My father and mother grew up during the Great Depression. I grew up hearing stories about it. I loved to hear my father tell stories about his early years. He was an amazing man who decided one day that his family would not endure the hardships he endured. He worked hard at everything he did and was successful. He was never rich in worldly goods, but he certainly raised himself above his early childhood poverty.
One of my favorite stories he told was that during the Depression, his mom made a lot of soup. He said “We had a big piece of meat to cook the soup with but we were not allowed to eat the meat. It was for flavor only. One day the neighbors who were worse off than we asked if they could borrow the meat to cook some turnip greens. Of course we were willing to help the neighbors. When they brought the meat back to us, the turnip greens had ruined the meat and now the soup tasted like turnip greens. The neighbors ruined our only bit of flavor. So to get rid of the turnip green taste mom had to water down the soup.” I always thought it was a joke, but my mom told me he was serious.
We are fortunate to have so many choices at our disposal every day, that the idea of that is foreign to us. Actually the idea of having to cook every day and use a piece of meet over and over to get flavor is like a story out of some kind of fiction novel. We can have anything we want, with any kind of topping or flavoring. We can have hot , cold, medium. We can put mustard or mayo or whatever we want on anything. We don’t need used meat.
The problem with this is…we have too many choices for it to be healthy for us physically, emotionally, and spiritually. We have a plethora of choices on everything from banks. to sports. to travel. to eating. to lifestyles. We are overwhelmed with choices every day. We are constantly being “sold” something 24/7. You can buy jewelry all night long. Or that next big exercise machine that is guaranteed to give you rock hard abs in 10 days. You can have a mattress delivered to your door and just unbox it and have a wonderful sleep filled night with no joint issues tomorrow. It’s magic….Everything is magic.
But, what have we traded for all the convenience? We see the same thing happening to us in our politics, our media, our churches, our comedy, our entertainment, our education. We can go to concerts, vacations, etc, if we are willing to give up something. The “meat” of our lives is being ruined by the neighbor’s turnip greens.
Now we have “ordained ministers” who are calling for the bible to be re-written to agree with abortion and other social issues of the day. We have any number of theological ideas to satisfy the ever growing hunger of people’s souls. We have lives with ruined meat.
My dad said my grandmother would use beans and potatoes and all sorts of veggies in that soup. But when the meat got ruined, it just did not satisfy any longer. He said that when other people came, my grandmother put more water in the soup so there would be enough to go around. We sadly are living in a tasteless world. Our moral compass has been hijacked by the powers that seek to destroy. They are ruining the meat with a warfare against all that is holy and pure like we have never seen before.
Relevance? Yes we need that. I do not intend to imply that we should not be aware of our surroundings and the social situations we live among. But what price are we willing to pay to be relevant? Many years ago, I was an itinerant evangelist. I had a degree of success at that. I loved what I did. I still love it and miss it. But to be relevant, I was told I had to be seeker sensitive and a long list of other things.
So, I “watered down the soup”. I admit to having omitted far too much meat from the presentation. My desire to be relevant; to succeed; to build; to re-invent myself took the meat to the neighbors. They ruined it. I always had a new visitors evaluation sheet in my bulletin. I wanted to know what we were doing right and how we could fix any problems. One Sunday someone wrote..”You are not Rick Warren, Joel Osteen, or any of those guys. Be Ron Hamm. Be energized by the spirit like you can be. Be what I felt you were supposed to be this morning. The content was good, the jokes were funny, the presentation was flawless, but the meat was missing”. I still have that sheet in my desk. It propelled me back to my roots.
We need to find the “meat” again. We need to have substance in our lives and families again. We need to establish our families in the faith of our Almighty God. Pentecostals need to be Pentecostal again. Main line denominations need to preach the power of salvation again. We once left church feeling like we had eaten a great meal. We were satiated with the God food that had meat….lots of meat. Preach the word like a dying man to dying men!
I am beginning to write my life story in a few days. I have done much research in my mentor’s journals and my own journal. I no longer want to tell a story. I want to share meat with the reader. I remember as a child sitting at the table after revival service and listening to Harrison Price as he talked to pastors and their families. It was full of meat. How we miss those days.
Don’t loan the meat to the neighbors…..Just grab a big ole piece and hang on. God has not forsaken His church nor this country. He has plenty of wonderful blessings yet for us….
