This past weekend I had the privilege to do a wedding for a young couple I've known for several years. I love doing weddings for several reasons - first of all, weddings are just beautiful and I'm not ashamed to say I'll typically tear up at some point during a wedding; but weddings also give me the opportunity to counsel the couple in the Gospel as well as giving me an opportunity to proclaim the Gospel to a group who may not hear it otherwise.
This particular wedding was up in a venue called "The Willows" near Cleveland, AL ... actually just outside of Cleveland in the community of Nectar. If you know where any of this is you also know you can't get there from here (or wherever you are); it is way out yonder! It was a beautiful place, but literally in the middle of nowhere - just over an hour's drive from Moody. Everyone was given very specific instructions in the days prior to the wedding to NOT follow GPS directions to this particular place because it would lead you astray. Instead we were to follow the typed out and printed directions that the wedding director gave everyone. Of course, out of curiosity I had to check this out and see where the GPS directions would take me. Naturally the GPS directions were more direct, easier to follow, less turns, and just made more sense. So what were we to do ... ignore the instruction of someone who actually knew and trust the latest and greatest technology or heed the warning and follow the certain route given us by the wedding director? This was literally a battle in my mind ... in fact, so much so that I figured out how to follow GPS directions up to a certain point and then follow the written out ones. I guess I've just been conditioned to believe that anything new with updated technology simply has to be better than the old way of doing things.
Unfortunately this same attitude carries over into the life of the individual Christian and into the life of the church itself. Surely the newest trends are better than old traditions; surely the latest book written on a subject is better than those written in generations past; surely the newest interpretation of a Bible passage is more accurate than the historic and orthodox interpretation; surely the new worship songs are more meaningful than the old ones; surely the newest and latest technology makes our worship more significant; surely the new way to phrase a theological concept, church program, or spiritual discipline is better than the old way; surely the trendiest approach to church life will appeal to more people than will historical customs; surely anything new is better than anything old.
I'm not against GPS or any other cutting edge technology; I find these things to be extremely helpful. I'm certainly not against being relevant to our culture and making sure that everything we do is appropriate and understandable for our day and time. What I am against is the constant, non-stop tendency of the modern church to be trendy, marketable, and popular. We're training Christians to be consumers more than we're equipping them to be disciples.
Just as it's hard to accept the fact that a GPS may actually give wrong information it's hard to accept that something new may not be as good as something old. Christianity isn't new; it wasn't invented in America; this current generation didn't finally figure out what every previous generation missed. Let's stop looking for the newest and quickest way to be a popular and successful Christian. Sometimes those new ways lead us astray and take us to an unwanted destination. Rather, let's embrace the ancient way of taking up your cross which is really the only legitimate way God offers. In our commitment to be culturally relevant (which, again, is a good thing) let's not sacrifice our good, historic, and orthodox traditions which anchor us to God's people of the past.