I am a Christian and attend a Baptist church in Moncton, New Brunswick. I came to know Christ when I was eighteen years old in a Baptist church in Ontario. Over the years, I have travelled around the ecclesiastical world, attending Brethren churches, non-denominational churches, United churches, Anglican churches, Brethren-in-Christ/Wesleyan churches and probably a few that I have forgotten. I attended two Bible schools, but graduated from neither. I did that in the years that I believed that God was calling me into the ministry, but I later realized that He was just calling me to be me, not someone who wore a suit and yelled at people from the pulpit. While I tend to be somewhat conservative regarding the core doctrines of the faith (deity of Christ, salvation, baptism, blood redemption, heaven, hell, etc), I am moderate to liberal when it comes to politics and social issues (same-sex marriage, legalization of marijuana, etc). I believe that you can be a political liberal and be a Christian. God is not necessarily a conservative, nor does being a conservative necessarily makes you a better Christian, more in touch with God, more in tune with heavenly things, or any of the other twisted beliefs that some evangelical conservatives have adopted over the years. If conservative political and social beliefs work for you I am happy for you. I respect people who align themselves with conservatism, socialism and any other political “ism”. My boundary is that you don’t try to impose your “ism” on me.
Evangelical Christianity has changed dramatically over the past forty years. In many ways, Christians have witnessed more of a change in the style and content of worship in the past four decades than perhaps in the past two or three hundred years. When I became a Christian, back in the 1970s, we used the King James Bible, churches still had wooden pews (oh am I ever glad they are gone!), there was a wooden pulpit at the front of the church, a choir loft, a baptistry behind that, possibly a wooden board hanging on a wall facing the pews that listed the songs, on the other side of the sanctuary, a Sunday School board. Men wore suits and women wore dresses. Blue jeans were a sure sign that you were not in good with God and no one would ever think about bringing a coffee to church, let alone a Happy Meal! The only sign of technology was the sound system. More progressive churches might use an overhead projector (remember those?). Everything you needed to know about the church was contained in the bulletin (not completely gone but on its way out), which everyone got when they entered the sanctuary. Oh yes, everyone believed exactly the same things, or at least we all pretended we did. There was a pastor and the deacons, the Sunday School superintendent, the treasurer and a church secretary. Larger churches might have a music minister, but more than likely, the music was done by someone in the church who could read music and sing. Most people drove to church, but in good weather, a fair number of people would just walk as they lived that close to the building. Churches had Sunday evening services and Wednesday night Bible studies. On Wednesday nights, you could dress down — you didn’t have to wear a tie, but a respectable woman would never enter the sanctuary in anything other than a dress. Oh yes, there was the altar table at the front of the church from which communion was served and a huge Bible was placed at other times. Most Christians regarded the church as an exclusive entity. You conformed to the image of the church, not the other way round.
So, what’s different now? Just delete everything after the first sentence of the above paragraph. The church that I attend has nice padded chairs, no pulpit, no choir loft. The pastor, Dave, wears blue jeans to church for most services. We don’t have a Sunday evening service, but we do have a Saturday evening service. It is coffee house style with candles and baskets of potato chips on tables. You can bring a Happy Meal to church with you and no one will think you are weird. We serve coffee, tea, juice and water on a table at the back of the sanctuary and snacks are available throughout the service. Most people wear blue jeans, but smokers have to leave the building to get their nicotine fix. There are no hymnals and most people do not bring a Bible to church. The words to songs are projected on a large screen above what used to be the baptistry (we now use a portable tub) on PowerPoint type slides. The pastor’s main points are projected on the screen and those who follow his messages have sheets of paper where we jot down the major points. There is a stage where the band plays. There is no organ or piano as in the previous church age. The main thrust of modern churches is inclusiveness as opposed to conformity. Many progressive Baptist churches celebrate diversity and encourage debate and discussion on major points of interest to the church. The entire governing structure of the church has changed from the above model. Many churches, including mine, no longer have deacons. The Board replaced them. There are committees that support and assist the Board in its work. The Lead Pastor plays a part, but does not control the church as he would in the previous church age. Women, once subjugated to servanthood in churches are now in leadership and serve as ministers.