you need to look at what is going on there and start asking questions. Sometimes, just a chuckle and a wish for the "good old days" is all one can do.

Last week, we offered a description of churches and how they had changed in even recent years. This week, maybe you will see your congregation. (I hope not but no doubt some will.)  Perhaps you have been in some churches where you weren't sure just who the "preacher" was until he stood behind the pulpit to speak and didn't sit down after making the announcements. Of course, these days the "preacher" is just as apt to sit down in a lounge chair or on a stool as he is to stand behind a pulpit. Some claim they don't want separation between them and the congregation, and I reckon that is all well and good if that is what it’s for.   

In times past, ministers wore coats and ties—suits, no less. Today, one is apt to find a "minister" dressed in jeans with holes in them, tank tops or tee shirts, and sandals or flip flops, all akin to what one might wear to a rock concert or some outdoor sporting event. It appeared bad enough when "Praise teams" appeared on stage in shorts, tight jeans, tank tops, or tops that showed more cleavage than a Vegas stripper, and wearing flip flops no less. But now the "ministers" are following suit. Stages appear more like a backdrop for a rock concert than a church service with flashing lights and "pop-up" ads on the screen where the words of songs usually appear. Ads for "workers to mow the grass next week" or reminders to give more money to such and such so the kids can have pizza, etc., etc.

Remember the days when the congregation sang from a Hymn book and most people knew the songs well enough that they didn't even need the book to sing along? If you had the old Baptist Hymnal, you knew that "Just As I Am" was number 186, and you didn't need the book for the “Doxology” or for “Holy, Holy, Holy,” which opened most Sunday Morning services. Now it seems that the songs change like the Top Billboard Hits and require a large screen so that everyone can sing along. Of course, that works out well for us older folks who need our bifocals to read the lyrics. But one has to wonder what happened to the little bouncing "white ball" that appeared on such sing-along shows as "Sing Along with Mitch" from the 50s and early 60s. The members of the Praise Team seem to be on a trampoline as they jump continuously to the beat of the sound. Exercise is a good thing, I suppose, and I can't say much about dancing since King David danced until his clothes fell off. Let's just hope that some Praise Teams don't get that carried away with their gyrations, especially in those strapless tops. Talk aout a stir!

The Sanctuary has gone from being “the Sanctuary,” a sanctified place, to “the Auditorium” to "the gathering place" to the "living room" to the "lounge," many of them complete with fresh "latte," which some try to balance while clapping and jumping to the music in "worship time.”  Not a thing wrong with a good coffee bar in the "vestibule" (do folks even call it that anymore?) for those who need that cup of java to jump start them and don't take time to make it on Sunday morning so as not to waste over half a pot. We have been in a few where there were tables, as in a café  or lounge, where one could spread out and enjoy the "latte" or mocha or coffee in a relaxed atmosphere rather than in the pews. Some folks had their iPads or Smartphones on the table texting to who knows who during the sermon or maybe playing games if the sermon was a bit slow in developing. One preacher I know even lets people text him questions while he preaching. In some churches, you have to wonder if you are in a night club or a coffee house, and in some, there is little difference.

What about those fancy titles some preachers are using nowadays? Some still use “Reverend” in front of their name, but sometimes you  have to wonder, given that the definition is "1. a title of respect applied to the name of a member of the clergy or a religious order.  2. one worthy to be revered; entitled to reverence.” It would be a stretch for some to wear that name in the midst of a Christian "congregation."

Some are called “Minister,” which may be closer to reality, since the title denotes “one authorized to conduct religious worship; a member of the clergy.”  But even that is in question considering the lack of "reverence" within the place of "worship."

Then, of course, there are “Bishop,” “Most High and Exalted Esteemed Bishop,” “High, Holy Uplifted Bishop,” and other ridiculous titles and names given to so-called leaders in churches—by themselves as is usually the case—since few of them come anywhere close to meeting the biblical criteria for the title. In the old days, we just called ‘em “Preacher So and So.” It covered a lot of ground that way. Even if their skills in "preaching" were a bit lacking, they made up for it by being a good teacher, or even just a good shepherd of the flock.

One title that is steadily disappearing these days is “Pastor”—a clergyman or priest in charge of a congregation, a person who exercises spiritual guidance over a number of people, an archaic word for “shepherd.”

As has been said before, there seems to be little "guidance," or should we say “discipling,” in congregations these days and certainly there is little to no shepherding by “men of the cloth." Observance would say that it is because of the emphasis put on numbers—growth in attendance—rather than on disciplining or "shepherding."

In past times, the Pastor was the first to come visiting if someone was ill, in the hospital, or just in need, and the deacons and elders would follow up, whether necessary or not, because they cared for one another. Today, it is doubtful that those in leadership will even know when a member is suffering, much less take time for a visit. If you are lucky, you might get a mention on the "website" where prayer requests are posted.

Want to be missed? Miss sending in your tithe while absent due to illness, and you can be assured that notice will be taken. Of course, with today’s “online auto-debit giving" the funds will be automatically transferred from your bank account to the church account. So if you are sick, on vacation, or even dead, the money continues to flow in.

No, thanks, to these modern ideas. I'll just stick mine in the plate, in cash, with no name attached, just like the widow who gave her last mite in the Temple to the notice of no one except Jesus.

How about you? Have you noticed these things in your congregation?  Share what you see right and what you see as needing some improvement.


Brenda Bowers said...

I remember well the church of my youth and they these days a VERY different. And like you I find the changes sad. But then didn't the Bible call the church the Whore of Babylon during the end days? BB

GM Roper said...

Ticker, you always have the ability to make me think; and some days I'd rather not.

