The Christian faith is called a “faith” in part because at its core it is confessional. By confessional I do not mean that it acknowledges sins (which, of course, it does), but that it declares affirmations of belief before the world. Christianity is a religion with a content, a body of truths that are embraced and professed. We are distinguished by what we believe.
It sometimes seems that people think the Christian church was born in the twentieth century. The driving force of much church activity today is to be “contemporary” in style, in worship, and in theology. We have witnessed not a mere alteration in style, but a revolution. The church’s architecture has changed from the Gothic or Georgian styles, which sought to communicate the transcendence of God, to that of a civic meeting house and now to a secular odium. Gone is the organ, the chancel, the choir, and the pulpit. These anachronisms are replaced by the synthesizer, the stage, the worship team, and the translucent plastic lectern, which often is removed to make room for the drama team. Stained glass has given way to colored lights that change the ambiance of the stage from chancel to cabaret.
The new worship style is designed for and directed to the unbeliever in an effort to be relevant and to meet postmodern people where they are. The thought seems to be that if the world will not welcome the church into its midst, perhaps the church can welcome the world into its midst. However, it appears to me that this revolution, despite its well-intentioned motives of outreach, is nothing less than the secularization of the church. We are, as the late James M. Boice said, “Doing the Lord’s work in the world’s way.”
I am aware that there is nothing sacrosanct about pipe organs, stained glass, pulpits, pews, and chancels. The early church thrived in the catacombs without the benefit of these accouterments. And we know that traditional church architecture and worship haven’t been “working” everywhere. Magnificent cathedrals in Europe have become museums of the past that antedate the “post-Christian era”—or mausoleums for the death of God.
Since the world has rejected the church in its more traditional forms, it is not surprising that zeal for evangelism has turned to experimental forms and styles, that the Gospel message might get through. The church expresses its faith in different forms and styles in different ages and cultures. As cultures change, so does the style of the church.
However, changes in the church’s style sometimes are driven by a degrading culture. In our day, it has begun with an addition, leading to a subtraction.