This article is for church people. I am going to air some of our really dirty laundry. I suspect it will make some of you mad. I hope it makes us all think.
There is a song that goes, “Give me that old-time religion, Give me that old-time religion, Give me that old-time religion; it’s good enough for me!” Ah, that brings back some memories for some of you, doesn’t it. It is nostalgic. It takes us back to our childhood. It brings back fond memories. It’s a terrible song that teaches horrible theology!
Look again at those words, particularly the conclusion, “it’s good enough for me.” Therein lies the problem. The Christian life was never meant to be about us — it was meant to be about the Lord Jesus Christ! Too many professed Christians today treat the Christian faith as if its goal is to make them and theirs happy. It is not. The goal of the Christian faith is to know Christ and make Him known and, in the process, bring glory to God. But we’ve made it all about us haven’t we?
It is one thing when selfish Christians insist that certain music, certain styles, certain preferences are godly while modern music, modern styles, modern preferences are ungodly. I have been in many conversations of late where it has come down to people actually expressing that they would rather see their church die than have to enter the 21st century! They are getting their wish: 6,000 churches in the United States close every year. It doesn’t have to be that way, but we would rather cling to our past than glorify our Savior!
When I was growing up, we had a black and white television. To change the channels on that television required some exercise. You actually had to get up and turn a dial. Of course, that wasn’t too bad because we had only four channels to choose from back then: ABC, NBC, CBS and PBS (though I don’t recall it being called by that new-fangled name back then).
Those days hold fond memories for me. I particularly loved Saturday when I would tune into a show that included this phrase, “Return with us now to those thrilling days of yester-year, the Lone Ranger rides again.” Sadly, that phrase, at least the first part, seems to be the theme of many professed believers today!
As fond as those memories are for me, I wouldn’t trade my modern television for that old black and white set. My guess is neither would you, no matter what age you are. I find it sad that so many Christians have been so willing to turn in those old four-channel black and white televisions for modern flat-screen marvels while begrudging any church that has chosen to trade in their old black and white programs of the past for programing that speaks to the modern age! What I find worse is we won’t be quiet about it! It is one thing for us to have our nostalgic preferences and museum-worthy services, it is quite another thing for us to spend so much time on the modern medium of social media decrying the evils of any church that doesn’t share our craving for that old time religion that was good enough for our mothers and fathers and therefore should be good enough for everyone!
We forget that the “old time religion” we cling so tenaciously to is, number one, not that old and, number two, was criticized by the religious zealots of their days as well!
Most of what passes as “evangelical” religion today all came out of the Second Great Awakening; a religious event that began in 1790, hit its peak in 1840 and was waning by 1868. The music of Charles Wesley that we revere today as “great hymns of the faith” were roundly criticized by people of faith in their day. Solomon was right, “There is nothing new under the sun.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9).