Some Things I Want to Ask Committed “Traditional Church” Folks

A little bit ago, I posted a blog article about some things I wanted to ask my “emergent” Church planting friends.  I’ll probably incorporate some of the things I’d like to have said in responds to some who offered comments in a future article.  In a nutshell, I found a lot of interesting things presented, reinforced and expanded upon in the dialogue that followed.  I also remain frustrated with an “identity” that seems to glory in being unidentifiable — which is part of what I find very disturbing about the “emergent” culture.  But, I digress….

Today, a few questions for the folks that are committed to doing church the way that it has always been done.  I am really going to do my best to avoid caricatures and cliches.  I’m going to leave the King James Only Types and the most extreme adherents to evangelical fundamentalism alone and try to aim for the more mainstream traditionalists.

For the sake of full disclosure, I probably identify more with “traditionalists” than I do with “emergents” (no…make that DEFINITELY) while at the same time, I am often disgusted with myself for too frequently approaching my faith as an exercise rather than a journey.  I believe some earnest questions are in order.

1. Is it just me, or do you think some traditionalist church leaders would just as soon see their church close as change because they would view change as “compromise?”

2. If it meant you could see your son or grandaughter continue in the church of their childhood as an adult, would you be willing to let tolerate some things like more contemporary music, more casual dress or a less formal order of service in your services?

3. If the whippersnapper youngsters would be willing to admit that they have over-dosed on “grace” to the point of license, would you be willing to admit that the traditionalist generation often over-doses on the law to embrace an unbiblical form of legalism?

4. Is the church down the street who subscribes to a traditional evangelical/fundamental doctrinal orthodoxy, yet has up-beat music, expressive worship including clapping and raising of hands, untraditional dress (read: casual) and other characteristics that give you headaches and panic attacks really destroying Christianity (if not civilization)?  Are they enemies of sound doctrine?

5. Why is it that traditional churches are generally monochromatic racially?  Why is it that they skew older –often dramatically?  Is there a correlation?

6. Would you be willing to agree that some traditionalist church leaders have elevated traditions and preferences to the point (if not above the point) of doctrinal matters?

7. If it meant that your church would continue for another generation with a fresh wave of younger members and leadership, would you be willing to consider adjusting things like: Service schedules?  Using women as ushers and greeters?  Allowing guitars and drums to accompany the music?  Permitting younger people — teens even — to participate in things like singing in the choir or taking the offering or even teaching or working in the nursery?  Utilize meetings in homes rather than only on-campus functions for instruction?

8. Is it accurate to say that many traditional churches are more intent on things that can be counted and easily measured (baptisms, “decisions”, membership, new members) than things that are more nuanced and more difficult to calibrate (discipleship, equipping, training, connecting, developing spiritual disciplines?)

9. Is it possible that many traditional churches have largely neglected the 1/3rd of the great commission that deals with discipleship wherein a new convert is personally and systematically instructed in the doctrines of Scripture and the responsibilities of the Christian walk?  Why is that so?

10. Have many traditional churches become overly critical of others who are less traditional?  Paranoid about change of any kind?  Self-satisfied?  Separated to the point of isolation?  Envious of God’s blessings on other ministries which we might routinely dismiss as evidence of compromise in order to “draw a crowd”?

11. Has the traditional church lost sight of changes in communication and transportation which has left us with a system of missionary outreach that is outdated and inefficient?

12. Has the traditional church created an artificial, arbitrary and even pharisaical attitude toward holiness that emphasizes conforming to a “list” of acceptable and unacceptable conduct matters while ignoring the command to be transformed by adopting a Christ-like mentality.  (EXAMPLE: Consider our commitment to preaching a tee-totaler’s position on alcohol — which I personally hold, btw — to our absence of preaching on matters like gluttony in light of Scripture saying much more about over-eating than not drinking at all.)

OK….I’m going to stop now.  I have more.  But I also had more for the Emergents.  You may feel free to add your own questions, comment on these questions or send me hate mail which accuses me of destroying fundamentalism.  I look forward to seeing your comments.  If you haven’t read the Emergent dialogue, I would challenge you to do so be clicking HERE.

10 thoughts on “Some Things I Want to Ask Committed “Traditional Church” Folks

  1. Chad in Alabama

    I believe #9 is a huge problem in fundamentalism. I believe one reason that systematic discipleship is lacking, is perhaps we do not know how to train a disciple how to think, but what to think.

    From my own experience, A new convert is just plugged into a bus route, give a list of do’s and dont’s, and we work them as hard as we can, until they slip out the back door because either they were never truly born again, or they are burnt out.

    I believe the “independent baptist movement” in general is one of the most un-independent movements that I have ever been associated with. It seems as if everyone is worried about which camp each other is in, and who the other associates with, and which conference that a particuar preacher goes to. That type of thinking has that movement quickly approaching irrelevance.

    Dan, I think #8 is an accuate statement that we have our spiritual equalibrium out of wack. It is easy to count those things and give our self report cards that either make us feel good, or we can publish it somewhere that make us the envy of others. All the while, the members of the hurch are very,weak Christians because of our lack of training them, and progressing them to also produce disciples instead of “numbers.”

    In #1 you used a “vulgar” word that made me think I had mistakenly been reading a Mark Driscoll blog. Compromise? I can’t believe you would even utter such a terrible word.

    #4, yes that church down the street is the enemy. I heard their pastor doesn’t even wear a tie on Sunday night!

  2. John The Baptist

    As the first to comment, I couldn’t help but notice that this list is very differnt than the previous , in that none of it effects biblical orthodoxy .

