Old Time Religion

January 8, 2015

Allen Michael Rea | Pastor
Dunn Memorial Baptist Church, Baxley, GA

A.W. Tozer once remarked that a church in Chicago was advertising itself as “not your father’s church”. Tozer had his fair criticism of that statement. To me, it sounds like a diagnosis of a disease. Such a statement does not sound like something to brag about. In 2 Thessalonians 2:15, we read: “So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.” The command is to “stand firm” and “hold”. Some churches and ministries have replaced that with “buckle” and “release”.

We are told that churches are being innovative and cutting edge. It looks and smells like compromise to me. They cloud a supposed “love for lost” or “meet them where they are” mentality in a love of the world. They have buckled from the clear teachings of scripture. A now dissolved mass of congregations in Washington state had thousands flock to it at one time. One of their “claims to fame” was offering beer making classes. You will pardon my old Fundamentalist approach, but I do not think beer or a class about making beer has any place in a church. This is a classic case of buckling. Churches are filling pews, but not by preaching the gospel, but by buckling down under compromise. A larger problem in our area is the so called “wealth, health, and prosperity” teachings. This nonsense is a buckling under the worldly ambitions of people. Jesus did not die to make you happy; He died to make you holy. If you are truly saved, there is no greater happiness than holiness. Filth such as “constant victory” or “God doesn’t want me to be sick” may fill pews, but it will not fill heaven.

The command to hold is the command to hold, even if everyone else lets go. Release is not an option. The most obvious illustration of this is the marriage issue. Our culture is becoming more and more affirming of the so-called “alternative lifestyle”. I expect lost people to act like lost people; however, I do not expect churches and Christians to follow along with them. I do not care if every other church in the world falls trap to the compromise of marriage, the church I have stewardship of as pastor, will hold to the biblical definition of marriage (one man and one woman for life) until we are the last one left. We will not release God’s clear teachings in the Bible.

The root of these issues is that fact that the Gospel convicts and demands repentance of sin. People do not appreciate conviction and condemnation. Churches are making attempts to remove conviction and condemnation to draw more people and meet the world’s definition of success. Vance Havner said: “The preacher (church) who is concerned with gaining a reputation, rising in his profession, is always in bondage.” That, my beloved, is a bondage that I do not want.

Do you not love that old time religion? It was good enough for our fathers. Is it good enough for you? We must stand firm and hold our ground, because the King is coming.
“Thus says the LORD, ‘Stand by the ways and see and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; and you will find rest for your souls.” Jeremiah 6:16

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D. Morgan

Amen Preacher. From your lips to many Pastors ears.

    Allen M Rea

    Thank you brother. May the Lord use this piece to edify His servants.

Max

Allen, a glance at your photo on the SBC Today homepage indicates that you are in your 30s perhaps. What’s the matter with you son?! Don’t you know that ministries of your generation are supposed to be “culturally relevant”?! ;>)

There’s way too much hype about catering to the masses in belief and practice – adjusting message and method to get them in the door. An SBC church plant near me is modeled after that Washington State failed ministry you referred to. The 30-something “lead” pastor and his 30-something hand-picked “elders” have attracted a large assembly of 20s-40s with their pastor’s cool message. Their “sanctuary” and stage are painted black requiring all eyes to focus on what is going on up front when the lights go out. The “praise & worship” team of young ladies in tight pants sway to the beat of loud drums and the whine of electric guitars. After the last deafening note rings over the gathering, the pastor makes a grand entrance and props himself center-stage on a stool … a spot light illuminates his glorious presence. The crowd (I’m reluctant to call it a congregation) sip their coffee as he opens his Bible and proclaims something over them (I’m reluctant to call it a sermon). Ask them what they learned when they exit and you will get conflicting reports. Perhaps this old guy has always been overly concerned, but I expected that something of this sort would head our way when SBC seeker-friendly churches of the last century started building stages over prayer altars!

