Is Contemporary Heretical? (Sep 1992)

By Matt Dabbs

by Ken Young
September, 1992

Isn’t it strange how we tend to mess around with the meaning of words? One of the players on my son’s baseball team hits a grand slam and his teammates say, “That was bad!” Then I hear one young fellow put down another young fellow by calling him good.

Not too many years ago if you were happy you were described as gay. But now it refers to those who are sexually troubled.

Now this one really bothers me. I have recently heard of church leaders who have had to debate whether or not they should use the expression “praise service” to describe special occasions of worship. It seems there was concern that by using the word praise, someone might think they were Pentecostal.

Can you believe it? One lady recently complained in a Bible class, “Praise! Praise! Praise! That’s all I ever hear around this church. I want to know where you get all of that praise in the Bible.”

And then there are the two “C” words. The mention of the first one makes the blood pressure of some go through the roof. I have heard this said on more than one occasion: “If I hear anyone mention change again in this church, my family is going someplace else!”

I guess I am puzzled because I grew up with the impression that change was very healthy. Change was primarily associated with being flexible, maturing, developing, and growing. Paul said, “I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some” (1 Corinthians 9:22).

The other “C” word is closely related to change and is almost as repulsive to those who hate change. It is “contemporary.” I have heard it called by other names: modernity, liberal, heretical, and even banal – another good word getting a bum rap.

Contemporary, by Webster’s definition, simply means “marked by characteristics of the present period.” It means that things are not the same as they were yesterday, or not like they will be tomorrow. They are continually changing.

I am reminded of a sweet children’s song taken from Psalm 118:24: “This is the day that the Lord hath made, not like tomorrow or yesterday. He made today in a special way, so let’s all sing and be glad.”

Jesus was undoubtedly a contemporary Messiah. Religion had gotten in such a rut that stagnation had set in. Worship had become a mindless and heartless routine. Jesus declared to the woman at the well, “Believe me, woman, a time is coming … and has now come when the true worshippers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshippers the Father seeks” (John 4:21, 23).

Jesus breathed change and new life into this world. He established a kingdom that would be new every day and sent his Spirit to empower his people with the endless capacity for renewal of heart.

In a recent book by William Strauss and Neil How called Generations, impressive evidence is given showing how certain historical patterns tend to repeat themselves at roughly 90-year intervals. It seems that God in his infinite wisdom has built into the design of time pivotal periods of reawakening.

In the 1500s there was the Reformation Reawakening. In the 1600s, it was the Puritan Awakening, followed by the Great Awakening of the 1700s. We in the Churches of Christ know the awakening in the 1800s as the Restoration Movement. In the 1900s it was the Missionary Awakening. In each period there has been a conflict between the passionate plea for spiritual renewal and the fear of change.

One of the inseparable companions to each awakening has been new or contemporary music. Our songbooks are still heavily adorned with music from the likes of Bach and Mozart (1700s) and Crosby and Havergal (1800s). The 1900s brought Gospel music and Stamps-baxter.

It is interesting to look back and see how the work of so many composers of church music met with initial resistance. “We must not forsake the music of our heritage for modern innovations!” has been heard time and time again down through history. Satan has been faithful in planting an abuse here and there so that “I told you so!” has always found an audience.

But God has faithfully planted new songs in our hearts to help us renew our faith throughout the ages.

When the Israelites were freed from 400 years of Egyptian slavery, they sang a new song (Exodus 15). David said, “He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the Lord” (Psalm 40:3). The birth of Christ was welcomed with new song.

I hope by now you know where I am heading. I believe we are living at a very exciting time in history. Already another major awakening is tugging at the hearts of God’s people. One hundred years from now historians will be telling my great, great grandchildren about this awakening. Who knows, maybe they will call it the “Praise Awakening.”

When we look at the larger picture of where God has placed us in time, we should be encouraged to do several things.

1. Quit getting so steamed when our attempts to make changes we believe are vital for the effectiveness of the church in a contemporary world are met with resistance. We should expect this reaction, keep trying, and trust in God’s timing.

2. Quit beating ourselves up for all that we haven’t been in the Churches of Christ, and start thanking God for even the smallest things we can see happening that are right. A good theme for an upcoming lectureship might even be “Some Good Things Happening in the Churches of Christ.” We need to be positive, prayerful and expect restoration.

3. Start encouraging our song writers to get on with the new songs.

Now, back to the original question. Is contemporary heretical? On the contrary, it is something God uses and blesses.

Rider on the White Horse

by Ken Young

Chorus
Rider on the white horse, rider called Faithful and True;
with justice he judges and makes war,
His eyes are like blazing fire,
and on his head are many crowns;
rider on the white horse.

Verse 1
he has a name written on him, that no one but he himself knows;
he is dressed in a robe dipped in blood,
and his name is the Word of God.
The armies of heaven were following him, riding on white horses;
dressed in fine linen, white and clean,
and his name is the Word – is the word of God!

Verse 2
Out of his mouth comes a sharp sword,
with which to strike down the mighty;
on his robe and on his thigh, his name – is written,
King of Kings, – and Lord of Lords!

Copyright 1989 Hallal Music, Preston Christian Music, Toddler Tunes.
Exclusive adm. by LCS Music Group, P.O. BOx 815129, Dallas, TX 75381.
Int’l. copyright Secured. All Rights Reserved. Used By Permission.

Wineskins Magazine

Ken Young

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Profile photo of Matt DabbsThis author published 1577 posts in this site.
Matt is the preaching minister at the Auburn Church of Christ in Auburn, Alabama. He and Missy have been married 12 years and are raising two wonderful boys, Jonah and Elijah. Matt is passionate about reaching and discipling young adults, small groups, and teaching. Matt is currently the editor and co-owner of Wineskins.org.

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