Please Don’t Give Me That Old Time Religion!
Often in Facebook dialogues, I see someone say something to the effect of, “Our church preaches the old time Gospel, and we sing the old time songs. We all need to get back to the old time religion.”
When I hear things like that I cringe.
What they mean is that they want us to go back to singing either old hymns or Southern Gospel style songs. They want a preacher that will preach hell is hot, and sinners are going to burn if they don’t get saved. Their message is usually about how bad the world is, how it’s going to hell in a handbasket and that Jesus is going to come any minute, plus they throw in someone in the current news as the possible Anti-Christ for good measure. They usually get a lot of people that will shout out “Amen, preacher.” I know because I’ve been to plenty of these type services growing up.
I pray that we never go back to this old time religion because this is partly why most people don’t want to go to church anymore. It creates an “us vs. them” mentality. The people on the inside of the church are glad that they are saved and have their fire insurance paid up. They can think of numerous people on the outside that should be there on the inside listening to this message.
The problem that I have with this stream of Christianity is that it is always focused on the negative. Most of them preach more about hell than the good news of salvation. Most preach about how bad the world is without realizing that the world is actually getting better in so many ways. They are waiting for Jesus to come snatch them away not caring about the fate of all those “heathen sinners” that didn’t make it.
I love the people that want this “old time religion.” I believe that they believe they love God. However, the litmus test of our love for God is not our piety, nor our faithful church attendance. It is in how we love others. It is looking to see the best in others. It is looking to see Jesus in the “least of these.”
Unfortunately, most of the people who opt for “old time religion” are more into the message of their church rather than the good news of the Kingdom. The good news of the Kingdom is that God is not mad at people, that he is not holding their sins against them and that He wants a love relationship with them. How many sermons in the book of Acts do you read where the Apostles threatened people with hell if they didn’t receive Jesus into their hearts? The answer is NONE!
I know that my brothers and sisters in this stream of Christianity mean well. They believe in their methods. I know that it was good enough for grandma and grandpa so it must be good enough for me but we don’t live in grandma and grandpa’s era. The methods used to reach that generation will not reach this generation. Grandma and Grandpa’s generation were familiar with the church and at that time ministers were respected. Lives revolved around church. It’s not that way anymore!
Not to mention that our “old time religion” that some hold so strictly to would be so foreign to the early church, or to the reformers, or even to Christians 200 years ago. Times change and we must change with them. The way we “do church” today is so different from the way they “did church.”
The message of the Kingdom is always relevant but our methods of getting that message out have to change to meet the culture we live in. Our American ways of “doing church” may not work in Africa or the Middle East. Do they need our “old time religion”? No, they need the Gospel of the Kingdom, not the message of our individual preferences and likes.
I am not opposed to people who love old hymns and southern gospel style singing. If people want to use only the King James Version Bible then go for it. But, please, for the love of humanity, stop thinking that this is going to be what saves America. It isn’t. What will save America is the Church loving people as Christ has loved us. It’s going to be when we get out of our pews and chairs and start serving the world where they are and not expecting them to come to us.
Please hear my heart….I am not criticizing or judging any church that likes it’s “old time religion.” I am just tired of seeing Christians say that we need to get back to “old time singing and preaching” as if that is what is going to turn things around. It will not.
What is going to turn things around is when we start listening to the stories of people and just love them where they are. It’s going to turn around when we stop demonizing our so-called “enemies” and start loving, blessing and praying for them. It’s going to turn around when we start seeing Jesus at work in all people because of His great love for them.
So, please don’t give me old time religion. Don’t give me current, modern religion. Don’t give me religion at all. Give me Jesus! Give me souls that are broken and hurting. Give me people that no one else wants. Give me people that are the least, the lost and the last. Give me the hungry and the naked.
Better yet, why don’t I just go give them me by serving them, loving them and showing them what incredible worth they have to God.