The times they are a changin'
The world is changing. I often wonder what the ninety year old version of me will look down her nose and shake her finger at. Sixty years ago it was rock 'n' roll, and today those same rebellious teenage rockers are the ones who "tisk tisk" at these twenty first century youth. It stands to reason that, at some point, we all become grumpy old people who rant about the "young'uns".
While it may not be rock 'n' roll that ruffles old lady feathers anymore, there's a whole slew of others things that do the job. Like that hip hop music that all the young people like so much, that seems to go hand in hand with saggy pants. But the worst thing is probably the body art. They have ink and holes everywhere!
I can see why little old people might faint at the sight of some kids today. The face of American adolescence has changed quite dramatically. It's funny to think of what was once considered scandalous, compared to, well, Snooki. I mean really, can you imagine 1950s Snooki?
In my opinion one of the greatest songs ever penned is Bob Dylan's "The time they are a changin'". It's one of those that I listen to and it seems to just warm my soul. I know, I'm a nerd. But when you consider the period in History during which he wrote these words, and what he was trying to accomplish with them, it's easy to get excited. This was the early 1960s, old thought and new thought were at war, and on the brink of a major collision. A collision that would change the country dramatically. Desperate to inspire, Dylan sat down with pen and paper and endeavored to write a big song; a song with a clear purpose. And so he wrote:
"Come gather 'round people
Wherever you roam
And admit that the waters
Around you have grown
And accept it that soon
You'll be drenched to the bone
If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'."
I wish I had the talent and vision that he does, and could write a big song for this generation to rally behind. I wish I had the words to communicate to the youth of today in a way that would lead them away from all the pitfalls of youthfulness, and straight into wisdom. I wish I knew how to break down the well fortified walls that so many of these kids have built around themselves, just long enough to whisper in that they are loved. I wish.
The times they are a changin'. When I look around at these faces, I see brokenness. I see kids who aren't sure of anything. Broken homes, broken families, broken hearts, broken dreams.
There's a gap in our churches today, have you noticed? It's that stage between high school and marriage. Look around on Sunday and see how many representatives you have of that phase of life. They're not coming to church, because they don't see the point.
Many have the "born and raise" background. Raised in the church, never missed a Vacation Bible School, know all of the cheesy bible songs, and can probably quote more Scripture than I can. And yet, when they leave home and head for college, they wave goodbye to pews and church people.
But that's not all of them. There is a whole other group of young people who are absent from the Body. The pagans. You know, third, fourth, and fifth generation unbelievers. Raised by unbelieving parents who were raised by unbelieving parents who were raised by unbelieving parents. Never been to church, never want to go to church, and won't hesitate to tell you so. They don't know Christianese, and they have never put on cardboard armor and pretended to be wearing the full armor of God. But, they have knowledge, they have opinions, and in many cases, they have grudges against Christianity.
My question for you today is, how do we reach these groups?
What they're listening to on their Ipods, how many holes they have in their bodies, and at what level they wear their pants, is not what I'm concerned about. My concern is for the fact that they are getting up each day and going through the motions of life, trying to mend their broken little lives, without Christ.
One of my favorite quotes is by the great Charles Spurgeon: "If God would have painted a yellow stripe on the backs of the elect I would go around lifting shirts. But since He didn't I must preach 'whosoever will' and when 'whatsoever' believes I know that he is one of the elect."
So while I do not know who is among the "elect", I do know that I am called to share the Gospel with all men. Those who have heard, those who have rejected, and those who are convinced that heaven is within their grasp, though they have yet to discover eternal life.
So, again, I ask you how? If the world is changing, do we still rely on old methods to reach into new situations? Or do we progress? Do we allow ourselves to shift, and change, and stretch in gray areas, in order for the crucial black and white to be heard? I believe so.
I want to reach these kids. Inviting them to church won't work, they simply will not come. And so we must employ that cliche tactic of meeting them where they are. In the coffee shops, in the malls, at the tattoo studios, at the secular concerts. And then, step two, is loving them where they are. Setting down our agenda, and building relationships. Then, after days or weeks or possibly years, comes the drawing out. After they have eased into the water and it's no longer frigid, that's when you give the invitation. Not, "Hey why don't you come to church with me and let my pastor tell you about Jesus?" Nope, that's really not the way it's supposed to work. The invitation says:
"There's more to this that I want to show you. If you're ready, and willing, I'd like for you to come with me. I'm not going to push you ahead of me and rush you into anything, I just want you to walk by my side, step by step, together. I want to introduce you to my Savior. I know, I know what you've been shown and told by others, but you know me. You know my heart. All I'm asking is for you to have an open mind, and to hear me out. Walk with me, and experience Jesus for yourself. This isn't about people or pews or religion, it's about you and God. It won't be easy, but I promise to be there when you stumble. And I promise, that when I stumble, I won't hide it from you. Join me?"
The times they are a changin. I don't know about you, but I do not want to be swept away by it all. I don't want to be so anchored in my tradition and comfort that I miss opportunities for growth. So I'd like to invite each of you to do a little stretching. Think outside the box, pray, and let God use you in a way you aren't used to being used. Let Him lead you, even if it goes against your natural grain, and open your mind. When you find your heart hardening toward a particular person or group of people, stop and pray and ask God to soften you. Stop shaking your finger and "tisking", and start pursuing people. Get real, Friends.