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One News Now

Churches and Old Johnny- One-Note

By Dr. Mark H. Creech

Zig Ziglar tells this great story about an old boy from down home who several years ago won a bass fiddle in a drawing. It came complete with an instruction book. But unfortunately, every page – except page one – had been torn out. All that was left was a single picture showing the left hand in one position at the top of the fiddle and the other hand with the bow in a position across the strings near the middle of the bass fiddle.

The old boy thought that was THE position for playing the bass fiddle, so he carefully noted the position of each hand and started pulling the bow back and forth. Obviously, he was “Old Johnny-One-Note.” Back and forth he drew the bow, and the gruesome sound came forth. He was most diligent in his practice and did it every single day.

Needless to say, his wife was soon climbing the walls. Then one day she went to a concert and, as it happened, sat next to the orchestra within a few feet of the bass fiddle. She was most intrigued with the way the man moved his hand up and down the strings while he repeatedly changed the bow’s position. He made fast strokes and slow strokes, pulling the bow all over the strings. The music was beautiful. So the wife returned home very excited about what she had seen and found old Johnny-One-Note playing his fiddle.

Knowing his nature and not wanting to upset him, she graciously said to him, “Honey, may I ask you a question?” Without breaking a stride or slowing down in the slightest, he said, “Sure, go ahead.” She then replied, “Well, when I went to the concert I noticed that the bass fiddle player kept moving his left hand up and down, left and right, while his right hand moved slowly on occasion and rapidly on others. Sometimes he would move it in a number of different spots. I was just curious as to why you suppose he was moving his hands and the bow in so many different ways and places, while you always hold your hands and bow in the same spot.

The old boy never hesitated. Continuing to play, he simply said, “The answer is easy. That old boy’s still a’lookin for his place, when I done found mine!”

You know, that may explain the reason for the decline of so many of our churches and why America is in the greatest moral meltdown in its history. Churches have been doing things the same way for so long, they’ve lost touch with their God-given purpose, which is to change our world for Christ’s sake. They assume the way they’ve been doing church for years is right, not realizing that they’re just “Johnny-One Note” institutions, caught up in their traditions, and seemingly unable and sometimes even unwilling to see the untold possibilities for advancing the cause of Jesus Christ.

Don Wildemon, who founded the American Family Association, said something a few years ago that I believe addresses this issue. Allow me to loosely share his remarks:

Today 4,000 innocent precious lives of unborn babies were snuffed out.

And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.

The networks make a mockery of Christians, the Christian faith and Christian values with nearly every show they air. Greed, materialism, violence and sexual immorality are standard fare. Program after program, movie after movie contains anti-Christian episodes and plots. News articles condescendingly refer to those “fundamentalist, right-wing Christians”. Those who speak out for the sacredness of life are branded as extremists.

And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.

Teenage suicide is the highest it has ever been. Christian morality cannot be taught in the public schools, but atheistic immorality can.

And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.

Rape has increased 700 percent in the last fifty years, and that does take into consideration the population growth.

And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.

[Certain forms of] rock music have filled the airwaves and our children’s minds with compositions that legitimize rape, murder, forced sex, sadomasochism, adultery, satanic worship, etc.

And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.

A majority of states now have lotteries [gambling has been legalized and is no longer considered a crime or a vice, but harmless entertainment].

And hundreds of thousands of pulpits are silent.

What important matters are being dealt with in our churches?

Well, the church bulletin says there will be a meeting to plan the church-wide supper. We are raising money to put a new floor cover in the kitchen. The old one doesn’t match the new stove and refrigerator, and we must certainly deal with important things first.

The sermon subject last Sunday was “How to Have a Positive Attitude”.

[And best of all] we are organizing a softball team.

Wow! Those words are a powerful, yet accurate indictment of today’s church.

Yet the scriptures teach that Christ expects his church to make a difference. “You are the salt of the earth…” said Jesus (Matthew 5:13). In Jesus’ day, salt was used as a preservative to keep food from corruption. Jesus was arguing that when Christians function according to their calling, there’s redemption and the culture is protected from becoming completely rotten.

But does Jesus’ description of the church match that of our churches today? Hardly! It seems more often than not, churches are being negatively changed by the culture rather than being agents of righteous change in the world.

Something is wrong – very wrong. Much of the church isn’t playing all the notes. It’s in a rut, doing the same old things year after year, playing its carnal conventional one tone, never exiting its comfort zones, and never really performing the concerto for salvation of soul and society it was destined.

Martin Luther, that great spiritual giant of a man during Reformation days admonished, “The Devil should not be allowed to keep all the best tunes for himself.” Indeed, but this is exactly what happens when the church neglects to bring the gospel to bear upon every aspect and intrusion of human society – our neighborhoods – our schools – our government – our literature and arts – our sports arenas – our entertainment – our news media and scientific endeavors. We abdicate society to the control of the Great Spoiler. And like a pied piper he plays luring away the children of the world to forever be lost.

May God grant his church grace to repent and become the agents of righteous transformation that Christ commands. Otherwise, we’re destined to be Johnny-One-Note institutions consigned to irrelevance and doomed to fail with the culture we were meant to seek and save.