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.
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.