By Jesse Morrell
You may notice a lot of modernization happening in the church. We modernize our music, we modernize our methods, and we modernize our messages. In which ways is this helping Christianity and likewise which ways could this bring us away from Christianity? What are the pros and cons of this modern modernizing?
Naturally we want to update things and make things more sufficient. In the process of doing this, is it possible that we can throw away things that are not broken? Sometimes it's easy to think that just because something is old, that it isn't good anymore. That however is not always true. Wine gets better with the years for example. If someone came across some old golden coins, would they throw them away because they are old and because it is not the type of coins we use now? I don' think so. I see in our day people throwing away entire chests of gold for that very same, illogical reason. The treasure chests that are being thrown away are hymnals.
I did not grow up in a church that was very big into hymns nor do I now attend a church that is. I've discovered and learned to love these poetic writings on my own. If you take the time to read them or pay attention to the words when you see them you realize how deep they can be and how accurately they can describe a situation you're going through. Millions upon millions have been ministered to by these gems which churches have held dear for centuries. Christian hymns are just as old as the Christian church is itself. I would go as far as to say that singing hymns is even biblical! Why would I say such a strong statement? Because of what the bible says.
Matthew 26:30 "And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives." So Jesus sang hymns!
Acts 16:25 "But at midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the prisoners were listening to them." So Paul and Silas sang hymns to minister to others. Hymns have ministered to more souls then any other type or form of music and worship. God forbid that we ever lose this form of praise while on earth. I fully intend to hear hymns sung when we get to heaven.
Ephesians 5:18-19 "And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord." So the bible even tells us to use hymns to minister to our brethren. Lately I have given some hymns to people I know who were going through hard times, and they said that they really helped them.
While listening to one of Leonard Ravenhills messages he mentioned his love for hymns. He said that he gets more out of singing hymns before sermons then he does by hearing sermons themselves. His mentor, A W Tozar devoured the entire Methodist hymn book. That's how much his taste buds loved the sweet taste of hymns. As you may know, it was John and Charles Wesley that compiled the Methodist hymnal. While reading the front introduction to a hymnal at a church one day it mentioned how every single renewal of Christianity has been accompanied by new hymns.
There have been some that have committed the abomination of abandoning and abolishing hymns from many churches today and have replaced them with new contemporary music. You will not hear that contemporary music is bad from my lips. Remember the scripture "hymns and spiritual songs". That is what I am proposing today. There's some contemporary music out there that I absolutely love and listen to all the time but we must not throw out hymns because "we need to get with the times and move with the culture". The day the church starts setting the example and stops moving with the culture is the day she recovers from her backslidings. Just because the music of the world is forever changing doesn't mean the music of the church has too. Oh that we might be dead to the world. What does it matter what they sing? Should we rejoice over righteousness the same way they rejoice over sin? Hear me out though. I am not against different styles of worship. Worship is worship period. So long as the music exalts the name of Christ and glorifies God then there is nothing wrong with it in my opinion. I listen to certain Christian songs and Christian artists that some are strongly opposed to. My concern is this: it is very easy to try to fix things that are not broken. I have a deep love for reading and singing hymnals because they have a way of ministering to me that contemporary music, although I enjoy contemporary music, does not. I encourage every Christian to get for themselves their own personal hymn books to read along with their bibles in their devotions. My personal favorite is the Methodist Hymnal.
I would like to just share one old hymn that you may know. It goes like this:
"All our sinful words and ways,
all our wasted hours and days,
All our pride and love of praise:
Forgive, O Lord, for Jesus' sake.
Every time from truth we've erred,
Every bad or idle word
Which Thy holy ears have heard:
Forgive, O Lord, for Jesus' sake.
All the mischief we have wrought,
All forbidden things we've sought,
All the sin to others taught:
Forgive, O Lord, for Jesus' sake.
All our sloth and vanity,
All our sinful levity,
All forgetfulness of Thee:
Forgive, O Lord, for Jesus' sake.
All the help we need each day,
That we may not fall away
Or from Jesus go astray:
O give us, Lord, for Jesus' sake.
