The South was once known as the “Bible Belt.” A culture rich in spiritual heritage. Whether or not your immediate family went to church every Sunday, more than likely one of your neighbors or other family members did.
It seemed back in the 30’s through the 80’s every family had someone in the ministry…either a Dad, Grandpa, brother, uncle, or cousin preaching the Gospel. Many families were blessed to a build a legacy of fine preachers including Grandpa, Dad, and Grandsons. Going to church and knowing about Jesus was a way of life in the Bible-belt. Many of our public school teachers were also Sunday school teachers and school principals often served as deacons and sang in the choir. We all loved and sang the same favorite Hymns and spiritual songs…”This is My Story,” “Tell Me the Story of Jesus,” “Victory in Jesus,” and “I’ll Fly Away.”
Back then, funerals were attended by all family members, friends, and neighbors, even when they were held on a Monday or Thursday afternoon. And, back then people cried over the death of a loved one. It was accepted and expected to show grief. Who doesn’t remember Grandma crying over the casket of Grandpa and telling him that she’d meet him in Heaven causing your own heart to break even more. Evidence of living the Christian faith was never far from our eyes and ears in the Bible-belt.
In those days neighbors knew their neighbors and were kind and caring one of another; especially when sickness or tough times came around…Kindness and caring were something we were taught and expected to conduct. So, what happened?
Somewhere around the mid to late 90’s things started changing not only in the South, but all over the globe…and not for the good in my opinion…Children were no longer disciplined or expected to carry out “old” family traditions…Sunday night services in many churches gave way to “family and friend” time spent at ballparks and other weekend adventures. Neighbors started keeping their doors shut and their lives private. People no longer got off of work to attend the funeral of an extended family member or neighbor. Eulogies and Memorials took over the Preacher’s messages regarding Heaven and Hell; no one wanted to hear the Gospel preached or sad songs that made you cry. Church services got shorter and shorter…Revival meetings went from seven days a week down to three, then eventually down to one Sunday morning service. Stores and businesses couldn’t get enough profits in six days, so they extended work hours to 24/7. Money and pleasure became our nation’s god. And, somewhere in the midst of it all, it no longer mattered if your Dad or grandpa was an old-fashioned preacher or not because there were dozens of new Bible translations and dozens of new ways to “worship.” Different style churches sprang up in malls, shopping centers, and school gyms. Preachers and Pastors no longer wore suits and preached behind a pulpit, but rather wore dress-down jeans with a t-shirt and preached on a stage.
In this new, modern-day culture, people were given the choice to choose which style of “church” they want to attend, or not attend. It became perfectly acceptable to not attend an organized church at all. Religion really didn’t matter any longer…Just do whatever is right in your own eyes. It became apparent that man had once again become his own god.
Community churches advertising under the motto, “Come as you are” not “Just as I Am” began to spring up in the 90’s taking over the old, traditional style of church service and Worship. Doctrine and denominations were considered bad words no longer an important part of church training. “Sins” were no longer named or mentioned. It was no longer expected to wear your “Sunday” best, because anything from short-shorts to bathing suits were accepted. Church was all about having fun and being entertained.
Old-fashioned white sanctuary walls with white ceilings were painted black with strobe lights hung to accommodate a new form of non-traditional, contemporary head-banging and jumping up and down style of “worship” replacing the old-fashioned type of repentance of holding up “holy” hands unto a Holy God. Why? Because, God, in this new culture, is now “cool,” known as JC who loves the sinner as well as the sin; no matter what it is. This new Jesus loves all choices and rejects none…There are no boundaries on his love (which is absolute truth!) for mankind, nor boundaries on our sins, because JC has changed…”Sin” doesn’t need to be named or preached any longer, because we’re all going to Heaven no matter how we choose to live! Repentance is no longer preached or required…just come as you are and stay as you are…Simply put…Be Happy…Do as you please…Jesus doesn’t mind…We’re all good somehow and we’re all going to Heaven in a little row-boat!
Parts of this “new” theology is sound, Biblical Truth. God, through His Son Jesus Christ, does love ALL of mankind and is willing that “ALL” come to a place of repentance (turning away from sin) calling upon the name of Jesus for Salvation. Even though Jesus loves the “sinner,” the Bible plainly teaches that He hates sin. HE always has and always will hate sin…The most important part that’s being left out in many of our modern-day churches is the doctrine of “Sin.” The fact is that sin destroys and kills…It’s only remedy is a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Jesus is our only Hope and our only way to God…The Bible teaches that, “For God so loved the world that HE gave His only begotten son that whosoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Yes; God loves the whole world, but when GOD enters into our lives in the form of His Son, Jesus…our lives change and we migrate away from “sins” of the flesh to a new way of living pressing towards to the mark of the higher calling found in Christ Jesus.
Yes; more than ever we need the South, North, East, and West to rise again looking unto Jesus the author and finisher of our Faith. We need to walk across our yards and paths greeting our neighbors in the love of Christ inviting them into our lives and our churches. We need to place our focus and attention back on God by putting HIS Word as priority in our hearts and lives over other interests including pleasure-seeking and entertainment. And, we need to humble ourselves, repent, and seek His face so that our “land” may be healed (II Chronicles 7:14). Ask anyone…We are living in perilous times.
Yes; I’m glad to have been raised in the South with its long summer nights, sweetened tea, neighborly visits on the front porch, Sunday school quarterlies, powerful Hell and brimstone messages from the pulpits, both Great-Grandpa and Grandpa being preachers, married to a preacher, raising our daughters in an old-fashioned, traditional Baptist church, and praying for our grandchildren to continue in the old-paths all the way to Glory.
There is no doubt that Change is good…New is good…But, the Bible teaches that GOD never changes…HE is the same yesterday, today, and forever more…HE is our anchor of Hope in all things and in all ways. It is my prayer that whether you are from the North, South, East, or West, or any other nation on earth that you may come to know the GOD of the Bible through His Son, Jesus Christ, as your Lord and Savior. May the true Church rise and be known as the “Bible-belt” to the entire world…
Linda Rollins, M.Ed.