In the last four years of serving in youth ministry I have had ample experiences trying to incorporate some new idea into ministry. By something new, I don’t mean an open bar or stripper poles but a different order of worship, new musical styles/instruments, changed christian mysticism churches and etc. Generally speaking new ideas rarely go well, especially in church. Having conversations on this topic with other local leaders from my own Slavic cultural background, and even a few people from local English congregations, revealed this same phenomenon.
Attempting to try something new (with the hope of being edifying and helpful) can often get one classified as worldly, liberal, or worse “charismatic.” While that sounds pretty cool in English and can land you a job if you put it on your resume, in the Russian community to be called charismatic is actually a very bad thing. Overall the confusion often stems from this idea that the church building/service/culture/tradition is very sacred and derived straight from God, and to change it you must “bring the world into the church.”
OUR SACRED CHURCH ICONS ARE A HOAX
The funny thing is, however, that some of the very items that are gossip generators are in fact not “worldly” but have a biblical history and conversely the “sacred” and traditional church symbols were actually brought from the world recently, just a generation or two ago. Below are some christian hoaxes that are or were believed by all or a part of churches that I have been in, visited, read, or heard about firsthand. I recognize that all churches have the right to their own governance, including choosing how to “do church” my only issue it that the argument that “______ is worldly” is often a lie used to shame anyone who disagrees. If a group of Christians come together and say “we will wear ties because we like it,” God bless them, If they say “we will wear ties because anything else is sin” then it is our job to expose that lie lest it obscures the Gospel.
“Piano/guitar are the only “Christian instruments” – The piano was missing for nearly 1700 years of Christian history. The inventor of this holy instrument was an Italian, Bartolomeo Cristofori. He did this while being employed by Ferdinando de’ Medici, the Grand Prince of Tuscany. The prince who funded the creation of the piano was famous for two things, first being a patron of music, second for his numerous romantic affairs, some with other men. The guitar is commonly thought to descend from bowl harps and tanburs, which are traced back to the ancient Sumerian, Babylonian and Egyptian civilizations. The oldest instrument most closely resembling the guitar is the Egyptian Har-Mose Instrument and most definitely does not come from a Christian church.
“There is a specific church music style, the others are worldly” – There are musical styles that are publicly considered as being church music or gospel music, yet the definition has been different for every country and time period. Churches from Eastern European descent differ dramatically between the West. What is known as gospel music in America, and rejected by secular culture as too religious, is simultaneously ridiculed by many from the Slavic churches as being worldly. I wholeheartedly believe many would reject the music in the Bible as being worldly because it’s so different. Many of today’s songs are in a musical style that is considered holy, sacred, devoted, yet was one hundred years ago secular. The original church organ of generations ago came out of the gladiator fights in the 8th century and into the catholic church. The contemporary version came from bars and pubs and into the church. The music style in Slavic churches today is undeniably worldly, the only issue is that it’s the worldly style from one to two hundred years ago.
“Clapping hands or cheering is worldly” – There were somber periods of church history where persecution, death, disease, and more took away the incentive to be joyful except with tears. Because of that, many still harshly look at expressing emotions with hand clapping or loud voices as being “worldly.” I remember while growing up I was told that clapping was only done by communists at their meetings and bringing it into church is heresy. I understand the psychology behind that, I do, but its hard when a simple bible search will reveal that thousands of years before the communists the God inspired Psalmist instructs all nations to clap for God (Psalm 47:1). And as far as being loud, cheering, and shouting, all of the bible is filled with the instruction to “shout to the Lord.” How can it be secular if God was the one who said it again and again? (2 Chr 15:14, Ezra 3:11, Psalm 27:6, Psalm 100:1, Zechariah 2:10 and etc.