Saturday, January 17, 2009

Ties and Blue Jeans

There are a few advantages to being a minister for more years than I would like to recount.  As I count the number of AARP invitations I have gotten in the mail, I am also reflecting on the strange and often bizarre way that church was and is done.

A long time ago in that little church on the hill outside of middle America the trendy motif was the necktie.  Neckties spoke of tradition, reverence, conservative values, and (until the 70s when those awful paisley prints on ties became popular) conservative fashions.  I remember hearing in "yesterday's" church, "We never did it that way before" - the seven last words of the "funding fathers" (and as long as the funding fathers of the church kept the budget balanced, no one dared challenge them).  But then the 60's and the 70's washed over the little church like a tidal wave colored by hippy freedom and libertarian possibilities.  The little church that had nursed itself on evangelical pragmatism intoxicated with a passion for numbers could not resist the "whatever works" mentality of the new era.  Suddenly acoustical guitars were replacing the organ as the primary instrument of melodious accoutrement behind stained glass windows.  In the summer, when the windows of the church were opened, the soft strains of "Cum Ba Yah" could be heard across the valley as the sanctuary choir sang sincerely and sweetly even though they had no idea what "Cum Ba Yah" meant - they traded their "Ebenezer" for latest contemporary chorus.  Suddenly the evangelical landscape was dotted with Christian bookstores selling Jesus t-shirts, bumper stickers; the air waves were filled with Christian music that followed cultural trends, and preachers learned to market the gospel instead of preach the gospel.  The neckties had turned into blue jeans.  Now it was the blue jean era where God was cool, doctrine was out, preaching turned to sharing, and the worst thing a church could do was to not be "cutting edge."  Once, if a young man entered the church with long hair, earrings, a dirty shirt, and blue jeans with holes in them, you would send him to the pastor. Now he is the pastor!

Now church is niched for age groups, life experiences, and whatever seems to be trendy and culturally fashionable.  Now people in the church, wearing their blue jeans and flip-flops, drinking their lattes from Starbucks want nothing to do with neckties or their dad's way of doing church.  Today is the day when anything goes in church except what has been done in church from the last generation.  It is basically a form of modified teenage-like rebellion.  The contemporary Christian scene has institutionalized the attitude of "I don't want to think, act, talk or be like my dad."  One of the most surprising elements of this not-so-impressive trend is how angry younger aged Christians are with anything related to the previous generation.  They despise patriotism to America, the moral and ethical values of their parents, and expository preaching.  They want nothing to do with the established church; church planting is all the rage.  
Of course, nothing is as consistent as change.  The question is, "What does the coming generation rebel against?  What comes from the 'Latte, blue jean, flip-flop' church?"  I'm kind of scared, kind of curious, kind of ready to close up shop.  Some days that little cabin on the mountain looks really, really good.  

1 comment:

  1. Some people probably felt the same way when Luther wrote hymns to popular bar tunes, or the Jesus movement in the 60's of whom Keith Greene was such a popular member, or the hillsong choruses which became so popular in the '80's. We must be careful not to confuse simple rebellion with the Holy Spirit speaking to a new generation. I've learned a lot about how the Holy Spirit works in different cultures since I've been in Taiwan and the thing I've learned most is to humble myself to the Spirit working in a different way than I'm used to.

    Though, I do understand where you are coming from. I see a lot of the younger generation giving up on their country and the what they were raised with. However, I see your generation do it as well. Was it not your generations James Dobson who said he might not even vote in this last election? Where is the patriotism there? Is he not one of the loudest and most popular voices of your generation? And don't mistake unpatriotic with fed up. Just because many of us may be fed up it is far from being unpatriotic. Real patriots aren't afraid to voice their dissatisfaction.

    Though, you have probably seen your fair share of young people who just fly off and disagree just to be disagreeable, or jump on the liberal campaign without taking into consideration where it is going. Bandwagons are like that, they're going somewhere and you're just along for the ride.

    Anyway, those are just some of my thoughts.

    Peace brother.