“I have become all things to all men, that I might by all means save some. Now this I do for the gospel’s sake, that I may be a partaker of it with you.” (I Corinthians 9:22-23)
Nostalgia — “A sentimental longing or wistful affection for the past, typically for a period or place with happy personal associations.”
“Pastor, I don’t like all this new stuff. Why can’t we just go back to ‘The Good Old Days.'”
I hear that statement in one form or another almost every day. People long for the days of Mayberry when Floyd ran the barber shop and Gomer and Goober worked at the filling station and Andy and Barney kept the peace. “The Good Old Days” — when you sat on the front porch sipping lemonade and watching the children play in the yard. “The Good Old Days” — when everybody went to church and even if they didn’t, they had a healthy respect for God and country.
Ahhhhhhh…The Good Old Days.
I often find myself longing for those days as well. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a little nostalgia every now and then. But were the good old days really all that good? Let’s think about it…
I’m not interested in giving up my color TV for that old black and white thing that was connected to an antenna that required my daddy to climb on top of the house to turn it so we could see a “less fuzzy” picture.
I’m not interested in giving up my indoor plumbing. Not to be too graphic, but I remember having to go down “the path” in the cold of winter to visit the outhouse. NOT FUN!
I’m not interested in giving up my cell phone or my internet. I remember when we only heard the news twice a day — at 12 noon and at 6 pm. I remember when there were multiple families on a “party line” and you couldn’t use the phone for hours on end.
I don’t remember this, but I’ve heard my parents and others talk about having to put wood in an old wood stove to heat up the church building on a cold morning. I DO remember having to open up the windows and fan with a funeral home fan in the hot summer time while we sat in church. You had to watch out for flies, bees, wasps and any other number of critters that might make their way into the service and disrupt things.
OH…the Good Old Days. There is a lot about the good old days that truly was good…but there are many things that weren’t so good and I’m glad we have progressed!
Whether you like it or not…the world in which we live is not the same as the world we grew up in. We can sit for hours on end and gripe, complain and argue about whether that is a good thing or a bad, but the fact remains…the world we live in is DIFFERENT. We can “wish” that people still had respect for our Christian faith and that people had the same commitment to the church that people had years ago…but the fact is…they don’t.
Years ago, I remember hearing a little verse that has helped me greatly in ministry through the years. I don’t know who said it first, but I remember Dr. Elmer Towns at Liberty University using this statement to talk about our role in ministry.
“Methods are many, principles are few.
Methods always change, principles never do.”
I actually think that is what the Apostle Paul was talking about in I Corinthians 9. In ministry, as in life…things change. We may not always like it or want it to change, but we cannot deny the facts…things change.
What does this mean for the church? We must continue to operate with unchanging principles in a very changing environment. That means we may not do things the same way you did them when you were a child. But remember this…when you were a child, folks were bemoaning the fact that they were doing things differently than they had done them when THEY were children.
It’s part of the cycle of life. I’ve never met very many people who like change. They want things to stay the same. They want to do it the way they remember. And yet, if we are going to remain effective in our mission to win the world to Christ, we MUST change our METHODS while maintaining our PRINCIPLES.
In his book, I Am a Church Member, Dr. Thom Rainer talks about the need to make sure that we don’t make church all about our personal preferences and desires. The church is the only organization that was created NOT for the sole purpose of meeting the needs of those who are a part of it. In fact, our mission is to win the world to Jesus Christ, and we do that through the ministry of the local church. That means, our churches do not exist for those of us who are already saved…they exist for those who are not yet saved.
So…in order to fulfill our mission of reaching the world for Christ, we are going to have to change some of our methods. Dr. Rainer lists several things that churches struggle with in this area. He talks about the “worship wars” where people want music just the way they life it. Any deviation of that is met with anger and accusation that we are changing the Gospel.
Or how about “facility focus.” Instead of viewing our facilities as avenues for ministry to a lost world, we view them as a museum where the most important thing is protection and preservation.
It appears to me there are many things people hold on to as “principles” when in fact, it is just a “method.” The PRINCIPLES are unchanging — salvation is by grace alone, through faith along, in Christ alone. METHODS do change — Sunday school might be called Bible Fellowship and it might meet on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning.
Paul reminds us that if we are going to take our mission seriously, then we must be willing to lay aside our “preferences” in order to reach lost people for Jesus. Before decrying the latest ministry effort by your church or your pastor, ask yourself this question… “Am I just being nostalgic or is this a principle of the Gospel?”
If it is a principle…immediately talk with your ministry leaders and make sure that the Gospel message is not being compromised. None of us want to water down the Gospel and we truly want to have a church filled with disciples who are continually making disciples for Christ.
If, on the other hand, you discover you are just having a nostalgic moment, do this. STOP and thank God for the wonderful methods that were used to win you to the Kingdom. PRAY that God will use the new methods in your church to do the same with the people in our communities today. We are not finished until every person on the face of the globe has heard and has had an opportunity to respond to the Good News of Jesus Christ.
So much of what bothers us are not based on Biblical doctrine, but instead based on our own set of likes and dislikes. There’s nothing wrong with that UNLESS you begin to make your preferences equal to the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
I have committed my life to winning as many people as I possibly can to Jesus Christ…and I will use as many methods as possible in order that people may be won to the Lord. I truly just want people to know JESUS!
Have a great day.