Having said that, I, as the grand son of a preacher man and the brother of another, still appreciate where God is exalted and the Blood of the Christ was shed for our sins. I tend to look for churches where that is the case, and I suspect that a lot of folk do.

If someone saw his church in your post today, and is angry, than maybe that person needs to check out exactly why they are angry.

Ticker said...

Yes BB that is correct. The church will become so much like the world that one can tell no difference.

GM, Some will see their church I am sure but will do nothing because they like the message of "fluff and stuff" rather than the message your grandfather and brother are preaching.

BB-Idaho said...

One would hope the message remains unchanged, but I for one, know the difference between a cathedral and a rah rah club....

Z said...

I just left my denominational church, as you know. I miss the GORGEOUS traditional sanctuary of brick/stained glass, but that's it, after 9 years (during which I was very active as organist, choir director, then praise band lead singer, etc.). I finally had to leave because I couldn't listen to sermons during which I felt like shouting "Do you hear yourself?"
lies, pride, etc., in a pastor?...horrid. I feel so sad for that church.

But, I kept my friends from there and I cherish their loyalty to me as they understand why I left but can't do it themselves. It took me about five years to decide.

So, I go to a Protestant nondenominational church now...very simple building....praise band, etc. But no rock'n' roll feeling....a pastor as solid as they come and who is articulate, very smart, and LOVES the Word of God. He does visit the sick, he has vesper services Tuesday nights, he has men's bible studies...he's a wonderful man. They call him Kent and I do, too, but I usually say Pastor Kent when I speak about him. I have known him for 9 years as a good acquaintance, so it's hard to start calling him Pastor Kent now to his face!

I am grateful to have somewhere so loving and solid to escape to after having left the other church I'd loved so much at first. I am grateful for having had the blessing of my husband's funeral in the denomination in which he was raised in Germany, and am grateful I had the guts to finally leave with no animosity but feeling I was following God's direction.

Yes, some churches are weakening and sanitizing the message but many in Los Angeles are NOT....and they are getting fuller and fuller, it's kind of weird, actually! And wonderful.

BB...hi! Good point about a rah rah club. Cathedrals make me think of HYMNS and I love them.
I'm blessed, too, to have a praise leader at the new church who does throw in hymns from time to time though it's mostly very beautiful praise music. And, I'm also blessed that they just asked me to join them sing...that'll start soon!

Faultline USA said...

Ticker your message strikes a strong chord with many of us. There is a great battle going on for the souls of our churches. Thanks for sharing your feelings on the matter.

Jan said...

Ticker..I've been lax in reading a lot of blogs, lately, so missed this and the other one about today's churches.

I couldn't agree more with all you have said!

It reminds me of a few years ago, while I was still caring for my invalid mother before her death. She was bedfast for several years, and required 24/7 care.

At the particular time, I hadn't been out of the house for one solid year, much less to church or anywhere else.

I was missing being in church, so much, but it was difficult to go anywhere because of my mother's illness..she couldn't be left with just anyone, because of the severity of her condition.

I had been watching some programs from a local church on TV, and the services seemed so full of the spirit, and mentioned it to one of my mother's nurses, saying that I so needed to be spiritually fed.

She offered to come, on her own time, to sit with her while my husband and I attended one of the services at the church I had mentioned.

I was thrilled, and could hardly wait for Sunday night, expecting to have a wonderful time of worship, and fellowship, with others of like faith.

Well, the night arrived, and we were there right on time.

When we went in, a couple of 'greeters' handed us an envelope, and we sat down. We had never been there before, but not one single person welcomed us, which would have been the first thing people in other churches we had attended would have done.

We sat there, in great anticipation, as someone came to the pulpit and made some kind of announcement. Then there was a song with the words on a screen, which were repeated over, and over, again.

Next was a skit of some kind, with the actors dressed in ridiculous Raggedy Ann and Andy costumes, which made no sense at all, and lasted for ten or fifteen minutes.

I could hardly wait for that to be over because I was thinking that the pastor would deliver his sermon.

Nope...another announcement about the new gymnasium, and raising funds for more television cameras, and some kind of party they had planned.

I thought, then, that NOW they would start having church! But no, that was it. A short prayer of dismissal, and people headed out.

No sermon, no altar prayer, or anything.

Not one word of welcome from anyone, and no invitation to come back, or anything, and they had no way of knowing whether or not we had a real need, or looking for a church home.

I think from start to finish, the whole thing lasted for about forty-five minutes.

And this was a Sunday night service!

We never did know who the preacher was, unless he was the one who announced the fundraiser for the new television cameras.

When we got into the car, I just broke down, crying as if my heart would break. I was so disappointed that I could hardly stand it!

I said to my husband that I wasn't just crying for myself. I said what if someone had come there, hungry to know the Lord, needing some real spiritual help, and found only that? It broke my heart.

Sadly, that wasn't the only church which seemed more interested in socializing, and becoming mega churches than preaching the Gospel, and ministering to hurting people that we'd been exposed to over recent years....all of them Pentecostal, which I am, also.

I think we are experiencing the 'great falling away' spoken of in scripture. Churches are so far removed from what they are meant to be, that it must grieve the Holy Spirit so much.

Thanks for a great post, Ticker...sorry for the lengthy comment.

Curtis Hilyard said...

Thanks for bringing this sad issue foward. I have noticed the same thing in my community, and I have found it is no longer about GOD, but money. The things you mentioned in this article is absolutely true. Satan has infiltrated the churches, which he wants to destroy. I thought something was wrong with me at first until I read many articles on this issue. Our society is seperating itself from GOD and we wonder why we cannot solve the problems we have today. Thanks again, great article.