By Steve Wallace
Brethren in different places are preaching the “Gospel of Change.” They are calling things that churches have generally practiced “traditions” and feel a great need to alter everything they can. Such things as having an order of services, e.g., two songs and a prayer, or an invitation song are looked upon as dull, unwanted heritage from past generations. A brother who was once at the church here even advocated unstructured worship. While such change may be “the thing” with some brethren, we want to ask if it is wise and worthy. We question such change for the following reasons.
The Danger of Judging Hearts
The thought seems to be that, since a given church has held to a given order of services or a particular practice for a number of years, these things have become empty rituals and the brethren’s hearts are no longer in them. Hence, some have gotten the idea that “we need to stir things up a little around here!” Let us remember that acts of worship alone do not constitute acceptable worship. Rather, acceptable worship consists of God-ordained acts springing forth from the heart of the worshiper (cf. John 4:24; Matt. 15:8). It is not our business to judge whether or not someone’s heart is in the worship, neither do externals alone indicate such (John 4:24). The heart is God’s province and he will decide if our worship is acceptable (1 Sam. 16:8). Brethren who advocate such change may be saying something about the state of their own hearts (Matt. 15:8).
We May Change Something that Has
Lost its Meaning to Us That is Still
Meaningful to Someone Else
Some brethren are saying we should do away with the invitation at the close of services. “It’s just a tradition,” they tell us. First of all, is the church (the “bride”) not saying, “Come” by extending the invitation (Rev. 22:17)? Just as importantly, what might that invitation mean to a lost sinner who stops by our services? I know a story of a young man who had been raised a Roman Catholic. After leaving that religion and spending some time in the world, he started searching for the right way. Bible in hand he talked and studied with different religions. It was while he was attending a Baptist church that he became convinced he ought to be baptized in order to enter the kingdom of God (John 3:5 was the verse that hit him). Upon requesting baptism, the Baptist preacher told him that they would baptize him in a few months. That did not set real well with him. Not long after that he was invited to visit services at a church of the Lord. When they extended the invitation that night, it could have been meaningless to everyone in the building but it was not meaningless to him! “That’s the way it ought to be!” he thought. The reason I know this story so well is because that young man was me! I am glad that the Knollwood Church of Christ in Dayton, Ohio, had not fallen prey to the “Gospel of Change.” The invitation means a lot when you are lost!
The Things We Change To Will Become Traditional
Imagine visiting a church which has been having unstructured worship for five years. Upon seeing the proceedings you ask the one next to you, “What’s going on?” The reply? “That’s the way we’ve always done it!”
Change for the sake of change is not wise and it can actually produce bad results. Biblically based things that we have always done as a church are good and often need no changing. Some may even be part of our eternity (Rev. 7:9-12).
Guardian of Truth XLI: 23 p. 5
December 4, 1997