I am compelled to speak

At least once a week I get a comment on a Facebook or Twitter post saying that as clergy I should not comment on political things as there is a separation of church and state. I have also been told by church members that I should remain neutral when it comes to hot-button topics like poverty, white supremacy, gun control, etc. so as not to upset people. My usual response is thank you for your comment, but no, I will not remain silent. My faith compels me to speak and my question is why doesn’t it also compel you?

To the first type of comment about separation of church and state, these comments usually come from people who a. disagree with my comments and b. do not understand what separation of church and state mean. I also remind them that I did not surrender my citizenship when I was ordained.

To the church member, I remind them that Jesus was not neutral on much of anything and as a follower of Jesus Christ I am imitating what he did.

Historically, the pulpit has been the place where revolutions have begun. The American Revolution was preached from pulpits all over New England, and I would argue, was the catalyst. Abolitionism and the end of slavery were preached from many New England pulpits including the one I preach from now! At most high and low points of American history, the pulpit was used to rally the troops if you will.

Now with all of that said, when preaching, I stick to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. I never have, as far as I can remember, ever mentioned the name of a politician from the pulpit and I do not have too. Jesus preached love of everyone but also did not hesitate in calling out people who were not living up to what they were preaching, and that is what I do. Is the Gospel of Jesus Christ political, it sure is.

I have often said that my job as a preacher is to make you uncomfortable. I am not here to preach what you want to hear, some milk toast sermon about how wonderful we all are, nope, my job is to move you, compel you to take action in your own lives as well as in the world. We are the hands and feet and voice of those who have no voice, the marginalized in our society that is our job and we need to get better at it.

Sermon: God’s Loving Paths

Psalm 25:1-22

 

It was not long ago that we were wishing each other a Merry Christmas and celebrating the birth of the Christ Child and now we have begun the season of Lent. We start this season with the reminder that we are mortals and that all of this is going to end. On Ash Wednesday we hear the words “remember thou are dust and to dust thou shall return.” This is not to put us under some cloud but to make us understand that the time we have here on this earth is finite.

Lent calls us to a time of deep spirituality, or a more profound sense of spirituality, as we prepare for that awesome day of the Resurrection. In some ways, Lent forces to focus on the events of Good Friday but I like to push through those events to the Resurrection keeping in mind that to get to Sunday we have to go through Friday.  We need to acknowledge those events, but we do not have to dwell there.

Over the next few weeks, I will be preaching from the Psalms. The Psalms are an exciting part of the Scripture. Unlike most of the book of the Bible, the Psalms are not written to any one person and are intensely personal. Most of them are prayers, and the early church used them as such in the daily prayers. The Roman Catholic and Anglican traditions still use them for the clergy and others in daily prayer. Some of the Psalms are laments while others are joyful but, they are a stream of consciousness by the writer who is wrestling with something and often takes his anger to God.

Psalm 25 underlines that the season of Lent is a sustained process in relationship with God. It also speaks to the reality of the struggle against enemies and is bound up with hearing and appropriating the teaching of the Lord over time.

But what are these enemies that the Psalmist writes about?

There are two types of enemies being confronted here, the obvious are the external enemies those who are out to get us or have declared war against us, but the other is more subtle, the enemies from within.

This past week we have, once again, come face to face with evil in the murder of 17 innocent children and teachers just going about their day. Evil picked up a weapon that has no other purpose but to kill and did just that. Evil was trained by other who hate those who are different and instructed him well. It did not take long for excuses to begin and fingers to be pointed and cry that it is “too soon” to discuss gun violence or who we might prevent it but the problem is there is no time in between these acts of evil to have that discussion as they have become all too familiar.

The enemy that is within is the enemy that says my rights are more important than others, or the voice that refuses to compromise, on any side of an issue, and therefore paralyzes us to working something out. When we entrench ourselves in our corners, we are unable to hear what the other person is saying. When we are so rigid in our beliefs, we think we are the only ones that are right, and that is a lie of the greatest magnitude.

In the days of the early church, there was a controversy between Peter and Paul about how Jewish this new way would have to be, and the issue was around circumcision, did the gentiles have to be circumcised like the Jews? A council was called in Jerusalem, and both sides of the issue were heard, and a decision was made. The entirety of the body of theology that we have today was decided by compromise and the best information available at that moment. The ability to listen to others and change the way we believe about an issue or issues is rooted in the tradition of the church.

