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.