Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Church In a World of Change

Another great picture. I'm not sure where I found it.

We are in the midst of a rapidly changing culture. Virtually every aspect of life has seen dramatic change. In a relatively short period of time, a century, we have gone from traveling on horseback or in buggies to riding aboard supersonic jetliners and contemplating interplanetary travel. In the past hundred years we have gone from communicating via telegraph and the Pony Express to conversing via high-speed DSL and instant messaging. We have gone from crude kaleidoscopes and phonographs to HDTV and virtual reality.

How does this change affect the practice of faith in this postmodern era? This question is being contemplated throughout this country (and world) and is the source of much contention and confusion. It should never be argued that the bedrock principles of faith should ever change with the passing of time and the transformation of culture--a faith in God and an obedience to his Word should remain a constant in a sea of change, but the expression of our faith and obedience may change over the course of time.

For instance, Jesus demonstrated selfless service to his disciples by washing their feet on the night he was betrayed, denied, and condemned to die. He commanded his disciples to go and do likewise, but does foot washing remain the proper expression of selfless service in 21st Century America? And the early church greeted one another with holy kisses and not handshakes and hugs, sang to one another in antiphonal chants and not four-part harmony, often assembled for worship on what we would identify as Saturday evening (for the, the beginning of the first day of the week), and baptized converts only in cool, running water (and the converts usually entirely disrobed for their baptism, by the way), often with three successive immersions and not one. Do the differences mean that we have strayed from the proper path? No, not at all, we simply live in a new age and culture, a time when the espressions of faith and obedience have evolved into actions germane to our own culture.

I am not suggesting that every new thing is a proper exercise and expression of faith, for certianly there are corrupt forms of worship, service, and ecclesiastical practice that must be challenged. I am asking for an open and fair mind as we consider the changes in our culture and in the church. Let us seek the greater good of honoring and praising God instead of condemning what is personally uncomfortable and bolstering our personal agendas.