With all of that said the biggest internal enemy is anger and there is a lot of that.

It has been said that emotions are irrational, all emotions and that we should not make decisions when we are emotional. Emotions blind us to reality and even the truth. Anger can be useful as it moves us to exact change, but only after the emotion has worn off. I do not doubt that the evil that was unleashed in the hallways of that school in Florida was caused by anger. What caused that anger is a matter of debate, was it a mental illness, probably as a sane person does not do such a thing, or was the anger caused by an external force, the white supremacist group he belongs too, perhaps it is both.

The Palmist is pleading with God to protect him from his enemies, and that should be our prayer as well. He does not wish them to harm only that they are exposed for what they are. But he ends this particular passage with the prayer:

Make me know your ways, O Lord; teach me your paths. Lead me in your truth, and teach me, for you are the God of my salvation; for you, I wait all day long. (v 4-5)

This should always be our prayer not only during this season of Lent but always.

Prayer is a Verb

So here we are again, another mass shooting and more thoughts and prayers being sent all around. Now don’t get me wrong, thoughts and prayers are good I mean I wrote a book about prayer and its effectiveness, but prayer requires action and action are what is needed right now.

There are many examples in scripture of Jesus, going off on his own, and praying. Many times this happens after a stressful situation or right before he is about to do something big, but his prayer was always followed by action.  When Jesus heard of the death of his friend Lazarus he did not send Mary and Martha his thoughts and prayers. He prayed and then he got up and went and raised him from the dead. When Jesus heard about Peter’s mother-in-law he did not send her his thoughts and prayers, he prayed, got up, and went and healed her. He prayed and then he acted.

I am a firm believer in the power of prayer, but I am also aware of the fact that God gave us brains and hands and feet and a voice to make things happen. We are called to Go, to do, to speak, to love, to act, to feed, to comfort all of these are actions, and we need to start working.

Being a Christian is more than sending thoughts and prayers and going to church on Sunday. Being a Christian means to be a disruption to a society that has gone off the rails. Being a Christian means to speak truth to power. Being a Christian means putting yourself on the line for others and not worry about the consequences.

Now that we have all sent our thoughts and prayers it is time to act!

Tribute for My Mother

My mother died on Thursday, February 8th and today, February 13th was her funeral. This is the sermon I preached on that occasion. 

I would like to begin this morning’s reflection with a word of thanks. On behalf of my father, my brothers and sister-in-law, the grandchildren and I thank you all for not only being here today but for being with us these last days as we begin the process of healing. It is so lovely to see all of you here and to have read all of the amazing messages in the cards you sent and the messages posted on the Facebook.

But I need to add a very personal note of thanks to my darling wife, Nicky. I would not have been able to get through these last few days without you, and I am so glad you are a part of my life and a part of this amazing family. Thanks for saying yes!

I hope you will grant me a few moments of reflection here this morning, it might be a little longer than usual, but it is always dangerous when you give a preacher the microphone. I cannot count the number of funerals I have presided over, but this one has to be the hardest. Someone asked me how I could do it and my response is it is what I do, and it is what she wanted me to do. Where does my strength come from? I turn to Psalm 121, “My help comes from the Lord, who made heaven and earth.”

Rituals are important. We all have them, and we have all participated in them. Think about our lives, they all revolve around one ritual or another; even our morning routine can be considered a ritual. We have rituals for beginnings, and we have rituals for endings. We have rituals for the start of life and, what beings us here today, rituals for the end of life.

The other day as the family gathered at home we grew up in, we had the ritual of going through the pictures to prepare the video that was being played at the wake last night. Going through boxes of photos and photo albums was an amazing thing and were able to tell stories and have good memories. Rituals are important.

When I was in the Orthodox Church, at the end of every funeral or memorial service, we would sing Memory Eternal. I will spare you my singing voice today, but the reason this was sung and the reason we would say may their memory be eternal, is to remind us that it is up to us to not forget those who have gone before us. Sure there will be pain we when have memories and moments of intense grief, but I believe all of those who have gone before us are always with us in our minds and our hearts. We keep them alive if you will, with the stories and the memories that we share and the private ones.

