As time goes on, and as a church begins to be transformed back into vitality, growth and a place of healing, changes will need to be considered. Changes are often made in worship style, preaching style, and music style for instance. Old traditions seem out-of-place when a church is growing spiritually, and they can be an impediment to growth in a couple of ways. Consider…
When churches fall into decline, the people in the church are very likely to grab onto their customs and traditions more strongly than they did in times of growth. Back when things were going along great, they were trying new things, new songs, new ways of doing things, but as their earlier growth, in both spiritual and numerical terms, begins to decline, traditions are more precious as reminders of the past. In time, traditions can become more important to many people than everything else, for they are safe, secure and familiar. Secondly our traditions and customs can inhibit growth because with the passage of time, their usefulness has declined. Take music as an example. Our old traditional hymns are really wonderful, and I like them personally, but ask yourself how they sound to someone who hasn’t heard them and grown to love them. Are they anything that people would be likely to listen to these days?
Of course, you know the answer to that. Unless they are a fan of classical choral music, probably not. Even worse, they are likely the kinds of things people these days would try to avoid. That being the case, do they make your church more attractive to a modern-day person who is looking for a church? Sorry, not really. This is especially true if there is another church nearby that has more contemporary music.
It is true that churches sometimes fight and split over things like style, so some might say that you can’t change anything for fear that your church will disintegrate further, but I want you to notice the order of things as I’ve presented them. Yesterday, we spoke of a congregation that looks outward to the community through the loving eyes of God, seeing lost people who need the love of Jesus Christ in their lives; we are talking about a congregation that has moved a long way towards spiritual maturity. In such a place, with people who are more mature followers of Christ, they won’t care about “style,” for they care about souls… and this is the environment for change.
In fact, a wise leadership team will have already led their flock toward a culture of change in the church, in which there is an expectation of new things, new practices and new attitudes… precisely because they are once again growing in Christ. They simply will not care any longer about holding on to the past.
The result of this attitude shift is that all of the programs, customs and ways of the church are ready to be examined to see whether or not they should be kept on, or replaced or repaired so that the Lord can be glorified. Just for the record, we are not talking about tossing out anything that is a Biblical imperative here… only the traditions and ways of men. Am I saying that traditional services and music cannot be productive in any situation? No, not at all, but they should be carefully evaluated to ensure that they are the most useful way to proceed. I will add, that they usually should not be changed too much before the people have grown mature enough to happily accept it, for that is where problems begin.