I realize I’m an old fogie, but I’ve never had a real problem with form as long as there is some substance to it. I’ve tried to be patient as a new generation does church their way. I’ve even prayed for something to come into SBC life which will attract the 20s-40s which are missing in many of our churches. But, I’ve been praying for a revival not the retooling of church altogether! When potty-mouth preachers, hoochie-coochie “worship” teams, and coffee lounges are what it takes, I begin to have a problem with form. The young and restless folks look at me and say they are just being contemporary and relevant … to them I reply that Jesus is the eternal contemporary! That old time religion you refer to goes all the way back to the Cross of Christ. In a lot of ways, the church was healthier when it was persecuted and met in homes … united in study of the Word, worship, prayer, fellowship, and evangelism … no gimmicks needed.

Return to the ancient paths?! You bet! Give us that old time religion?! God, let it be! But bring back first a spirit of humility, prayer, repentance, and seeking your face … and forgive us for allowing the church under our watch to drift off course, including those who claim to be “traditional”. We’re all in this together, young and old. We need the wisdom of the aged and the energy of youth … young folks to speed things up a bit, old folks to slow things down. God, help us all to find our way back … may multi-generations worship together under one banner and look for your return.

    Allen M Rea

    Max,
    Thank you for your post and reply. I am, in fact, 29 years old. ;) As my grandfather used to say, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” There isn’t anything wrong with the Gospel. I appreciate you brother and your insights. May God graciously cause His Word to dwell in you this year (Colossians 3:16).

Stephen Ammons

Sir thank you for your post. I too am a 30 year old pastor of a small town church in Texas. We have a town of 300 and our church averages between 40-45 on Sunday morning. We have traditional music and Gospel centered, evangelistic preaching. We had a family here that pushed for contemporary worship. I have no problem with either music style because worship comes from the heart. It is a heart issue. However when this family realized I would not back this change because it was not what a majority of the church wanted they got angry. One even would not enter the service till the singing was over because she said of the traditional worship, “that is not worship.” Even though I have tried many times to convince them that it does not matter what tune or beat your music has, it is the cry of your heart to God that matters most, they would not listen. They tried to cause a stink but to no avail and left the church. Brother I agree with you about the old time religion. The Gospel can appeal to any heart, so it is the Gospel we must preach. Our worship comes from the heart. If we get so focused on our own desires and wants our worship becomes about self. We cease to worship God and begin to worship self. I have nothing against contemporary worship songs, but when the type of music comes before the worship of our God, it is no longer worship. Thank you sir. It is good to see other young pastors like myself who are willing to stand up for true worship and the one true Gospel.

Allen M Rea

Stephen,
It is always a pleasure to interact with a brother in ministry, especially one of the same age. I pastor in a small town in a county that has over 100 churches. We have 30 + SBC churches in two counties. My church is not large either. Brother, let me encourage you: there is no small work; there is not large work; only faithful or unfaithful. Brother, you preach to those 40 sheep with the zeal you would if there were 400. Our Lord Jesus commanded that we would should feed the sheep, not count them. If you are faithful over that little “garden”, God may see fit to lead you to shepherd a plantation one day. Preach the Word, brother! Preach the Word as one who will give an account. I am sorry to hear of your struggles, but know that through them our Father is conforming you into the image of His Son. I am praying for you, brother.

    Stephen ammons

    It is ok. The church is going great and the church is growing. We are truly blessed sir.

sarah

We are probably one of those troublemaking families. We are in a town of around 10,000 with one SBC church of around 50 in attendance. We attend most of the Bible studies but do leave before the “worship” service.

Here is why: first, we don’t attend church for “worship” in the sense of somehow connecting with God in some way He cannot be connected with out of church. We are neither RCC nor Pentecostal. Second, we attend to hear evangelistic preaching where the truth is held forth. The local church is 5 point Calvinism in the preaching, and we opt not to expose the children to that. Third, we are also not going to expose them to the whole rock concert type of music done very much as a rock concert thing. That is a culture we oppose, so why would we allow the local church to foist it off on us?

Should the preaching change we would be among those (many) coming in after the music. Should the music change we would be among those who would stay until the prayer before preaching and quietly slip out. We do not argue with people about it, we do not push for things to be done our way, and yes, we catch a lot of grief for our stand.