But, this ritual today is not for my mother. I know it sounds like a cliché but she is in a “better place.” My faith teaches me, and this is my faith, and it works for me, my faith teaches me that she is now truly in a better place because she is not here and having to deal with the pain. For her, that part of her life has ended. But my faith also teaches me that she is with all of those who have gone before us. She is playing scrabble with her sister Jackie or sitting around a table working on another piece of ceramics. By the way, Jacob and Julia, you are going to have to replace her at Eileen’s ceramic shop. Today this ritual is for us, a time to grieve and a time to celebrate.

But my faith also teaches me that she has been welcomed into that place and is in the arms of her savior and that she heard those words we all long to hear “well done good and faithful servant.” I know this has to be true, she raised four boys and had to deal with all of us, not me, of course, I was an angel. But if that is not a ticket in I do not know what is!

But let’s talk about faith for a moment. Any of you who know me or have heard me preach you know that most of what I preach, teach, believe, and act follows two simple rules; love God and love your neighbor. My mother lived this in her life, and that is where I learned it. Sure, I went to seminary, and all of that but my belief comes from watching her in her life she loved her God, and she loved and cared for her neighbor. And she did unconditionally. My mother respected everyone; my mother respected the choices everyone made. She may not have always agreed with them, but she respected them.

Faith was important to my mother, and she taught all of her sons to respect faith, but she also told us that we had to make our own decisions. Her faith was her faith, and it worked for her that did not mean it would work for us and we have become, well, a somewhat eclectic faith family. But I remember the day I told her I had been accepted to seminary. She had a big smile on her face, and she said that could not wait to see me standing in the pulpit at Most Blessed Sacrament Church, well, here I am! Maybe not the way she wanted me to but…

And let’s talk about this place a little. This building that formed our young lives. Most of my family were baptized here, received our d first spoke to me and called me to serve Him in ministry. This is a unique place, and it is good that we are here today in this place that she loved.

So how does one sum up 84 years of life? I have been thinking about this for several days, and it came to me last night as I was standing in line at the wake. I can sum up my mother’s life just by looking out at all of you and the hundreds that came to the wake last night. When I preach, I often use the image of the pebble being dropped into the lake and the ripples going out. We saw ripples last night and have been hearing from people all over about how my mother touched their lives in big ways and in small. I shook so many hands last night I thought I was running for office! But what an amazing tribute and I thank all of you again.

Family was important to my mother. She came from a rather large family, there were 10 of them all together, and the family has gotten a little larger since then. As each of her sisters and their families moved away, she stayed in contact with them. Every now and again when one of the cousins was getting married, she would load us all in the car, and we would head off on some journey. Many times it was like National Lampoons Vacation, but we always arrived, and we always returned.

But the last few years she was able to connect with the vast extended family via Facebook, and she loved sitting at the table in the morning looking at all of the pictures and reading about what was going on in their lives. She did not make many comments, but she read everything and was genuinely interested in everyone’s lives. Many of the “out of town” relatives, as we call them, have come today, from both sides of the family and I am sure she has a big smile on her face knowing that we are all here. She was so looking forward to the reunion in Tennessee this summer.

So now we begin the task of life without. It has been said that we never get over it, but we just get used to them not being there and eventually the smile and the laughs will return. My mother had a good run, and she lived her life to the fullest. If there is one lesson that we should learn is that life is short, yes 84 years is short, hug those that need hugs, love those who need love, forgive those that need forgiving and live life today for we have no idea what tomorrow will bring.

Let us pray:

Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace according to thy word. For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and to be the glory of thy people Israel.

Core Issues and Casting a Vision

For any organization to grow, they need to cast a vision. The process of determining that vision can be tedious but the result, hopefully, will set that group up for success and the church is no different.

Churches that have a vision, and that the membership has bought into, are churches that grow. The vision takes times to create and has to be more than just a vision or mission statement. Statements without action are just empty words and lead to nothing in the end. Correct vision takes time, and honesty to create.

The church is no different than other organizations when it comes to conflict and other problems, but we are not always interested in facing them head on and working to correct what is not working. Not everything we try is going to work, and we have to face the truth when it does not, and yes, sometimes they are sacred cows.

One of the many blogs I read is The Unstuck Group. This group helps churches that are stuck get unstuck. Tony Morgan has written a blog post, “The 5 Most Common Core Issues Churches Face Today.” (link) In this post, Morgan writes about the things that hold a church back from being the church that God wants them to be. These core issues are not easy to admit, but unless we do we will never become what God wants us to be, I would say the same is true in our personal lives.

