Posts Tagged ‘countercultural’

Praise and Worship for the Modern Age vs Church Growth

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Many of those Christian counterculture proponents justified their shedding of numerous church traditions by quoting Jesus when He said, “For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men . . .” (Mk 7:8 KJV) Because they were against denominationalism, they walked away from denominational worship forms. They forsook sanctuaries to meet in warehouses. And in many cases they supplanted hymns with praise songs.

In His admonishment with regard to the traditions of men Jesus was not indicating that true religion ended in the Book of Acts to be reestablished in the ‘60s. He was not commanding that we turn our backs on the customs of the church that have underpinned and supported the Christian faith throughout the centuries. He was not charging that individual churches abandon the traditions that have long defined their congregations. Jesus was not saying that we should shut down our sanctuaries in favor of meeting in store fronts, throw out our stained glass, dismantle our pipe organs, discontinue meeting on Sundays as has been the tradition of the church from the beginning (Mk 16:2; Mk 16:9; Jn 20:1,19; Acts 20:7; I Cor 16:2), dispense of the notion of setting Sunday aside as a day of rest, discontinue hymn singing, throw out the doxology, disband our choirs, shut down our Christmas and Easter cantatas, discontinue placing flowers in front of the sanctuary in the memory of others, get rid of the Easter lilies and poinsettias during the holidays, throw out our ties and Easter dresses, stop involving ourselves in influencing our culture and on-and-on.

Jesus was talking about those traditions that stand in the way of God rather than those that affirm Him. Therefore when the Apostle Paul admonished the church, he was warning us with regard to taking on the ways of unbelieving and deceitful men. “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.” (Col2: 8 MKJV) He was not urging the church to forsake Christian traditions. He was calling on them to forsake things such as the very humanistic bohemian philosophies that the counterculture church found itself adopting.

Christian traditions give us our identity. They are symbolic of our faith and the symbolism that they contain brings the Scripture and God close to our hearts in a tangible way. They give us memories that when enjoyed through the years hold us together and bind us to God. Jesus affirmed tradition when he commanded us to take the Lord’s supper in remembrance of Him. (Luke 22:19) In so doing we are reminded of our salvation and the suffering that He went through two thousand years ago for us. Communion is a link back into history that we can perceive with all of our senses.

In the same way the traditions that develop around the Christian faith continue to remind us of various aspects of our faith and connect us with our history. Christmas programs filled with traditional melodies create the season and remind us of Christ’s birth. Meeting in historical church buildings reminds us of the faith of past generations and the sacrifices that they made so that we can have a place to call our home. Hymn singing tells of our marvelous God and reveals the Scriptures to us in song. They hold us tight to our Christian roots. Setting aside a day of rest honors God and reminds us that we need to enter into the rest of God in every aspect of our lives. Dressing up for church is a display of our respect for God just as dressing up to go to court to stand before a judge demonstrates the same. Meeting on Sunday reminds us of the resurrection of Christ and His appearance to His followers. You can fill in the blanks from here.

Our culture speaks about who we are. Society reflects the religious belief system that lies below it. The law, heritage and social mores that come out of society will demonstrate the nature of the faith that drives it. If a Christian society takes on the social traditions of a society of another religious persuasion, the Christian belief system itself will be defiled and the faith of its followers will stagger. That is why God admonished the Jewish nation to separate themselves from the pagan cultures that surrounded them. This is the danger that lies behind opening the door of the church to those who promise that if we conform to the modern world we will find success. But God instructed the ancient Hebrew nation to hold tightly to the customs of old that He had established among them.

Therefore, the Old Testament Jewish kings who did evil in the sight of the Lord did so because they rejected the ways of the godly Kings before him. They turned against those who followed God only to adopt the ways of pagan culture. For example, with regard to King Amon the Bible states: “And he did that which was evil in the sight of the Lord, as his father Manasseh did. And he walked in all the way that his father walked in, and served the idols that his father served, and worshipped them: And he forsook the Lord God of his fathers, and walked not in the way of the Lord.” (II Kings 20-22 KJV)

God put together a blueprint for the children ofI srael to live by in order that they would separate themselves from the surrounding pagan world. In so doing they were admonished to cling to their historical roots and follow in the way of their fathers who had served and honored God. As Christians we are likewise admonished to do the same today. (II Cor 6:7) Therefore separation from the world involves the act of holding on to those traditions that define who we are as Christians. “Therefore, brethren, stand fast and hold the traditions which you were taught, whether by word or our epistle.” (II Thess2:15MKJV)

In reality the “traditions of men” that we are to avoid are those that come from the very anti-Christian belief system that the counterculturalists adopted. “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” (Col2:8 MKJV) Therefore, the Bible is not calling us to forsake the traditions that have resulted from a rich Christian heritage. It calls us away from the principles of the world. It is the Christian traditions of our society that we ought to hold dear, for these are the customs that bind our hearts to God as they surround us with remembrances of Him every where that we go.

