Our society is obsessed with “new”. We are always looking for the latest gadget or item that we assume must be better because it’s the newest version. When the original iPad came out in 2009, you couldn’t find one in the stores for months. As soon as a shipment arrived in the store, there were people waiting to snatch them up. They would sell out in minutes.
I purchased one within about a month after they came out. And I loved it. But around 9 months later, Apple did what Apple always does – they came out with iPad 2. And millions of people cast aside their outdated, piece of junk iPads, and upgraded to the much more advanced iPad 2.
At first I was disappointed. I had spent more money than I really should have on something that society was telling me I should get rid of in order to have something better. But I didn’t. It’s three years – and three versions of iPads later – and I’m still using my “Model T version” iPad. And it still works great. I still love it. It doesn’t have a camera. I can’t “Facetime” chat with others who have iPhone 4 or a newer iPad. But everything I wanted my iPad to do when I purchased it, it still does.
We fall into this trap in church as well. When I was in Israel four years ago, I stood with about 80 other Christians at Gordon’s Tomb – a site that many believe to be the place of Jesus’ crucifixion and burial. As we took communion, we could look to one side and see the place where Jesus may have died, and to the other side we could see where He arose. My wife and I were moved deeply, and felt compelled to lead those with us in singing:
We are standing on holy ground
And I know that there are angels all around
Let us praise Jesus now
We are standing in His presence
On holy ground
We asked the pastor for permission to lead the song, and he agreed. As we began to sing, we were surprised that very few – maybe a half a dozen or so – had ever heard the song before. This was one of the most popular worship songs of the 1980’s and 1990’s, and now these Believers who had been singing all of the latest songs for two weeks, had no idea what we were singing.
This kind of thing happens all the time in church. We get obsessed with the new to such an extent that we lose the power of the old. As I’ve thought about this lately, I’ve come up with my own personal list of things that I miss about “old school” church.
1. Sunday Evening Service – I’ve recently taken a position as part-time worship leader at a very conservative Southern Baptist church. At first, I was a little put off by the fact that they still had a traditional Sunday evening worship service. Don’t they realize that this hasn’t been the “cool” thing to do for over a decade? People are busy. They don’t have the time to repeat the same thing on Sunday night that they did on Sunday morning. But I was wrong.
What I have come to remember was that Sunday evening was when the family gets together. We get to service early and share with each other. We laugh. We pray. We worship together and hear from the Lord. And no one wants it to end. We stay after in the auditorium and the lobby talking for sometimes thirty to forty-five minutes. We go to dinner together afterward and keep it going as long as we can. Those that skip Sunday evening, miss out on good quality “family time.”
2. Choir – In an era of praise bands and worship teams, I miss the traditional choir. I miss giving as many people as possible the opportunity to be a part of the music in the service. I miss the prayer time we have during rehearsal. I miss the big choir numbers with the difficult hours of preparation. I miss the Christmas and Resurrection Sunday cantatas. Some of my fondest church memories took place in choir rehearsals. There’s something special about a large group of Brothers and Sisters in Christ coming together regularly to prepare to lead in worship.
3. Sunday School – Many churches still have Sunday School, they’ve just changed the name to be more contemporary. They call it home group, fellowship group, cell group, life group, etc. And a lot of the time, these churches try to pull these groups out of the church building into homes in an attempt to foster more of a relational dynamic. This isn’t bad.
But I miss the traditional Bible study, entry into church life aspect of Sunday School. My pastor recently reminded me that for a century, the Sunday School was the primary evangelistic tool of the church. This was where children and teenagers and adults who were not familiar with the Scriptures came together to learn them. I miss that.
4. Hymns – I love the new contemporary worship choruses. I find myself singing songs like “10,000 Reasons” and “Our God” often as I’m going about my day. But I also miss singing songs like “There is Power in the Blood” and “There is a Fountain.” There are such deep theological truths buried in these old hymns that we often can’t fit into the more modern worship styles. But when I’m struggling and hurting and wondering where God is, I don’t think of songs like “I love you, Lord. And I lift my voice.” I remember lines like “Great is Thy Faithfulness, O God, my Father. There is no shadow of turning with Thee.” I’m afraid that in our attempt at staying relevant and modern, we’ve lost some of this.
5. Dressing Up – I get why pastors and churches have gone to more casual attire in church. I know that this is done in an effort to help visitors who may not have the “fancy church clothes” to feel comfortable when coming to church. I don’t believe that those who wear a suit or a dress are more accepted by God on Sunday than those who are wearing jeans and flip-flops. But I remember Sunday being a day of distinctions. When I was a kid, my family got up early and had cinnamon rolls. We got dressed in our “Sunday Best” and went to church. We had a big family dinner afterwards. Sunday was a different day than the rest of the week. And what we wore to church was a part of that. I wonder if our casual attire has contributed to us losing that distinction.
That’s my list so far. I’m sure there are many other things you and I can add to it. What is the biggest thing you miss from “Old School” church?