Morgan lists five of the most common, and I would add a sixth, leadership. Not all leaders are equipped to lead and sell the vision. The people of the church create the vision but it is up to the leadership, both clergy and lay, to cast that vision and not all leaders are created equal.

“The 5 Most Common Core Issues Churches Face Today” is a great short piece that is well worth the read.

Rules are Rules no Matter How Important the Game is

 

As a native New Englander I am a die-hard Patriots fan, well sometimes I get frustrated and change the channel, but in the end, I root for my team. The defeat in the Super Bowl was devastating but in the end, the better team one.  There will always be questions as to why head coach Bill Belichick did this or why he did that, and those are decisions that he will have to live with but, so far, he is standing behind them, and that is what leaders do.

One of the more baffling decisions was not to play Malcolm Butler. You may recall Butler intercepted a pass, near the end zone, that changed the course of Super Bowl XLIX. Coach Belichick has been pretty tight-lipped on the thinking behind his decision to keep Butler on the bench, and that has caused some head scratching here in New England.

Yesterday, Joey Cartolano tweeted that a family friend with connections to law enforcement told him that Butler missed the team curfew and was caught with weed.

Now, I have no way to corroborate this story but if right there is a lesson to be learned here and that is no matter how big the game is the rules are the rules.

Like it or not we hold professional athletes up as heroes and role models. This can be unfair and a burden on them but it is what it is. Far too often these guys get a pass on their bad behavior, and that sends a mixed message to the kids, and adults that look up to them. So if this is true, then I think Coach Belichick did the right thing. The team sets the rules, and all of the players know what those rules are and the consequences of breaking them. A rule was broken, and action was taken, and the thought of winning or losing a game was not part of the equation.

This is a life lesson to be learned, no matter how talented you are, or think you are, and no matter how vital the game you break the rules you pay the price and if that means losing the biggest game of the season, so be it.

Sermon: Source of Strength

1 Corinthians 9:16-23 & Mark 1:29-39

 

Last Tuesday night we held a forum here at Bethany concerning the search for our new senior minister. We asked our Associate Conference Minister Don Remick to come and share some thoughts on the process and also to begin a discussion around the idea of shifting gears from searching for a settled pastor to what is called a designated term pastor. The big difference, and there will be more information coming out about this in the next few weeks, is that a designated term pastor come with a unique set of skills designed to help the church, such as ourselves, revitalize.

I describe it this way. Most of us have a doctor who is a general practitioner. They have a variety of skills to treat most ailments but will often refer you to a specialist such as a cardiologist or other such skilled professional. Yes, a settled minister might have the necessary skill set to revitalize a church but why not bring in a specialist to assist. As I said, there will be more information on this in the coming weeks.

But during the conversation last week, and thanks to those who took the time to come out, a question was raised about bringing more people to church and how we do that. The sobering response is there is tried and true method for how to do this. There are hundreds, maybe thousands of books written about bringing people to church but each church is different and each set of people, us, is different.

Also this past week a new study was released by the Public Religion Research Institute with the title Diversity, Division, Discrimination: The State of Young America. The study looked at what young people think is essential in their lives. It asked the question what concerns you the most about the future.  Now, the survey is many, many pages long and goes into great detail but the point is these are the things that the young folks are interested in and have questions about. So how do we reach them?  We start by speaking their language.

In Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, he speaks about being all to all. To reach the weak, I must become weak. To reach the Jew, I must become a Jew. In other words, if Paul wants to reach people he has to be willing to meet them where they are and talk about the issues that are important to them.

Years ago I did some volunteer work with a street mission in Kansas City. It was part of a missions program I was involved in, and it was designed to introduce people to ministering cross-culturally.  One of the critical points I learned during those few weeks was you cannot minister to someone, in the hopes of changing their lives, unless and until their basic needs are met. Food, clothing, shelter the basic human needs and I will add a fourth to that list, security.

I might have the most inspired message given to me directly by the Holy Spirit, but if the person I am delivering that message too is hungry, they will not listen. We need to feed them physically before we can feed them spiritually.

What Paul is reminding us is that we have to put aside what we think is essential for what those around us think is important. He is not saying we have to compromise on our beliefs, but what he is saying is that we have to be open to those around us, meet them where they are, fulfill their needs if possible, and then we can share the good news with them.

