Is Your Assembly Still Wearing Bell Bottoms?

I was in an airport a few weeks ago and a woman turned the corner in front of me. I thought I was in a time warp looking back to the 1970s. She had a flowy white shirt and massive bell bottom blue jeans. I mean massive.

She stood out. She was in a different era. It made me think that I have seen this before in many assemblies. I have walked in and immediately thought I had been transported back in time to a different era.

Why does it matter?

The reality of the changing culture around us is that being relevant makes a difference. It doesn’t mean we compromise our moral standards, it simply means that when someone walks into a church they are met by people like them. They are not turned off by “strangeness” before they even hear the gospel message.

Another aspect of this is for those that are already a part of the fellowship. Looking at the book Acts, church was a part of everyday life. It wasn’t living one way 6 days a week and then doing a massive time shift for meeting with the church.

What can we do about it?

If your assembly is stuck in an era of a previous generation here are a few tips to help. These are not just to look relevant to newcomers but also to create a better connection between church life and daily life.

  1. A building facelift. This one isn’t that tough to do. It does require some money and thought but the concept is simple: bring your facilities into the 2000s. New paint, chairs instead of pews, a modern looking foyer etc. There’s no exact answer but a little can go along way.
  2. Remove old texts. It’s amazing what taking down verse plaques from 1950 with KJV will do to increase relevance. Again, it’s about connecting with the community around you. People do not speak KJV English anymore. So put up verses that are in a modern language.
  3. Don’t make clothing an issue. We have dealt with this issue in full articles but it’s worth stating again. People should be comfortable coming to church in their regular wardrobe (even if they wear bell bottoms). I love it that at my assembly people wear all different styles from very casual to quite dressed up.
  4. Use normal language. We probably don’t realize just how much Christianeze we speak. It is a good exercise to express the truths of the Bible in everyday language. For many churches, attendees don’t have English as their first language so making our speech easy to understand is important.
  5. Sing new songs. This one may be more for your own congregation but it’s important to sing songs that people are singing at home and in the car. It’s a part of making church life congruent with daily life. People should be able to sing on Sunday the songs they love to sing throughout the week.
  6. Be real. Today’s generations are looking for community and relationships. They want to be a part of something that connects their spiritual walk with their lives. They want to find value in a church not just an addon to their already busy lives.


Being relevant is important to bring in new people to your church and to keep the families you have. Prayer and wisdom are needed to make changes that will bring a greater impact to the fellowship of your assembly.

I pray that our assemblies will take these things seriously and consider what they can do to become more relevant in a changing world around us.



  1. Avatar

    One weakness I’ see with U.S. assemblies is that they have no theologians, that I’m aware of. As a result, the assemblies cling to Walvoord, Ryrie, and Macdonald because they have no thought-leaders of their own. Just preachers and evangelists.


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      What is wrong with Walvoord, Ryrie, and Macdonald? I’ll happily read them over the theological flavour of the month that is always floating by today. If they were wrong, then jettison them, but if they were sound, as I believe they were, then they continue to be useful theological sources to help a believer study the Word. It also depends on what your definition of a theologian is. I’d put Dr. John Lennox and David Gooding up as current or recent “thought leaders” who are very helpful indeed!


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        Andrew Williamson

        Agreed, on John Lennox and David Gooding – two extremely helpful ‘thought leaders’. Perhaps part of the reason that assembly believers are behind the curve is that for many years in quite a few companies there was little interaction in thought with Christians from other persuasions, and therefore the gift and ability that many believers may have been able to use has been curtailed by being seen as irrevelant.

        Another excellent ‘thought-leader’ I believe is Alexander Strauch in his ‘Biblical Eldership’ book and website, where he has made a real contribution to the subject within and outwith local assembly settings.

        Just a thought or two – by the way, the article is true in very many ways!



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      all three theologians you mentioned ministered (or have roots) among the assemblies… Walvoord at Park of the Palms, Ryrie’s great-grandfather served as an elder at one of the very first assemblies in America, and MacDonald was one of the most prolific preachers among the Chapel circles…

      There’s also been tons of theologians who have written along their particular lines, as well as historically… I’m confused at the notion that the Brethren haven’t had their own theologians… it seems as though many of the prolific evangelical theologians of the 19th and 20th century have had assembly connections if not also roots.


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    Paul, do you think this lack of relevance is one of the causes that some assemblies are closing their doors due to decreasing number of Christians attending their meetings?


  3. Chuck

    Crawford, well said. Walking into some assemblies is like sitting in my great-aunt Charlotte’s parlor. Everything was just the way she liked it, but not sure I would want to live there with it’s old faded wall paper, everything neatly in place and children couldn’t play, and we all sat upright with tea cups balancing on our knees. Some assemblies may have the truth, but hold it quite stuffily (is that a word?).


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    How does this incorporate headcoverings? When someone walks into church they should see people like them. Wouldn’t they think headcoverings a bit weird?


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      Yes possibly. Without getting into the head covering debate it would be important for each person to have their own conviction on that and follow it. I don’t believe a church should force people to either wear or not wear against their conviction.

      That would probably be listed under biblical conviction unlike any of my points in the article. 🙂


  5. Avatar

    Thanks for a great article. I attend a local assembly that is still listed as being part of the regional baptist convention but functions more like a brethren assembly. We meet in a 140 year old plus church building that doesn’t have running water, (Porta Potty beside the building) and still has the original pews. There are multiple worship leaders, musicians, and speakers. The music ranges from very old hymns to contemporary songs by Keith & Kristen Getty. We presently have a Breaking of Bread meeting once a month. Some women cover their head, and some don’t. In the past two years the attendance has almost tripled. I believe most of the growth has been due to a focus on plainly using scripture to teach and encourage all believers in their daily walk. Just last week we had 5 very public baptisms in the river beside the church. It is especially encouraging to see the wide range of ages that attend on a regular basis.
    Thanks for all the great articles.


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