The founders of our country were clearly rooted in Christian tradition. Therefore when God established the United States of America He gave us specific guidelines to live by and these were firmly established on a Christian base. These guidelines were not only written into our law by the Founders, but also established in centuries of Christian tradition that rested on social mores that were established on biblical truth.

Such American traditions as singing the national anthem remind us not only of our past and the courage of those who died for our freedom but they extol the Christian virtues of honor and courage. The Christian quality of respect can be found every time we say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag even as it is deemed important to handle the Stars and Stripes in a particular fashion. When we look at the Declaration of Independence we see that our rights are based upon God’s nature as demonstrated in the Word. Our Constitution was founded deep in the Christian belief system through created institutions such as the system of checks and balances that reminds us that men are basically depraved and need checks in their lives to keep them from committing evil.

Non-Christian societies generally have very little respect for women. They put their women’s faces behind veils, demand that they walk behind men or burn them alive with their deceased husbands. But because the Bible teaches Christians to honor women (Eph 5: 25-33) Western Society followed the tradition of Sir Walter Raleigh as men stood when a woman arrived on the scene, opened their doors for them and helped them into their chairs. However, as Western Society has adopted the social mores of unbelieving cultures, in the light of modern feminism many of these customs are no longer being passed along to our children. It is no wonder, therefore, why spousal abuse is on the rise and the institution of marriage as established in the Bible is eroding.

In deference to biblical teaching the aged have always been held in high respect. (Lev19:32) But with the advent of the ’60s mentality that no one over 30 can be trusted, respect for the elderly and anything that they believe in has been abandoned. Because of health care costs, the elderly are seen as more of a burden to society than a benefit as the concept of assisted suicide is gaining popularity.

Pagan cultures sacrifice their children and even as we continue to take on their social mores millions of babies are being slaughtered. Abortion ushers from a pagan source that has nothing to do with Christian teaching. Nimrod, the father of all pagan religions, was regarded as the great child-devourer. As the father of the gods he was called Kronos. The classic story of this god tells us that “He devoured his sons as soon as they were born.” It’s no wonder, therefore that as the region of the East that followed in Nimrod’s footsteps was adopted by America in the ‘60s that we have seen abortion on demand become commonplace.

In Jewish history, every time an evil King would turn from God, he would reject those precepts God has established in order to adopt the way of the heathens. The most glaring example was when Ahab married the heathen Jezebel who turned the king’s heart away from God to adopt the ways of pagans. (I King 16: 31-33) The ultimate destination was idolatry.

In the same manner, many in the Counterculture Church rejected the richness of American Christian tradition that defined its Christian predecessors to adopt the anti-tradition position of the pagan hippies. The result has been the same as can be witnessed in the Old Testament as immorality inundates the Contemporary Church today that has forsaken its heritage for the sake of everything new. [1]

Ron Rhodes wrote in The Culting of America, “. . . It would seem today that many people take a ‘social club’ attitude toward church participation. They seek a lively institution that allows them to foster convivial relationships but avoids influencing how they live and behave. The result: there is little moral difference between people inside and outside the church.”

Indeed, Chuck Colson agreed when he told the Christian Research Institute, “A Gallup poll found that there was no difference in the ethical behavior of people who go to church and people who don’t go to church. And so, one has to conclude – painful though it is – that over the past decade in American life, churches have made little difference in the lives of people.” It is no wonder therefore that the divorce rate is as high or even higher among Christians as it is with unbelievers.

[1] However, it must be emphasized that as many in the Counterculture Church have matured their churches have swung more to the middle ground as many church traditions have been reestablished among them. This body of believers has turned a political about face and now has become very involved in speaking out against sin in the culture just the historical church has done. There have been profound changes in their music as well. Their artists have produced hymn recordings played in a contemporary fashion in order to facilitate the growth of that tradition in the Contemporary Church. The lyrics of many of their own contemporary praise songs have become more profound and less repetitive. The praise chorus has virtually disappeared as we find modern writers adding verses that depict the truth of Scripture as the hymns have done for eons.


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The preceeding blog is an exerpt from Don Wigton’s book “Holy Wars.” Click here to purchase:

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