Technology, Millennials, and Church…

From time to time, I hear conversations that go like this:

“Ya know, people just don’t go to church like they used to…I remember when I was a kid, we were there every time the doors were open…”

Eventually, those conversations get to topics like social media, the internet, iPhones, technology…you know how it goes. At that moment, I will sometimes offer a question of my own, something to the effect of:

“Do you have a phone or computer and if so, how often do you check in with your friends, kids, grandkids, neighbors, etc. through that technology?” And often, the response is one like “I don’t do that stuff,” or “why would I do that” or “why do I need that…”

I know that technology, the internet, social media, smartphones and the like all have their perils and pitfalls. The least of which is how they have impaired human communication in a significant way. Just watch this video if you don’t believe me.

But I hear a recurring refrain about this generational gap that exists between millennials and boomers…I hear lots of boomers and others older than that say they wonder why they’re disconnected with younger generations and they don’t understand why they don’t go to church or participate in worship like “they did…”

And it makes me wonder…how can we help those folks, often so resistant to new things, change, and especially technology and social media, bridge that gap with the good side of all that this technological age has provided for us…I think the more we close that gap using some of the wonderful resources out there (that aren’t as hard as the media wants us to think they are), the more we’ll see relationships (which are STILL the most important thing) blossom and bloom where once they might have been prohibited by technology (on both sides of the gap, mind you).

Just fodder for thought. Not a full-blown rant, but something I think about almost daily.

Love for All…yes, ALL.

“The vilest offender who truly believes, will surely, from Jesus, a pardon receive.”

That is a lyric I’ve known all my life…and sung time after time, as I do so many, without it sinking in.

A few weeks ago, I attended something called a HYMNINAR, where I and 10-15 new friends joined together to explore the craft of hymn text writing and what an incredible week it was. That’s a post for another time.

But, over the course of that week, thinking intently and intensely about the lyrics of great hymns, we had a chance to sing a lot. One of the hymns which I don’t think I’d ever led, but had maybe sung a few times was the great hymn, Love for All. The text is by the lesser Longfellow, Samuel. The tune most often associated with it is HORTON (Schnyder) and is 7.7.7.7

While all of this hymn lyric is absolutely stunning, rich and deep with good theology, there’s a particular verse that really stunned me as I sang it. How often have I been the “prodigal” son? More often than I care to admit…but thanks be to God, the Father, waiting and willing, stands, waiting expectantly to receive me…to receive us…each and every time we stray and return.

     See! My Father waiting stands;
See! He reaches out His hands;
God is love, I know, I see,
Love for me, yes, even me.

Incredibly poignant to sing these words and let then sink into your heart.

This is GRACE…this is the GOSPEL.

AMEN.

––––– ––––– ––––– –––––

Here’s the entire lyric:

Love for all! and can it be?
Can I hope it is for me?
I, who strayed so long ago,
Strayed so far, and fell so low!

I, the disobedient child,
Wayward, passionate, and wild;
I, who left my Father’s home
In forbidden ways to roam!

I, who spurned his loving hold,
I, who would not be controlled;
I, who would not hear his call,
I, the willful prodigal!

I, who wasted and misspent
Every talent he had lent;
I, who sinned again, again,
Giving every passion reign!

To my Father can I go?
At his feet myself I’ll throw,
In his house there yet may be
Place, a servant’s place for me.

See, my Father waiting stands;
See, he reaches out his hands:
God is love! I know, I see,
Love for me–yes, even me.

(Love for All, hymnary.org)

A New Perspective…from the Pulpit…the Preaching Life.

I’ve always been a part of the local church.

It’s always been an important part of my life.

For the last 19 years, I’ve been in worship leadership, from churches of 20 to churches of 2200…and everywhere in between.

But now, my leadership perspective is different from the preaching position. Every day is a new challenge. Every day, I am continually reminded and every day I see and feel the need to do everything I can to love, respect, and to a certain degree, protect the church that I”m so Blessed to serve. Yes I know, being the “church protector” is really not in any preacher’s written job description. But one thing I’ve learned in the short time (just over a year) that I’ve been preaching every Sunday (as opposed to leading worship), is that I see the relationships, the good, the bad, the fractures, the brokenness, and I’m brought into situations that are directly affected by and, in a sort of cycle, can directly affect the unity of the Church. And I seem to have this feeling welling up inside me that makes me feel like a big part of my responsibility is to do whatever I can within my “power” to help protect and unify Christ’s body, the church.

Combine that with the fact that I’m in a place where everything seems to come back to  Matthew 18, and the key teaching Jesus offers there. I remember the first time I ever really was challenged about this incredibly important word from Jesus on relationships, conflict, and the way Christ calls us to deal with each other as members of Christ’s body and as kingdom disciples.

One way Satan continually attacks the Church is through gossip…within, and outside of the church.

Guard your ears, don’t believe hearsay, and don’t contribute to it. Just because you hear something from someone who knows someone who used to go to your church and they say something, doesn’t mean its accurate!

We are the body of Christ. We need each other. The “world” is watching and sees when we are fractured by broken relationships, rumors, and by people who think it’s their place to “talk” about what they perceive to be correct about what’s going on “at church.” Church is People. Let’s love each other, serve each other. You want to know one reason the church finds itself in our current situation? When people look at us, they see people bickering, gossiping behind each other’s backs. Is that the kind of reputation Christ’s body is deserving of? Is that the type of Church that can make a difference in a community?

Be the difference you wish to see in the Church.

Law of Love…Gospel of Peace

Here’s another piece I wrote last year (or year before?) on a lyric that oft gets “sung over” without allowing the power to sink in. Think about it when you sing “O Holy Night” this year!

“Law of Love and Gospel of Peace”

Last Christmas, I wrote this post amidst a sea of unrest, politically and otherwise.  In light of recent tragic events, especially in Orlando, I’m reposting it here today.

There has been a lot of swirling conversation going on around me, both physically and virtually, about what has gone on in the world around us these last few weeks…Syria, San Bernardino, Jerry Falwell…and on and on.  It was so much that today, I’d had enough and I needed a moment to just sit, be, listen and be quiet…in the quiet, I was overcome by the lyrics of one of the world’s most beloved Christmas Carols…and I had to write a bit about it.  I’ll come back to the other verses and the backstory of this wonderful Adolphe Adam carol, Cantique de Noel, on another day.

[And I will return to my series of posts on “O Come, O Come, Emmanuel,” later this week.  But for a moment today, amidst the hatred, vitriolic speech, harsh judgment and language found in my Facebook feed and in other social and news media, I paused today just to breathe in and claim the lyrics of a Christmas Carol that so many love…but I’m afraid to have sung too glibly over the years.]

The third verse of “Oh Holy Night” speaks of a world in which those who claim to follow Jesus are living out he calls all of his followers to in his subversive Gospel.

That Gospel is deeply rooted in Love of God and Love of Others…and so many claim the first part of that Call…the part about loving God.  But the back half…well, I’m afraid some have given Christ a bad name in how we’ve lived that out in recent days, weeks and months…that love of “others” is not one we can or should place provisions or privileges on…it’s unconditional love for all of our brothers and sisters…Cantique-002

 

“Truly He taught us
to love one another;
His law is Love
and His gospel is Peace;
Chains shall he break,
for the slave is our brother,
And in his name
all oppression shall cease,
Sweet hymns of joy
in grateful Chorus raise we;
Let all within us praise
his Holy name!”

 

Come, Lord Jesus!