Encouraging, Living, Reaching


Considering the Need for Change: Part 2

Considering the Need for Change: Part 2
Feb 06 Tags: change | 3 Responses Print Save as PDF

As presented in yesterday’s article things are changing. My generation (over 50) embraces many of these changes in everyday life but struggle with the concept of change in assembly life.

We often relate to the way we do things in the assembly as the way it “has always been done”. I once heard the phrase “I show you a more excellent way” applied to assembly practice. The comment attached was if we have the “more excellent way” why change?

Changes in technology

In everyday life we have moved into the electronic age, seniors text, email, use cell phones, bank electronically, drive modern cars, dress in style and have adapted to the twenty-first century.

Most of us are glad to have modern conveniences such as dishwashers, cell phones, washers and dryers to name a few – so we can change and adapt in some areas.

Changes in music style

Think about music. It may be a shock to some of the older saints that young people have different tastes. Generally, they do not listen to the old hymns during the week. Not many are fans of George Beverly Shea or any single soloist accompanied by a piano or organ.

This is not a lack of spirituality or discernment but a matter of taste. The newer choruses tend to be to a quicker tempo and are not in four parts.

Changes in music lyrics

The complaints about more modern songs often have to do with content specifically repetitiveness and shallow theology.  However, these latter two points can certainly be true of hymns as well as choruses.

Consider the repetition in “There’s not a friend like the lowly Jesus, no not one, no not one.” There are also a number of hymns with poor theology but we accept them because we like the tune and are familiar with them.  Care and discernment are vital when adding any new or old songs to the collection of songs sung.

Hymns were once modern

Many forget that the hymn tunes we sing were once part of popular music, only from a different era. In addition, pianos were not always in use throughout history. There are other instruments in different cultures, which people use.

I have seen people get up and leave meetings because a guitar was involved. It is likely as time goes by there will be fewer piano players available and then necessity will require a replacement.

Diversity requires balance

Personally, I enjoy the old hymns, I like the poetry and the sentiments expressed in many of them. In an assembly comprised of seniors there may be little value in changing from the old hymns and whatever the accompaniment might be.  For those assemblies with diversity in ages the issue of music and modern songs needs to be considered.

Changes in vocabulary

Another issue, somewhat related, is the vocabulary that is common in many assemblies. The next generation tends to be less literate in old English compared to preceding ones.

Younger people raised in a North American assembly may not have as much difficulty; but for immigrants and people saved off the street this can be a great hurdle to overcome.

For example

I am constantly aware of this in marking courses from inmates in Canadian prisons. There are words and phrases that are common to many of us that are unknown to others. Many do not know basic terms we would use in preaching and normal conversation.

It is true that a number of them could learn over time but the process may be quite frustrating. Paul in 1 Corinthians 14 talks about a trumpet making an uncertain sound. This is in the context of speaking in a way that those coming into a meeting can understand what is said publicly.

Archaic words are not understood

I could give all kinds of examples of words and phrases that are familiar to many of us but would be incomprehensible to the new comers. Archaic words like “lasciviousness” and “concupiscence” or a phrase such as “bowels of mercies” are extreme examples but also “propitiation”, “reconciliation”, and “justification” to name a few.

Knowing the issues

The purpose of this article series is not to condemn but to create awareness of issues that many older saints may be unaware of or easily dismiss.

Some have the attitude, “I learned all these things so why can’t they?” There are so many “church” options now these people will most often migrate to another place where they can understand the language. This would be a great loss to the assemblies simply because of a refusal to change.

Gary McBride

Gary and Gloria were commended into full-time work in 1981 by Grace Bible Chapel in Timmins, ON.  They were first commended to Zambia then went to Northern Ontario and were involved in camp work for 28 years. They now resides in Southern Ontario and Gary serves as itinerant Bible teacher, as well as helping with New Life Prison Ministry (nlpm.com). Gary has authored several book and loves to writes. He has a passion to see young men develop and mature in the Lord.

3 Responses to Considering the Need for Change: Part 2

  1. Doug Stubbs

    Hi Gary
    Your comments in these 2 articles are well framed, and very needed to be heard. Change in any sphere, assembly or every-day life, is difficult for many people, if not most.
    I was involved in the management of change in a number of corporations throughout my Financial career (as well as assembly life) and came to realize quickly that listening, pro-active and on-going communications, clarity of need and purpose, clear-headed and objective thinking, initiative, and great execution are some necessary parts to see it through and safely.
    In assembly life especially, the need for change must be clarified for all by leaders, realizing it is God’s property we are administering, not ours (Acts 20:28).
    For assemblies, if there were clear, concise and spelled-out mission and purpose statements, then these would serve to assess calls for change. Do the requested change(s) accomplish or contribute to our mission and purposes?
    God bless and preserve assembly testimony until He comes.

  2. Carl Foresti

    Brother Gary, thank you for your articles on the need for change. You have highlighted a number of areas that we should prayerfully consider.

    I would, however, like to comment on your reference to “vocabulary” and your statement “Some have the attitude, ‘I learned all these things so why can’t they?’ There are so many “church” options now these people will most often migrate to another place where they can understand the language.”

    I completely agree that words like “lasciviousness” and “concupiscence” are archaic words that are not used in everyday life, and there is no need or value in bringing these words into our assemblies.

    But words like “propitiation,” “reconciliation,” and “justification” are Bible words that are used even in newer translations such as the NKJV and the ESV. What’s more, they are related to essential doctrines of the Christian faith—in fact, the gospel itself. I hope that you are exhorting assemblies to be careful not to toss these words around without bothering to explain them, and that you are not suggesting that we abandon the use of these words.

    In regard to the statement “I learned all these things so why can’t they,” we recognize in everyday life that success in every endeavor requires work and the willingness to learn. Plumbers study and learn the plumbing codes, auto mechanics are constantly learning and adapting to changes in automotive technology, nurses have to learn a variety of medical topics, etc. And if I am going to grow as a Christian, I need to accept the fact that I will need to study and learn about the Christian faith. In at least two occasions, Scripture contains commands (not suggestions) to add to our learning and knowledge (2 Peter 1:5-6 and 2 Peter 3:18). This is undoubtedly why the risen Christ provided teachers for His church (Ephesians 4:11). It is also why the writer to the Hebrews chided his readers for failing to move beyond the very elementary truths of the Christian faith (Hebrews 5:12-14).

    In summary, by all means introduce words like propitiation, reconciliation, justification, atonement, redemption, etc. They’re in the word of God—even modern translations. But make sure to take the time to patiently and humbly teach people what they mean. And gently and lovingly exhort people that if they want to grow in their faith, it will require effort—there’s no “short-cut” to growth and maturity in the Christian life.

    And again, thank you for the many helpful suggestions that you have put in front of us all.

  3. Anonymous

    Hi, Gary:

    Thanks for your work in the prisons…and your earlier work for many years in Christian camps and local churches, and with things like hockey outreach.

    Do you suppose that if more of us were evangelizing to real unbelievers, as you do, we might have realized a whole lot earlier than we have that what you say is true, especially that the lingo and ceremonies of the past often cannot communicate their meaning anymore to the people of the present day?

    But maybe the way we’ve been able to go on so long without a change is that we don’t actually bother to evangelize the people in the broader world. We stay in our church buildings and preach to the converted.

    If so, when will we wake up?

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