Faith, to see Thee ever near,
Hope, to check each foolish fear,
Constant strength, to persevere:
O give us, Lord, for Jesus' sake.
Every needful gift of grace,
Till we reach the holy place
Where we shall behold Thy face:
O give us, Lord, for Jesus' sake. Amen
Along with worship music changing, ministry methods have been changing as well. There a great deal of people in our day that reject certain methods of ministry and do so out of ignorance because they have never tried them. Its one thing to say "I don't think that works" and another to say "I know that doesn't work". Some of the most greatly neglected methods of ministry would be tracts and open air preaching. I have heard people say "Well God may have used tracts and street preaching in history, but he doesn't use them now. This is a new day which calls for new methods." Some of you may believe the very same thing. This is putting God in a box. Let's ask ourselves just a few questions.
1) Is it possible that the reason it worked then and not now is because we don't use them now? We say "God doesn't use street preachers anymore" but maybe it is because there really aren't many street preachers to be used anymore. I assure you that there are a few and God uses them, but He can't use those who are not willing to be used.
2) Why would God suddenly abandon street preaching and tracts? Is our generation the only generation that can't see God move using these things? God is the same yesterday, today, and forever. If God did something in history, he can do the same thing in the present. Would anyone say "God used to speak to His church through the bible, but not in this new era, God doesn't use the bible anymore"? Of coarse no reasonable and logical Christian would dare say such a thing. Street preaching is found in scripture and the written word is so powerful that God himself wrote His own book. Why limit God by saying He can't move through these things anymore? This is very dangerous because millions of souls that could have been won will not be won due to this one lie.
3) Could saying that God doesn't use these things anymore truly be a cop out? Maybe you are so ashamed of Christ that you can't imagine giving out tracts in public and therefore you say God doesn't use these things. We'll if God doesn't use these things then certainly, neither should we. But in reality He does use them and therefore so should we. I fear that many reject the method because they are ashamed of the message.
If you attended the meeting we had on Hudson Taylor you may have noticed that he was saved by a gospel tract. If it wasn't for gospel tracts, who knows what would have became of this great man. Think of all the souls that were won in his own day because of the mission society that he founded. Think of the souls that are still being reached because of this one man who is the founder of modern missions. What would have happened if his generation accepted the lie that "God doesn't use tracts".
Great Revivals have come due to street preaching in particular. The revivals of Wesley and Whitefield would never have happened if they did not preach in the streets. Charles Spurgeon said "It would be very easy to prove that revivals of religion have usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considerable amount of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places." We say we want revival, but we don't want to have to do the things that bring about revival. We want the end but not the means. Is it possible that they saw revival in their day and we do not see it in our day because we don't minister the same way they did? What potential is lost! We are trying to pave our own roads when the old roads lead the way perfectly. We go the wrong direction and then we wonder why we aren't there yet. Entire towns get in an uproar when a hell-fire, soap-box, street-corner preacher comes to down. He is criticized by the world of coarse, but even by the church many times. He's labeled a fanatic, a legalist, a bible thumper, and all the other names people will give to smear his name. If a man like John the Baptist or John Wesley preached in our day they would receive no greater welcome but rather receive an even worse rejection. They would be opposed by the church, the world, and even hell itself but God is for them! Oh boy we want revival so that our friends and families will be saved but we don't want any revival preachers so that our hearts can stay dead. We would kick these men out of our churches just like we kick conviction right out of our hearts even though both are sent from God.
God should tell us how to move. We shouldn't tell God how to move. His holy Word tells us how to fulfill the Great Commission. We are to follow in the footsteps of Jesus who preached "the sermon on the mount" in an open-air meeting. God knows the day and age in which we live, we don't have to tell Him. We tell God what this generation needs when He wants to tell us what it needs. The biblical method of outreach has always been frontline evangelism. Going out to the frontlines of the battlefield to where the sinners are and telling them as Jesus did "unless you repent, you will all likewise perish."
