And the Pendulum Swings: The Church, Relevancy, and the Truth
By Jordan Walker
Mankind operates on a philosophical pendulum. Over time, cultures tend to gradually grow set in their ways. The inevitable result is that a group of free-thinkers will break off upon realizing that the majority has gotten stuck in the rut of their traditions. These people will then start a “movement” to remedy the situation. And though these reformations in thought are almost always a positive thing, the resulting movement is generally an overcorrection. Thus, the pendulum swings and the paradigm shifts.
The Church is full of human beings, and is therefore not exempt from these movements and overcorrections. Let me start by saying this: I am of the opinion that over the course of Church history, the vast majority of pendulum swings and reformations have moved the Church in the right direction and aligned it more closely with its divine groom, the Christ. However, it would be extremely helpful and edifying for all like-minded believers to take a step back and look closely at our tendency toward the extremes. The paradigm shift of our day in this new millennium is quite interesting and that will be our focus moving forward.
The shift we are seeing within the American Christian Church today is multifaceted. We have seen dramatic growth in the non-denominational “community” church concept. We have seen major increases in “contemporary” or popular praise music within worship services and a decrease in the focus on classical hymns and psalms. We have seen many churches distance themselves from traditionally held doctrines or Confessions of Faith and adopt oversimplified mantras and faith statements. We have seen a booming increase in the use of multimedia and technology in worship services and church operations as a whole. We have seen the demise of small congregation churches and the rise of the mega church. All of these changes help to paint the picture of the changing landscape within the church that we are seeing in today’s western world.
Are these changes good or bad? Well, neither…they are just changes. They can be good or bad in certain situations and contexts. I firmly believe they have been born from hearts seeking the face of the Lord and thirsting for righteousness. They have come about largely because of the technological revolution and culture that we live in. Christians, like everyone else, want to use technology effectively to accomplish their goals. However, I believe the driving force behind this shift in the church is a rebellion against the staunch traditions of the churches of our fathers. Many Christians have seen the rut that our denominations seem to be stuck in and view this as a hindrance to loving and knowing Jesus — and in a way, they are absolutely correct. So the resulting action has been to break free from organized denominations, implement popular music that would never be allowed in certain worship services, abandon strict and detailed Confessions of Faith and “rules”, bring in multimedia to show how helpful it can actually be, and finally to push an “open arms acceptance” attitude in an attempt to contrast this with the traditional church. None of these changes are innately negative, wrong or unbiblical. My concern is simply that the pendulum is following the tendency to swing too far and that the results of this can be damaging. With these things in mind, let us discuss three of the problems with our evangelism and witness that have arisen from these changes…
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