All we can say is that we are following the dictates of our collective consciences as a family, being as absolutely supportive of SBC work in this town as we can, and have no other SBC church to attend.

Are we that evil?

    Max

    Sarah,

    You are not evil and you are not alone. There is a growing population of Bible-believing, born again, God-fearing, Jesus-loving, Spirit-filled Believers who are opting out of much of what 21st century “church” has to offer. They long for a genuine move of God in their churches, are praying for a revival among God’s people, and are interceding for spiritual awakening in our country. On any given Sunday, you may find me retreating from the same things you have noted. Those that follow the sort of phenomena we pose even have a label for us … the “dones”. For years they have been talking about the “nones” … those who don’t have, nor desire any church affiliation. “Dones”, on the other hand, know God and deeply desire to gather with other believers, but are pretty much done with organized religion where they are having difficulty finding God’s presence. Those who don’t understand where the dones are coming from wish the dones would just get over being a done and be comfortable like them! They continue to remind the dones that they won’t find a perfect church because there are no perfect people, etc. etc I suppose I’m stuck somewhere between the “dones” and the “almost dones”. In all the noise, I’m trying to balance two Scriptural mandates: “forsake not the assembling of yourselves together” vs. “come out from among them, and be ye separate.” God desires His people to be separate, not a mixture … there is mixture in the camp … and, as you’ve found, even in the SBC. God doesn’t bless mixture. Thus … what to do? In your town, look for where God is working and join Him there … that may not be in the SBC church you note. Somewhere, Sarah, there is a ministry where your family can truly worship … an outlet to engage your giftings. Pray … God will lead you and your family. He hears your heart in what you have written.

      Debbie Kaufman

      Max: Thank you. Finally the truth comes out. I disagree with all you have written, but thankful that finally the truth of most here has come out. I do disagree strongly with your interpretation of the passage in scripture you gave, and sincerely hope that you revisit that passage, reading the whole chapter and other chapters that would contradict your interpretation.

      There is no pure human doctrine, not even yours and God does bless mixture. He is blessing mixture. You just can’t see it. Sadly.

Lydia

“The local church is 5 point Calvinism in the preaching, and we opt not to expose the children to that”

We have similar issue in my city because of SBTS. It is either YRR (shepherding or Piper or ruling elders who still have pimples, etc) or flaming liberal. We are not done looking around. We did find one CBF (gasp) church that was not liberal (in the sense important to us) but it is a bit far to be real involved. It was more scholarly than indoctrination which I like and grew up with. What on earth happened to the Priesthood of believer and soul competency? We won’t join any church we cannot see a budget first and have a vote after joining. Believe me, more and more are ruled out on that alone. Why do people fall for that?

sarah

Max–thank you! Yes, we are exploring all options at this point. We won’t do the mainline liberal thing, and are not charismatics. There are two other Baptist churches but they do carry fundamentalism to quite an extreme.

Just yesterday in Sunday School the topic of quenching the Holy Spirit came up. A dear lady basically tore into my husband and I for “calling our personal preferences convictions and then while being loving and nice SEEMING quenching what others want to do by leaving after SS.” I was stunned at first, but then replied how we ALL are quick to label whatever we “like” as convictions and whatever the other person “likes” as mere preferences.

Only after we left did we realize that our not fussing about the service, but just partaking where we can be really supportive and then leaving is a witness. Her own husband, a deacon, has been mentioning that maybe today churches go overboard using music to manipulate false conversions instead of waiting for the Holy Spirit to bring real ones. So perhaps her rancor is on a high level because of disagreement over the issue at home. Perhaps not.

Whatever happens, we will continue to serve Christ to the best of our ability. And we won’t be forced into a mold that we believe to be wrong. We recognize fully we may be the ones in the wrong, but until the Lord convicts us of this we simply must obey what we believe He is telling us. And in this case we believe the rock concert stuff is exposing the young’uns to a culture they best avoid no matter how popular it is. Good grief, if we simply cannot sing the old hymns we could at least do the many wonderful new ones being written!

So again, thank you for understanding!

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