Brethren, we need to get back to the bible. We need to dare to be biblical. The biblical church is a dangerous church. A biblical church does not tolerate sin in itself or in the world because God calls "all men everywhere to repent". The biblical church is not shaped by whatever new culture arises. A biblical church is solid and can not be molded by any hand except the hand of God. The biblical church does not make up their own methods, but sticks to the guidelines of the battle plan. The battle plans are always prepared before the battle. Our Commander, Christ, has does not expect or want us to make it up as we go along. Although the times may change, his Word remains the same. The tactics of the enemy may change, but our defenses and our artillery are still strong in pulling down strong holds.
The greatest of changes which can be seen in our time is the changing of the message that we preach. Because many of us do not know any other preaching besides what we hear today we don't recognize the difference. If you were to compare the sermons of a hundred years ago to what we see today, you would see that there is a gap between the two which is the size of the Grand Canyon. I may sound redundant when it comes to this topic, but some of us need to be reminded and some of us need to hear it for the first time.
If you were to ask the average Christian today what the gospel is, most of them would say "That God loves you." Others may throw in another line by saying "God loves you and have a wonderful plan for your life." Well what's wrong with that? Let me show you. Notice how that gospel doesn't mention sin, or righteousness, or repentance, or judgment, or hell, or even Christ crucified! A message that only says "God loves you" is welcomed by prostitutes and the Saints alike. Who would reject a message like that?
We have lost the urgency in our preaching. The great preachers of church history would awaken people to their danger. They would show them that while they are in their sins they are abiding under the wrath of God. They would tell them that the bible says every day that they refuse to repent God is angry with them because they reject Christ. They made it clear that outside of Christ there was no hope. They would show that sin always leads to death and that it is God who imparts that judgment. There was urgency to their message and they called people to flee from the wrath that will undoubtedly, most assuredly, fall on all those that remain in their wickedness. This is not so in our day. I can't think of even one occasion leaving a sanctuary being terrified because of the message. Our congregations do not leave in the fear of God. That's why there is much sin in the church. The scripture says that it's by the fear of the Lord men depart from evil. But our messages do not cause anyone to fear God.
Recently I was talking to a friend of mine named Evan Palmer. He attended a church that was very fancy and had all the latest technologies. They had audience response mechanisms like they do in the game shows so they could vote and response to certain things. They had big huge wide screen color televisions. Of coarse they had nice carpet and padded pews. It was obviously a rich church. The message however is where the problem lies. He said the title of the message was called "God likes you." After the preacher preached on that phrase, God likes you, he asked a question. Do you think God is pleased with you all the time? We know that even when Jesus walked the earth he wasn't pleased all the time. He turned over the tables in the synagogues and called people hypocrites, white washed tombs, sons of the devil! You ever hear preaching like that in our churches today? My friend said that this man told all those people that God is always pleased with them. Well I don't care how big that mans church is, he doesn't know his bible. The bible says God is angry with the wicked every day. What if there were unsaved people in his audience that day? He gave them false comfort and false assurance that God is pleased with them! What a tragedy! Think of the damage was done to the Kingdom of Heaven because of the lips of that man.
The message of repentance is of course the greatest message that can be preached, and yet it is the greatest neglected message out of all of them. Jesus preached repentance and He sent his disciples to go and preach repentance. No wonder they all suffered persecution, it's a dangerous message. That's why many preachers neglect it today. I was never ever arrested for preaching until I started preaching repentance. You will receive the greatest opposition when you preach the greatest truth. The world will start crying out for the death of the church when the church starts calling out for the birth of the world. When the Saints call for the freedom of sinners the sinners will call for the bondage of the Saints. When we want others to receive purity, they will want us to receive pain. Thus, we've changed our messages so even the worst of sinners would enjoy it.
The message of repentance is what we need to get back to. The message that God is angry with the wicked every day and therefore calls all sinners everywhere to repent least they receive the due punishment of their actions and end up in a flaming eternal hell where they will never die and live in torments forever and ever. We have played the stupid child that rejects the wisdom of his fathers. There's great wisdom to be found in our Christian forefathers. We want the old time revivals but we don't want the old time messages. We will never have one without the other, no, never in a millions years. The bible is what we need to get back to. Forget these seminars and these tape series and all these big conferences. Most of them are doing the work of the devil as far as I can tell anyways. Let's get back to our bibles.