Several years ago I had the opportunity to preach at Christ Church here in Quincy. I am not sure if any of you have ever been inside the church, but the pulpit is up a few steps. While climbing those steps, the preacher comes face to face with the enormity of the task at hand. There is a sign inside the pulpit, just at eye height as you begin the climb up the stairs. Right at eye level are words of warning from St. Paul, “Woe to you if you preach not the gospel.”

These are very sobering words for anyone who claims to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ and not just those of us who stand in places like here at Bethany or just down the street at Christ Church. All of us are called to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ with our very lives and so the question I ask all of us today is, are we doing that?

There is no doubt in my mind that Gospel has a preferential option for the poor.  Jesus says he has come to preach the good news to the poor, not that the rich do not need to hear it as well, but the poor and oppressed need hope more than ever. Jesus came at a time and to a people that were being oppressed not only politically but by their religion and their religious leaders. The task was so enormous that no one could live up to the standard that was being put forth. Jesus came into that world and preached a radical message of love and freedom for everyone, not just a select few.

The work of the Gospel does not take place inside of the four walls of the church building. The work of the Gospel takes place out there, in the street, in our everyday lives. How we treat each other inside is essential, but how we treat those outside, and the message we project, is preaching the Gospel.

Paul tells us, “I have become all things to all people, that I might, by all means, save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, so that I may share in its blessings.”

When People Leave the Church

There are hundreds, perhaps thousands of books available on the concept of Church growth.  There are as many strategies for growth as there are books. Church spend hundreds of thousands of dollars every year on books, seminars, consultants and all the rest to learn how to bring people into the church but pay a fraction of that, if anything on keeping them once they are there.

How many times has someone walked into the church, been greeted warmly, shown the service books and parts, been taken to the fellowship time after the service, attended a membership class, if there is one, and then just fades away? I think it happens more than we realize. But what happens when they do leave, and we recognize it? Do we follow up with people who have gone from our churches to ask why?  My guess, and my experience is that we do not. Church growth is useless if the number of folks leaving is equal to or greater than, those coming in.

Doug Powe at the Lewis Center for Church Leadership has written a thought-provoking article listing four reasons visitors do not return to the church.

Here is a snippet from the article:

Lewis Center Director F. Douglas Powe says it’s important not only to attract visitors, but to create a space where they will want to stay. Congregations wondering why their visitors don’t return need to honestly assess how they respond to visitors and what their church has to offer.

It is not unusual to hear a parishioner say, “We are a friendly church. Why don’t visitors come back?” Many congregations struggle to understand why they get visitors who seem to enjoy their visit and say they are returning soon, but never visit again. This can be extremely frustrating, especially for a congregation seeking to grow. The question is, “Why don’t they come back?”

Read the rest here

What are your thoughts?

Leaning into the future

I serve as an Intentional Interim Minister in the United Church of Christ, and as such, I am only with a congregation for a brief period. My task is to work with a congregation as they prepare to call a new settled or permanent minister. These positions can be long or short depending on the work that needs to be accomplished in the congregation. I am not new to the community I serve now, I was the associate minister for almost three years before the senior minister retired and I was called as the interim.

Like many churches, this church is going through some growing pains or rather contractions. Although the people do some incredible work in the local community and the facility is continuously being used, very few folks come through the doors on Sunday morning, and this has caused some concern among the faithful.

We recently held a forum with one of our denominational officers; we call them Associate Conference Ministers, to talk about the search process and where we go from here. The question of how to get more folks in the pews came up about the job of the new minister. As I have often said, it is not only the job of the minister but of the entire community to attract people to the church. Jesus commanded that we go into the whole world to make disciples and Jesus was speaking to all, not just the ministers.

But it is an important question. The minister is often the face and voice of the community, and the minister sets the tone and direction. The vision has to come from the people, but it is often the task of the minister to implement that vision and keep pushing forward to accomplish the goals that have been set.

There were a few interesting discoveries from the forum. The average age of a church member in the United Church of Christ is 70 years old. That was no surprise since I have not only been watching the graying of my hair but that of the folks in the pews as well.  But the bigger surprise was that of how long goals are viable, 18 months.

During my undergrad work in business, we were taught that every organization needs goals and a roadmap to fulfill those goals. Every so often these goals need to be reevaluated to see if the team is still on course.  It used to be that we were setting goals for five years, and then it went to three years, then two, now goals have a shelf life of 18 months at best. The world is changing so fast that the goals expire many times before we even get out of committee.

