TONY ELDER: Being old fashioned can have positive results in church, family

If you heard something described as “old-fashioned” would you consider it to be a positive or negative characteristic?

Some companies intentionally use that term to describe their hamburgers, ice cream, or other products. By doing so they hope to suggest that their product is of better quality than many of its modern counterparts.

During the holidays we may hear various celebrations described as old-fashioned, indicating that they embrace certain long-held traditions which some people find meaningful.

On the other hand, “old fashioned’ can be used to describe people or organizations who are living in the past, who aren’t willing to give up their old ways for better ways of doing things, or whose styles and methods are outdated. The term can be used in a derogatory way to characterize those who are out of touch with today’s world.

When it comes to churches and individual Christians, there are those who proudly claim the title “old-fashioned” and others who try to distance themselves as far away from that idea as possible. Some cling to tradition, while others pursue the latest trends. Some see modern technology as tools of the devil to be shunned while others endeavor to use every gadget available in ministry.

While we may need to avoid extremes, I believe there’s room for a wide variety of expression in these matters, depending on our preferences, purposes, and the people to whom we’re ministering.

On the negative side of being old-fashioned, I believe we need to be careful that we aren’t holding on to styles and traditions which no longer have meaning or relevance to people today. We ought to be willing to adjust and change, to be willing to put “new wine into new wineskins,” in order to effectively minister to our present generation.

But on the positive side of being old-fashioned, there are truths, values, and meaningful traditions which should not be abandoned no matter how much society changes. Regardless of how others may look down upon us as being relics or unintellectual, we should adhere to the belief that the Bible is the uniquely inspired word of God.

We should uphold its eternal truths, even when our world is moving away from those long-held concepts, thinking that it knows better today. We need to be old-fashioned enough to believe what God has declared to be right and holy, or wrong and sinful, is still valid.

Public opinion, majority votes, legislative decrees, or court decisions cannot alter God’s unchanging truth.

I also believe we should seek to maintain old-fashioned personal relationships with people. While current technology allows us to stay in contact electronically with more people in more frequent ways, it can also isolate us from actual face-to-face encounters.

Just look around you the next time you’re sitting in a waiting room and notice how many individuals are occupied with their electronic gadgets rather than paying attention to the people surrounding them.

I believe people need more than Facebook friends and video pastors. They need flesh-and-blood brothers and sisters in Christ with whom they can talk, pray, cry, shake hands, and hug.

No matter how contemporary the styles of our churches may be, they should seek to create an old-fashioned family atmosphere where people can personally interact and express the love of God to one another.

Some things from the past need to be changed or discarded. But let’s be old-fashioned enough to cling to the things which are good and unchanging. “Thus says the Lord, Stand in the ways and see, and ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jeremiah 6:16).

The Rev. Tony W. Elder is pastor of Wesley Community Fellowship Church. He can be reached at 770-483-3405 or by e-mail at revtelder@aol.com.