I remember growing up we had a weekly schedule for church. Sunday school started at 9am and ended at 10am then there was a gathering in the fellowship hall for coffee and Kool-aid. At 11 the service began and ended promptly at noon. Sunday night there was a service, too. On Wednesday night the choir would practice and there might be an additional service that night.
The service began with the choir, in their royal blue robes with gold collars, singing and the congregation picking up a hymnal from the pew in front of you and singing a hymn, or two. I'll never forget the chill that would run up and down my spine when they would play "Holy, Holy, Holy". The pastor decked out in his finest robe would stand at the pulpit and gave a sermon which, usually, lasted about 20 minutes. A good pastor could knock out a nice sermon in that time. The only time church lasted longer than an hour was if there was a baptism or communion. Everything was on schedule. During the week the pastor was always available for counseling. He had an office there with regular office hours.
Well, as time went by, we began to see change happening in the church. The older folks liked the structured service. They enjoyed the traditional hymns and frowned upon secular music.
In the south, where I spent my teens, you could find a church on every major road. On Sunday's the parking lots were full and the people were always dressed in their Sunday best.
In the 1970's, we began introducing worship music to church. The contemporary sound would sometimes upset the older members of the church, but the youth enjoyed it and pastor's knew that the youth were the future of the church.
Times change things and pretty soon the structured services went by the wayside. The pastor now wore a suit. The choir got rid of the robes. The congregation started wearing more casual attire. The parts of the service which you could count on remained. Singing of hymns, recitation of The Lord's Prayer and The Apostle's Creed, and now a worship song sung by a soloist with a guitar were acceptable before the sermon.
Well, church the church changed. Look at the services at Elevation Church, LifeChurch, or any of the mega-churches. Gone are the hymns of old, the pews, the people dressed in their Sunday best, Sunday school, Wednesday night services, choirs, hymnals and older folks.
The music is performed by Christian Rock Bands called worship teams. The congregation might bring a Bible, or they can read it off the main screen in the auditorium or from their smartphone. It's impossible to meet with your pastor for counseling; they have volunteers for that. The pastor is hardly ever available for hospital visits or funerals. The close-knit bonds people had in the smaller church settings were all gone; except for a few small group studies.
Now when I'm driving across the country, I see small churches pretty much abandoned scattered on the landscape. Parking lots that used to be full and fellowship halls filled with activity are empty. A pandemic has come. Government officials say that we cannot gather in our sanctuary to worship our Lord. What we are witnessing is sad. But is it?
“…I am making a way in the desert and streams in the wasteland.” Isaiah 43:9
The Lord has embraced technology! That’s right! I say that the Lord has embraced technology and He is using it for His glory. We see the church differently now. The government says we cannot assemble, God says watch what happens. There are many churches now holding services using Zoom, Messenger, Facebook and YouTube. What’s even more interesting is people are watching! They are singing worship music and digging into the word. Bible studies are popping up for adults, teens and children.
What’s even better is to see families together. Not just in church but at home. They’re eating together, playing together, singing together and worshiping together. Could it be God’s plan to bring families back together?
Now, people are wanting to get back to normal and I wonder, if we haven’t begun to see God’s “new” normal.
Don Moen wrote a song about it:
Oh, God will make a way
Where there seems to be no way
He works in ways we cannot see
He will make a way for me
When I see the changes, I often think this ain't the church I grew up in.
Have a great day!
Pastor Jeff Godsey