The Church of Backtu: The Forward Movement of Faith

If the church somehow doesn’t survive*, thousands of years from now, researchers will discover the church of “Backtu.”

Since Wikipedia will still be around, this will be how the entry will begin.

The Church of Backtu

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Church of Backtu also written Back to was an offshoot of the Christian religion that saw global prominence in antiquity. The etymology for the name of the group can be traced back to late Christian audio recordings from the 21st century, mostly sermons from powerful U.S. American pastors addressed to anyone who would listen. A phrase often heard in the recordings, whose meaning may be lost to history, was “Back to.” It was commonly used in reference to a different historical period on the life of the church, with the overall meaning indicating “some place in the past to which the church should return.” Apparently, during the 21st century, advanced nations didn’t fully grasp the complexities and significant inconveniences of time travel.

Examples of Usage

“The church needs to go ‘back tu’ its roots in the book of Acts.” – Acts was a book in the Christian Bible that described the early church.

“The church needs to get ‘back to’ biblical preaching.” This is an interesting one since it doesn’t reference a historical period directly but rather a time differentiated by an unknown metric. According to historical records, the majority of churches preached sermons based on biblical texts. The issue appeared to be a matter of which biblical texts and interpretations were actually “biblical.” That argument, though seemingly nonsense to modern ears may have made sense in the limited logical understanding of the human race at that moment. They had some other issues as well, including being permanently at war with themselves.

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Okay, that part was meant to be somewhat funny. But maybe it is not.

The church is always trying to go back. Actually, it is not just the church. Many of us long for an earlier time.

“Things were better when…” 

“The world was better when…” 

“The church was growing when…” 

“I was happy when…”

If we could only go back to… Guess what? We can’t. And we shouldn’t. This isn’t an opinion. It is just that you can’t go back in time. There is an illogical nature of the argument. If you were actually to go back, what was, will no longer be what it was, or, you won’t be who you were when it was then.

The sentence is very difficult to read. Again:

If you were actually to go back, what was, will no longer be what it was, or, you won’t be who you were when it was then.

Still confusing. Let’s break it down.

If you were actually to go back – You can’t actually travel in time. But if you could. If you really meant it and you got your wish.

what was, will no longer be what it was – This is tricky. The past is fixed. Sort of. If we want to get back to a point in our own history, it won’t be exactly as we remember it. That is just a function of how we remember things. Our brains store little cues and clues, and as we remember, it reassembles them into what feels like full recollection. But our memories never completely match what is being remembered.

or, you won’t be who you were when it was then. – I admit that is horrible phrasing. If you were to magically transport back to some particular time and space, there is no reason to believe that you would again become the person you were at that moment. Meaning that how you experienced that moment in time the first time will not be how you experience it the second time,

Wanting to go back gets us nowhere. It just leaves us stuck where we are. Why don’t we push forward in the direction we want to go?

History is more like a river than a DVD

History is more like a river than a DVD. You can’t rewind. Say we are paddling down a river, and there is a fork. Right takes us on a pleasant, gentle journey down to the lake. Left takes you over rapids. We aren’t so sure we can handle those rapids. So at the fork, we want to go right. But something goes wrong, and we are going left. And the rapids start up right away. We will be okay. We can handle these rapids. We just need to keep sharp, plan our route, watch where we are going and hang on.

But, the church can’t seem to do that. The church is trying to paddle back up to the fork so it can go to the lake. Honestly, the lake is just ahead, we just need to get through the rapids first. We already made that choice.

Hymnal

To try to bring this back to earth, let’s look at an example. About once a month, I hear the phrase, “The church should go back to using hymnals in worship.” While some churches still sing from hymnals, the use of projected lyrics on screens in worship continues to grow in popularity. Some people are not fans of this. And they are not all anti-technology people. Some speak of the loss of traditional hymnody found in those books and often not found in the contemporary praise songs often projected on screens. Some worry about the loss of the skill of sight-reading with notes. Still, others miss the cohesive nature of hymnals that often mark a consistency of music across a denomination.

But, I have to tell you. There is no going back to hymnals, because we aren’t the same church that used to use hymnals.

Now before you throw a hymnal at me. That doesn’t exclude the possibility that some churches might turn off their projectors and dust off their hymnals. But they won’t be going back. They will be going forward. They can’t return to the time they used hymnals. This is a new time. This is the time they stopped using projection and decided to use hymnals. And there will be growing pains. Here are some:

  • Many who have been staring at screens for a while will realize the text in the hymnals got smaller since last they looked.
  • People who have never used a hymnal might need help making sense of the notes and especially all those funny marks musicians use. Instead of knowing to repeat the chorus because it is still up on the screen, worshippers will have to figure out what a “repeat” looks like.
  • Massive amounts of paper cuts.

But can you imagine how different it would sound if a church said, “We have decided that our next step to grow as a church is to move to a more hymnal based approach to worship”? Or, what if a church decided to figure out what was lost when they moved to screens and decided to find a way to approach reigniting that? Maybe it would be a different way of using screens or a way of using screens and hymn books together. Or perhaps it would be something else altogether.

As you can probably guess, this is not about hymnals. It is about the church and her need to stop trying to go back to something that isn’t there. We all, in our own way, want to go “Backtu.”

There was a moment in the past when we used to do things differently. I was also younger then, and thinner, and my favorite dog was still alive. But I simply can’t go back there. All I can do is try to make the best of where I stand now. And then, we can move forward. Maybe that includes learning some things from the early church. Maybe that means preaching in a different way. But, it never means going back. Because back is no longer there.

I will never pretend to fully “know” the bible, but I have spent a decent chunk of my life studying it. For the life of me, I cannot figure out where it has ever told us to go back to anything. In fact, the entire canon appears to be a clear forward motion from the creation to the final restoration. In fact, going back never really worked out. You can’t go back to Egypt, and you certainly can’t go back to fishing.

*Before you start writing that comment, I feel pretty confident that the Church (capital C) will be around for quite a while. Individual churches and denominations, well that might be another thing.

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