So we need to lean into the future.

One of the questions often asked is how do we attract young folks to the church? Let’s just say there is no real answer to this question, but I would suggest that we start by speaking the same language and being relevant to their lives. This means we have to understand what is important and what issues are their issues. Not to be crude but if the world does not need the widget, you are selling you are not going to sell any. If we are not speaking about their issues, they will not listen.

A recent study conducted by the Public Religion Research Institute focused on the state of young America, and I believe this is an essential study for the church to pay attention too if we hope to speak the language of those of the next few generations.

I have only begun to read this study, and it is going to take some time to get through it all, but the first thing I have learned is the stuff that I think is important is not.

Here is a little part of the study focusing on what is essential:

Three issues are cited most often by young people as being critically important to them: Roughly six in ten young people say jobs and unemployment (60%), terrorism (60%), and the cost of higher education (57%) are critical issues to them. About half of young Americans say climate change (51%), the growing gap between the rich and the poor (49%), and race relations (47%) are critical matters. Only about four in ten young people say that issues of immigration (42%) and gender equality (38%) are critically important. About one-third (34%) of young people say discrimination against Muslims is a critical issue, while only 28% say LGBT rights are critically important.

Religion New Service has a summary of the Study here

The entire study is located on the PRRI website here

As I said, this is going to take some time to get through and study, but if the church is going to get serious about reaching out and connecting with people, then we have to understand that is important and speak to those issues.

Is it time to dump the hymnal?

It has been said, but I am not sure by whom, that there are two things that bring people to a church, preaching and music. It has also been said, probably by the same people, that there are two things that keep people in church, preaching, and music. Now, with that said, that I believe the adjective dynamic needs to be inserted before preaching and before music.

People are hungry, and they are looking for food, not fast food, but slow cooked food that they can sit with and think about and work on to change their lives. Sure there are also people who want to hear sermons about how good they are and all of the beautiful things they are doing. They do not wish to change anything about their lives, and they do not want to be challenged. There are churches for those folks as well, but not any church I preach in.

The church I am presently service, I am an intentional interim minister in the United Church of Christ, uses a hymnal called the Pilgrim Hymnal. It is an older hymnal that has been around for a very long time. As one would expect, this hymnal is gender neutral and includes many of the old-time favorites that most of us grew up with. Some do not like this hymnal, but I like it. Sure, the language could be different and more inclusive, but I love this particular hymnal for its rich theological content. Yes, there is theological content in hymns, well the old hymns anyway.

As the church faces the modern world, there is a push on for the latest thing, whatever that might be, and this includes music. Many churches have thrown away the hymnal, and they now project the words on a screen or a wall in the sanctuary. I am not against this sort of thing, but I am against the low theological content of the “modern” hymns or instead church music.

Over on the Break Point Blog, there is a discussion about dumping the hymnal for the projector and screen. Here is a taste of the article:

On his website, Toronto blogger Tim Challies notes that only a few decades ago, nearly every church had a goodly supply of hymnals; they were the best way to provide each worshiper with copies of all the songs they were to sing on a given Sunday. But today, many churches project the words of songs up on a screen—not just hymns, but songs of all types.

What’s lost, Challies writes, is the sense that the church “had an established collection of songs”– something well-worn hymnals suggested. Hymnals also communicated the idea that each song, before its inclusion, had been carefully vetted regarding its quality and its message.  “After all,” Challies writes, “great songs are not written every day, and their worth is proven only over time .”

This meant new hymns were “chosen carefully and added to new editions of the hymnal only occasionally”–about every ten or fifteen years, Challis writes.

Not so today. Now, congregations are asked to sing all sorts of newly-written songs, many of which, to put it charitably, are not likely to stand up to the test of time. Some songs are composed by enthusiastic musicians who often have little understanding of the theological messages hymns ought to convey.

The loss—or downgrading–of traditional hymns means we now have the ability to add new songs to the service willy-nilly. The result: We “have far fewer of [the great hymns of the faith] fixed in our minds and hearts,” Challies observes.

Read the rest here

Although I serve in a denomination that is usually ahead of the curve on many social issues, I am a traditionalist when it comes to worship. I do, however, believe that there is room for all sorts of expression in worship, but the wholesale casting off of the old just because it is old, is not always the best way.