Don’t water down the soup.
A few days ago I made a comment on facebook about being amused at some of the things I hear preachers and speakers say. Then I read the comments and am even more amused at the responses.
Having spent the last 60 years of my life living in ministry, I think I might have seen it all and heard it all. Over and over and over again. One generation after another parroting what they previous generation said and did without the same results.
It has been observed that the beginning every denomination was a movement. There is revolutionary fire in a movement. It consumes hearts and minds and emotions. It drives people to sacrifice and go beyond the normal to achieve whatever the revolution’s narrative is.
Then the Movement, and it’s fire reaches the second generation. Those who stand on the shoulders of the pioneers, see the need to organize the movement and make it more manageable. So, they take that fire and put it in a place that will still give warmth, but might no longer consume. The second generation lives off that fire, It constantly says “This is how we came to turn the world upside down. We have that fire in us and we want to make the managed movement take greater strides. We can tell people exactly how to get things done and change lives and communities. Along the way, the movement does have effect and offends the status quo. But mainly, nothing of real import happens.
By the third generation, denomination becomes an institution. It becomes the curator of the movement. It builds monuments to those who dared to revolt. It no longer even attempts to re discover the purpose of it’s parent movement. Now, it has a network of museums in which it houses the “once upon a time”. mentality of historical movement. Yes we have great history. Yes we can point to the effects of our wonderful denomination/institution. I have no quarrel with that. I love history.
By the fourth generation, those who have inherited it, make the decision to rebrand it. How can we perpetuate this blessed institution to the new generations of people. We need to “rebrand” and work toward selling the same product in a different wrapper. So we begin to dismantle the parts of the institution that seem to be a hinderance and add things that will entice a response to what was originally a fire brand movement that consumed entire populations.
In the past two months or so, I have watched numerous live streams of ministries across a broad spectrum of denominations. I have listened to the ideas on how to have a good marriage, how to raise tolerable (not tolerant) kids, how to manage your time in a hurried up world, I have also heard “what the church needs today is….(replay rants of yesteryear ) and hear a faint amen chorus. I have seen the same results from some of the same people who have preached the same stuff for decades. I have watched people shout and dance and sway and yet….much of it seemed hollow. Why? Because it is not causing a re-newal of the movement. It says nothing about re-discovery.
The end result is that we now have the ability to live stream bad theology as well as good. People who used to preach against “those tv preachers who are after your money” can now have their own show…..and ask for your prayerful support. We don’t want “UN prayerful support”. Rebranding now means that we can offer you an hour of amazing Praise and Worship by a band and back up singers, complete with lights and sound, We can offer you a peaceful time Away from those pesky kids who you have had to deal with all week, Just think…..You and I can sit and enjoy the encounter without being interrupted while we miss out seeing our child reacting to the gospel and YOU the parent missing out of the greatest thing that a parent can experience with their child…..Salvation. We go to the really cool kiosk and are told by a bouncy teen that “wow, like you should have seen Johnny give his heart to Christ this morning”.
I was told once that “people like me” were no longer necessary. I was told that people had moved on in their thinking and in their response. I was told “my style” was out dated. I guess that meant that the results were not needed either.
Let an old man share a lesson with you. People respond to any movement that will give them hope. They are hungry for the real. People need to encounter the Lord of the complete. We want to rejoice in the institution. I’m not singling out any particular one. I have studied and been part of more than one. People NEED the fire of compassion that drives them to get out of their comfort zone. They need to be part of something that is alive and thriving. I am an older man, but that fire I was told was no longer needed has never gone out. It can’t be extinguished. We used to sing an old song. “It’s all over me and it’s keeping me alive”. Maybe it’s a stretch, but we knew that fire well.
I guess the person who shared with me that I (my ministry) was no longer needed or valid was right in the light of those who are in charge of the museum. I suppose relics are to be seen and not heard.
A couple of weeks ago, a young pastor of a large church, completed suicide. People were all aghast and worried. But, like every news cycle of our day, it had a 48 hour effect and we were back to normal. We knew that college football was kicking off. We pushed suicide to the back of our minds and began the cycle all over again.
Stop trying to “rebrand” the wonderful works of God. Re-Discover the FIRE of the Movement. Have it be said of you….’They that have turned the world upside down have come hither also”. Don’t settle for less.