Posted by: rcottrill | April 24, 2017

The Old-Fashioned Meeting

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Words: Herbert Emery Buffum (b. Nov. 13, 1879; d. Oct. 9, 1939)
Music: Herbert Emery Buffum

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Herbert Buffum)

Note: Herbert Emery Buffum was an American evangelist and gospel song writer, with a thousand songs to his credit. When he died, the Los Angeles Times called him “the king of gospel song writers.” Ripley’s Believe It or Not claimed He once wrote twelve songs in an hour. (One would think the quality might suffer in that case!)

Old-fashioned. What do we mean when we label something that way? As various synonyms imply, it’s often not a compliment. We’re saying the thing is no longer in vogue; it’s outdated, outmoded, and obsolete; it’s behind the times and out of style. We know better now.

But the odd thing is that what is old-fashioned today may become the newest fashion tomorrow. Should a man wear a wide tie or a narrow tie with a suit coat–or no tie at all? The fashion comes and goes. Why? Possibly because tie manufacturers want to sell more ties! And what about personal names? If you’ve been an elementary teacher over some years, you know in a classroom there can be a sudden rash of Ashleys, or Justins, then we move on to something else.

Being determined to stay in fashion can be frustrating and expensive. In many cases it cramps self-expression, suggesting it’s more important to be the same as everyone else, rather than being individualistic and creative. This can also lead to a kind of put down. We become fashion snobs, looking down our noses at those who obviously don’t know how things are supposed to be now, as we do.

The passion to be current can sometimes lead to nostalgia over the past, and a realization that perhaps the past ways had some merit after all. We all know that canned soup is rarely as good as what mom makes on the stove at home. Soup manufacturers know it too. And they will use our word on labels, proclaiming the delight of “Old-fashioned Clam Chowder,” and so on. Our hurry-up society may require short-cuts, but we may also sacrifice quality in the process.

Before we abandon something that’s effective and satisfying, just because the fashion police have criticized it, we need to ask some basic questions. Why is this considered old-fashioned? Who says so? And is it true? This applies clearly to the Christian gospel, and to the practices of generations of Christians.

The traditional services of the church have become, for too many congregations, noisy celebrations and times of entertainment. They’ve discarded the hymn books and replaced them with shallow contemporary songs. Powerful sermons have degenerated into short sermonettes, leaning heavily on psychology, sociology, and touching illustrations. Prayer meetings, where they haven’t been abandoned altogether, have become listless affairs, poorly attended, and lacking old-time passion.

Does this overstate it? Definitely not in some cases. Perhaps those who’ve followed a current spiritual fads need to reconsider. “Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong” (Exod. 23:2, NIV). “Remember the days of old, consider the years of many generations. Ask your father, and he will show you; your elders, and they will tell you” (Deut. 32:7). “Ask for the old paths, where the good way is, and walk in it; then you will find rest for your souls” (Jer. 6:16).

In 1922 Herbert Buffum was already seeing trends that bothered him, and he wrote a song about it. Using the label “old-fashioned” ironically thirty-eight times (counting the repeated refrain), his song calls believers to reconsider the possible value in the way things used to be.

1) O how well I remember in the old-fashioned days,
When some old fashioned people had some old-fashioned ways;
In the old-fashioned meetings, as they tarried there
In the old-fashioned manner, how God answered their prayer.

‘Twas and old-fashioned meeting, in an old-fashioned place,
Where some old-fashioned people had some old-fashioned grace:
As an old-fashioned sinner I began to pray,
And God heard me, and saved me in the old-fashioned way.

2) There was singing, such singing of those old-fashioned airs!
There was power, such power in those old-fashioned prayers,
An old-fashioned conviction made the sinner pray,
And the Lord heard and saved him in the old-fashioned way.

1) What trends in churches today do you find distressing?

2) What things described about the churches of years ago would you like to see brought back again?

Wordwise Hymns (none)
The Cyber Hymnal (Herbert Buffum)


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