Old Fashioned Church? (IBTR #64)

A battle rages on today that will last until Jesus comes–the battle between traditional church and something newer or contemporary. I fall in a more conservative line than many, yet do not get as worked up about some of the newer stuff as some do. In the Independent Baptist world the battle is even more intense than in other circles. There is not, to my mind, some simple answer that is beyond dispute. In either case the argument will go better if there is no one in the room from the other side.

Still, there is an unusual phenomenon in these days. Some advertise themselves as being one of the few that still do “old fashioned church”. Again, if someone says they are traditional or conservative, those terms at least make sense. We have some idea what that means and it seems at least fair advertising.

While there is not one uniform model of the churches that call themselves old-fashioned, some of them carry a few similar traits. We should, too, specify that calling ourselves old fashioned when we feel the whole world is running ahead of us is a fair and common usage of the word. To use it, though, as many do now should have a more accurate time element to it–it should be at least a little ancient.

In my unscientific observation, I have noticed many of these churches will have conservative music, though it may have some get-up-and-go to it. Others may prefer a great deal of shouting. Others a very specific order of service. I have nothing negative to say about any of it. Phrases like “have it your way” come to mind; or as they said where I grew up, “More power to you.”

The funny thing is how did those specific things become the standard bearer of being old fashioned? Right or wrong, how far back can you really trace them? If you carried one of these old fashioned services back just 100 years, how do you think it would have been perceived? Or how about going on back to the frontier in colonial days? Do you think you would have been thought some sort of modern usurper of the godly way of doing church? I think you likely would have. I think we have no evidence that our “old fashioned ways” look anything like what a service led by the Apostle Paul would have.

A lively, yet very conservative, piano piece would not have been accepted in the not-so-recent past. I have read of the scandal the first organ playing brought to church services in the Middle Ages. 

It is a fair discussion to try to figure out what is appropriate for our churches, or more importantly, what would please Christ. Whether we all arrive at the same answer, we should all seek the Lord till we think we are where He would want us to be. On the other hand, I don’t see how we are going to make much progress on the discussion between ourselves until we learn to choose our words more carefully. I am not sure “old fashioned” as often used is very accurate.

Find all articles in the series here.


18 thoughts on “Old Fashioned Church? (IBTR #64)

  1. The church in which I grew up advertises itself as “old-fashioned.” By that term, they mean “more spiritual” because they view themselves as staying “separated” from anything new adopted by other churches which they deem “worldly.”

  2. Old fashioned seems to mean our grandparents generation in IFB circles. I think that is because we are a newer denomination/group. We want nothing to do with the history of other groups we came out from so we have to start our history somewhere.

  3. I share Melinda’s sentiment in that, in my experience, “Old Fashioned” is often cited with a sense of superiority.
    Though I do certainly see the value in a certain old-fashionedness. To me, I could care less about how a church operates as long as it represents Christ well. I think that certain qualities of an old fashioned style service are largely overlooked, however, often the problem is the fault of those churches. Often those churches are not really known for their hospitality and grace towards outsiders as they are for their militant stand for conservative-ness. This one thing alone disqualifies that church, in my mind, from any resemblance of Jesus Christ (check out Rev 2, Ephesian church), and therefore, I could not attend that church. What validates a church is not their conservative or contemporary approach, but keeping first things first. I honestly wish this generation valued the simplicity of old-fashioned church, though at the same time did not compromise the integrity of their love and pursuit of community and commission. That is one thing I think contemporary churches do well – loving people. Reaching out to them. Serving them. Providing for them. Being hospitable to outsiders or those of different belief systems. Being humble towards them. These are things that old fashioned churches do NOT do well due to their underlying isolationistic tendencies. If only there were a perfect blend of contemporary and old-fashioned, this sounds like a wonderful church.

  4. If being old fashioned is not yet an idol in some baptist churches, it is very close to becoming one. Although no baptist churches that I have ever been in would doctrinally press that standards and worship technique are an essential point of salvation, their members are using these items as the FIRST and MOST important filter in deciding the worth or value of a ministry.

    Baptists, of which I am one, will need to honestly evaluate whether our insistence to maintaining the “old fashioned” ways are truly a matter of doctrine or a matter of human artifice. I keep on thinking of the warning of I John 5:21 and also of how the brass serpent of the exodus salvation became an object of idolatry centuries later.

