We’ve Never Done It That Way Before

Published 11:41 pm Saturday, April 13, 2024

By Michael J. Brooks

A church property committee member complained some “knucklehead” installed the wrong bulbs in a room at church. I had to confess the knucklehead was me. I mistakenly took LED tubes from the supply closet and tried to insert them in fluorescent fixtures.

No damage was done, but no light, either.

Email newsletter signup

This reminded me of the old joke about how many Baptists it takes to change a light bulb. In this case, the correct answer is “two.” But the traditional answer to the pun is, “Change? What’s that?”

Thom Rainer of Church Answers did a recent podcast on change and cited two examples.

One was the traditional offertory time. Covid brought modifications, of course, with offering boxes (by the way, why do some churches lock these?). Rainer said pastors sometimes moved the offertory to the end of the service rather than in the middle, and moving the offertory to a different place in the service often brought conflict.

I don’t know of any scriptural direction on where to schedule the offertory, especially when studies show up to 60 percent of church members today are open to digital giving.

Rainer cited another event I apparently didn’t understand.

Many congregations cover the table on communion days. Evangelicals are familiar with leaders removing the cloth and folding it with precision like a flag at a military graveside.

In one church the custom was for the pastor and deacon chair to do this, but I suggested deacon officers do it instead since it always made me nervous that I’d spill something!

As a young pastor, someone instructed me that the cloth represented the burial shroud of Jesus since the Lord’s Supper “shows the Lord’s death” (1 Corinthians 11:26). But Rainer insisted the cloth was actually intended before air conditioning to keep flies off the table. His point was that some insist this tradition continue, though it may no longer be useful.

A pastor explained how some families placed flowers on the communion table when the Lord’s Supper wasn’t observed, and there seemed to be competition for the best and brightest. Once the arrangement was so tall the pastor couldn’t be seen! He decided to move the table from the pulpit area—called a “split chancel” in liturgical churches. He’s a braver man than me.

Sir Francis Bacon once described Queen Elizabeth, daughter of Henry VIII: “Her majesty loveth peace. Next, she loveth not change.”

Worship traditions are fine as long as they fulfill a purpose and meet needs. But we live in a world of Internet radio, texting and podcasts, so we shouldn’t be afraid of better ways of doing the Lord’s work.

Change need not be an enemy.

As the kids say, it can be a “God thing.”

“Reflections” is a weekly faith column written by Michael J. Brooks, pastor of the Siluria Baptist Church, Alabaster, Alabama. The church’s website is siluriabaptist.com.