Within the last few decades, significant changes have been made across the world in the way Christian churches worship our Lord. It hasn't been too many years that the arrival of a genre called praise music was introduced to our sanctuaries.
Between the easy-to-learn, kind of chant-like lyrics, and the contemporary rhythms played with guitars and drums, from brass instruments to tambourines, the sky is the limit to make more music for God. We've come a long way from the lone pipe organ.
Why do we need ornate sound boards and lighting systems to help manifest the presence of Christ? The obvious answer is that praise bands attract young people to church.
Was this same question asked when the pipe organ was introduced to the sanctuary in the 15th century? Logic says there was a day when our beloved old hymns were presented as brand new.
Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. Why do we need to change our sanctuaries to include stages and theater lighting? Can't we still get caught up in an old hymn if we pay attention to the words?
One argument for the old hymns is that they tell stories of the Scriptures; they teach. One argument for the praise songs is how they are sung to the Lord, personally, between the Lord and the individual, to lead us into worship.
Ephesians 2:22: "Through him you Gentiles are also joined together as part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit."
Of all the many groups people have collected themselves, tribes, clans, organizations and societies throughout history, none are as powerful as the church.
From political parties, college fraternities, lodges, military organizations, literary groups, to the high school "gang," people seek comfort and reassurance in the company of others who approve of their way of life, because their own way of life is similar. These groups, though, don't offer the vibrant organism that draws its power from God.
The word "church," as applied to Christian society, was first used by Jesus himself when he told Peter, "Upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it" (Matthew 16:18).
With that said, are you and I a member of "the" church, or of "a" church? How much should it matter whether worship is offered in a magnificent building with pomp and ritual or in stark simplicity?
The important thing is not how we do it, but the sincerity and depth of purpose with which we do it, and we should each find and join the church in which, as individuals, we can best accomplish this. Church is not a particular minister, but is rather the body of God's church itself.
True Christians go to worship not only for what they get out of it, but also for what they can put into it: To add their prayers to others, to add their voices to others raised in praise of the Lord. They go to add their strength in beseeching the Lord's blessing; to add their weight of testimony to the possibility of salvation through the Lord Jesus Christ. They go to worship to contemplate with others the boundless mercy and love of God.
Many denominations, with differences in doctrine and approach still equal one church, one God. Different drummers or organists, or pianists, or vocalists, all have the same Christian celebrations.
Whether you and I enjoy that old time religion (worship) or the newer time religion (worship), Jesus is the same yesterday, today and forever. And we can book on that - in NIV, King James, The Book, The Message, New English Version, etc.; it's still the all-time best seller, the Bible, the Word of God.
Bonnie Donnelly is a member of First Presbyterian Church in Marietta. Thoughts of Faith is a weekly column written by various ministers and lay people. Those interested in scheduling a date for writing a Thoughts of Faith column should contact Janet Gossett at 376-5446 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Or, if a Thoughts of Faith column is written at the writer's convenience and sent to The Times, it will run the first available date.