    There is no blessing in idolatry. May our discernment be sought in James 1:27 – Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

    Is old fashioned part of keeping ourselves unspotted? Or is it an issue of pride and an unrepentant heart?

    • Your designation is spot on! I think you have just suggested a future IBTR post for me!

      It is crazy that a missionary has those sorts of things studied as the first item to determine worthiness! It is absurd really!

  5. I know it doesn’t make for much of a blog, my observation is that old fashioned has been a cry for a church holding on to the traditions of men that make them the most comfortable. I think some church members and pastors would have a heart attack of they used the same instruments David used when he was writing the Psalms.

  6. I read this about the “Old fashioned” statement and thought I would share.

    I am sick of the ignorance and arrogance that most of the “old fashioned” (or “ole fashioned,” “old fashion,” or “olde fashioned” – however some spell it) group exhibit. Certainly, when Jeremiah spoke of the “old paths” (Jeremiah 6:16) he was speaking of the King James Bible, dresses on women, piano music, the red-backed hymnal, southern gospel music, neck-ties, shouting, etc., wasn’t he? If anyone is that stupid to think he was, then they are beyond help. How can someone be referring to returning to things or traditions that were not even in existence when they wrote the words? News Flash – Jeremiah was not referring to 1950’s America when referenced the “old paths!” I know that is shocking.

    “Old fashioned” is always relative to the generation. We must not preach the traditions of men as Bible, and we have to stop judging each other (and other churches) based on the standard of “old fashioned” or not. I doubt those that champion the “old fashioned” way would approve of the way the apostles had church in the first century. I can imagine if they went back in time…..“Now wait a minute, Paul, no man is going to preach in my pulpit without a tie!” “Hold on there, ma’am – we only use a piano in our church.” “What kind of Bible are you using there? My King James says….”

  7. Pingback: It’s Time For An Independent Baptist Truth Revolution! | The Reagan Review

  8. Dear PJR reader:

    I am not independent, fundamentalist or Baptist. I am told that I am neither ‘liberal’ nor ‘conservative’ but ‘radical.’ I discovered this forum when a link was posted to this article on another web blog.

    As I see it, the tradition/contemporary discussion misses the point entirely, and rests on a false dichotomy. As I see it, efforts in either direction are less than wise. Accordingly, we have admitted myriad issues and ideologies alien to a Biblical theology into our churchly practice. We overlaid these on the cross. Thus have we broken the theology of the cross. Thus do we obscure from view him who rose and reigns at the Father’s side on the Shekinah/Glory/Spirit/Cloud/Chariot/Throne.

    To adjust slightly David’s post, I would say that our preoccupation ought to be this: to represent and announce God’s kingdom of grace, peace and life. Depending on context, church can and must take whatever form does this – within Biblical norms.

    ‘Separation’ is a conceit we can ill afford. Loathe as we are to admit it, we too often epitomize humanistic secularity. None of us are immune. All of us are affected more than we realize. Still, I am encouraged by motifs I see here. JBL’s recognition of our propensity toward idolatry is timely. Nehushtan indeed pulls at our affections.

    It is necessary that of the many things that need be said, that we say those few things which must be said.

    We must remember who we are and to whom we belong. So to reclaim our identity as the people of God in Christ requires imagery accurate to our time and context. Like it or not, agree or not, one strong candidate for that imagery is the Babylonian Captivity. Another even darker image may be the period prior to the monarchy. Surrounded by Philistines and with not a sword in the land, this captures something of the helplessness and hopelessness of God’s people in our own time and place.

    Relevant to that second image may be the Newer Testament parable of the wheat and the tares. Too often, we see ourselves as huddled in a stronghold that is under siege. This parable suggests something more like a camp that has been overrun; there IS no phalanx or ‘line’ to hold because the struggle is everywhere about us. So to, the roots of the wheat and tares are so intertwined that we cannot disturb one without uprooting the other.

    Somehow, we must find the grace and strength to recognize what is happening in the culture surrounding us. We have to think deeply and Biblically about the nature of our Christian existence in the world, and what it means to represent and announce God’s realm as church in our milieu.

    This problem is much more easily stated than answered. God help us if we fail.

    Christian Socialist

    • You have many thought provoking ideas here. I even understand your point about our missing the theology of the cross by emphasizing the wrong things. Still, when trying to put Christ first you eventually must answer the question about what worship should look like. Contemporary/traditional are simply descriptive words and will remain. My point coincides with yours in that I agree this discussion should not be our primary emphasis. Thanks for commenting!

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