Traditional—Contemporary—Scriptural, Which?

by Terry Sanders

The Madison church of Christ is located in Madison, TN, a suburb of Nashville, TN. I have never attended a service there, but I have, out of curiosity, been past the building a time or two. Madison was one of the largest Churches of Christ in the world with a one-time membership of 4000+ (yes, that is four thousand). It was the home of the Amazing Grace Bible Class that used to be on many TV stations while taught by the late Ira North (former co-editor of the Gospel Advocate). It goes without saying that Madison has been at the vanguard of liberalism for a number of years.

Recently Madison has experienced serious trouble and division. They had two worship services on Sunday morning sandwiched around their Bible classes. During one of their services they began offering what they called a “contemporary service” which was held simultaneously with a “traditional service” though in a different part of the building. The “contemporary service” was marked by a very emotional atmosphere (hand clapping, hands raised, hands held, lights dimmed, “praise teams” with small group singing, etc.) including female “leaders.” Soon there was some politicking for the “contemporary service” to replace the “traditional service.” Division occurred and acrimony remains.

Through all of this “contemporary versus traditional services” business, I have had one thought bouncing around in my head. Has anyone at Madison thought of having what used to be called a “Scriptural service?” By this I mean one in which the things which are done are according to the New Testament.

The New Testament reveals that worship should involve “…the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, in the breaking of bread, and in prayers” (Acts 2:42) as well as singing (Eph. 5:19; Heb. 2:12) and giving (1 Cor. 16:1-2). This is not merely “traditional” as change agents pronounce with a certain disdain. It is Scriptural. What do change agents have to offer? That depends on where they stand doctrinally. However, no matter what change agents offer, you can count on one thing—it won’t be from the New Testament! Change agents are usually consistent in promoting emotion rather than truth.

There are things to learn from the Madison fiasco. No matter who you are—big or small—you must be on guard for error and be on the mark in worshipping God in Spirit and in truth (Jn. 4:24).

by Terry Sanders, Cincinnati, Ohio

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