    It’s all “secondary” or “application” issues as to “how to get it done” and not what “it ” is that is discussed….not the fundamentals of the faith itself, whereas the “emergent” movement is itself teetering on the edge of even being biblically based at times, or even pretending to be.

    Makes the traditonalists shine in comparison.

    That said, excellent observations as usual Doc!

  3. Watchman

    It wouldn’t be in my top twenty list of churches I’d like to attend, but a certain professor of our mutual acquaintance on the West Coast made an interesting observation to me not long ago. In his many years at two aggressive soul winning church, he never had a single adult convert join the church and stay. After his roughly ten years in California, there are between 30 and 40 adults he led to the Lord and discipled who are attending his current church. For all of the the problems you correctly identify, there are at least some fundamental, traditional churches practicing discipleship.

  4. derrick

    Chad in Alabama….beautiful.
    John the Baptist…great point that nothing in this list has anything to do with biblical orthodoxy…it makes one think.

    Dan…you are destroying fundamentalism!!! Long live THE BURNING HELL and IF FOOTMEN TIRE YOU…!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Growing up in churches extremely similar in practice as your post describes, i find the questions very accurate in assessment. The “traditional” church, to a very high degree, is exactly like this.

    I will not attempt to answer every question as I did in the “emergent” post, but basic answers will suffice this time.

    1. probably
    2. probably not
    3. it’s biblical isn’t it? LOL
    4. then they are obviously not traditional evan/fundy!!!! Yes.
    5. they are content with where they are
    6. yes
    7. probably not
    8. absolutely
    9. yes…refer to Q8
    10. yes
    11. possibly
    12. yes, to a degree

    I could expound on these answers, but I will not…maybe around a table with some coffee…gay coffee (white chocolate mocha) LOL.

  5. Tony

    In this traditional way of doing business, I have to think: If we are always looking for something different, when are we going to look for the unchanging God? I am surprised by the “change” in our churches. We are becoming more lazy because we dont want to deal with problems in the Church that we go to.
    What if the “traditional” church was based on the scripture? Would we still change it? I am afraid that times goes on we will forget our history and the men and women that died because they took a stand on the principles found in the word of God…they would not give into change….
    Finally we have to decide if we are going to change because “We want to win the world for Christ” or are we changing because it is easy? Souls are being saved with a bible that has never changed?

  6. Chad in Alabama

    I do not believe changing certain things in the traditional church is because we are looking for an “easier” way to do it.

    I believe the word effective could be placed there. I think we are very scared of the word “change” Yes Tony, souls are being saved today, however, if our church could be more effective today, and could work toward being more effective tomorrw, I think we should take the time to look and see about implementing things that would help.

  7. Wally

    1. Maybe. They should not view it that way however. Our traditional service, while better than many of the contemporary alternatives IMHO, is not sacred. The Bible does not define an order of service or a style. I think many of the older people are not so much concerned about the fact that things are changing as they are about where this change is potentially leading. If you stop preaching the Bible and start doing JC and the Cross Boys hiphop routines instead then there would be reason for concern. This type of change has happened in some churches. I do not think change is the question but the substance of the change is more of the question.

    2. This question seems to presume a ‘yes’ answer. I’m not sure that the question is the right question. Casual dress, rock music, come late services are all placebos. The real issue of whether young people will continue to come to church is based upon whether they see it as important to come to church. This points to whether they view God as real and important. I don’t think it has much if anything to do with changes in the church style. If I have to go to a liturgical service in order to honor God I will go. Style is not the main issue. If I can go to a tent meeting where God is truely worshipped and honored, I will go there too. No biggy.

    3. I do not think you can conclude that either ALWAYS takes place. Sure, each has taken place but not necessarily in every church. I once left a church where I found out that the preacher did not believe in a literal hell …etc because he did not believe the Bible was literal. I do not think I was being legalistic in doing so. I do think that hyper grace and man-centered legalism are both wrong but just because I say churches should continue to preach the Bible in its entirety does not constitute legalism. Also, just because James McDonald does not wear a suit does not constitute license.

    4. You answered this in the first part of your question. If they are Biblical, they are in good shape. The other stuff is less critical. Also, people who have the right understanding of God will honor Him regardless of how they style their services.

    5. I am not smart enough for this one.

    6. Si. And I also think seeker and emergent leaders have elevated their ‘processes’ and ‘relevance’ desires above doctrinal matters. Human nature…

    7. Uh…is this a trick question? I think we should be doing all of these things. Also, the guitars and drums should enhance the experience not dominate it. Our music is awful. We need to sing songs as a corporate body. A singer and band playing performance styled songs does not lend well to congregational singing.

    8. No, I think the new style churches are numbers-driven to an absolute fault. Some seem to do anything in order to get people in. In the Bible, they went out into the world. Things are reversed from then. Today, we expect people to come in and conveniently get saved so we can all go to Cracker Barrel for lunch by noon. I do not see much of that in scripture.

    9. Not necessarliy. I think it is the newer style of churches that jettison doctrinal teaching. I have learned much from classes and sermons about Christian responsibilities over the years.

    I have to stop now but I will end with this. The ‘we’ve never done it that way’ crowd may be missing some opportunites but the ‘let’s purposely do things different’ crowd are also missing valuable things. I think style matters much less than God’s power. When God saves people, they follow Him. Remember, the power is in God…not is style, formulae, 4 keys, driven books, rock music…

    Thanks for this challenge. Blessings.
    Miami, FL


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