Thursday, August 08, 2013

Eight Track Tapes verses iPods

Ezra 3:10-13
10 When the builders laid the foundation of the temple of the Lord, the priests in their vestments were stationed to praise the Lord with trumpets, and the Levites, the sons of Asaph, with cymbals, according to the directions of King David of Israel; 11 and they sang responsively, praising and giving thanks to the Lord,

“For he is good,
for his steadfast love endures forever toward Israel.”

And all the people responded with a great shout when they praised the Lord, because the foundation of the house of the Lord was laid. 12 But many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house, though many shouted aloud for joy, 13 so that the people could not distinguish the sound of the joyful shout from the sound of the people’s weeping, for the people shouted so loudly that the sound was heard far away.
First Timothy 4:12-16
12 Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity. 13 Until I arrive, give attention to the public reading of scripture,[e] to exhorting, to teaching. 14 Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you through prophecy with the laying on of hands by the council of elders.[f] 15 Put these things into practice, devote yourself to them, so that all may see your progress. 16 Pay close attention to yourself and to your teaching; continue in these things, for in doing this you will save both yourself and your hearers.
            Today is a day that we welcome Jimmy Steele as our new Director of Youth and Family Ministries.


            Jimmy takes the tasks that have been handled by our interns Jody and Paul, and by a host of associate pastors and other youth directors.  In addition, we are adding the work of ministry to college students and to families. 


            The ministry to families will be something we will develop in the months ahead, but the ministry to the middle school and high school students is already and full swing and waiting for Jimmy to jump in.


            Ministry to youth.


            How hard can that be?  You go to fun places like Universal for events like Rock the Universe.  Take a bus load to Montreat.  Eat lots of pizza on Sunday nights.


            Hmmm – youth ministry.  So easy!


            Did you know that 70% of youth stop attending church when they graduate high school? 


            That’s why we have added college age ministry to this job description.


            Amazing – 70% stop attending church.  Yep, good luck with that Jimmy.


            So I’ve been thinking – what can we do as a church to help Jimmy.  He can’t do it alone. 



            First of all, forget this foolishness that the youth are the future of the church.  If you ever want to upset a youth director in a church, make that comment that the youth are the future of the church, and you will get an earful about how the youth are not the future of the church – they ARE the church today.


            The youth are not SOMEDAY going to become members, they are part of our church community NOW. 


            In the New Testament book of First Timothy, Paul writes, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”


            For Paul, a young person was not the future of the church – but the present of the church. 


            That means that the youth don’t need to wait until they have grey hair, or no hair, to be part of the church, they are a vital part of the church community right now.


            Second, because the youth are the present, and not the future of the church, the non-so-young have to get used to the fact that the youth see things differently – and it may well be that they see things better.


            In Ezra, our Old Testament lesson for today, something interesting is going on.  Something exciting.  They are rebuilding the temple.  It was destroyed 66 years earlier, but now they are rebuilding it and they have laid the foundation.  So they have a great worship service.  The priests are in their finest vestments.  The choirs are signing.  The musicians are playing their instruments.  The young are shouting with joy. 


            But – the Bible says “many of the priests and Levites and heads of families, old people who had seen the first house on its foundations, wept with a loud voice when they saw this house.” 


            It is so easy for people to say, “Back in my day – things were better.  We had a better temple.  We had better music.  We had better worship.  We had better fellowship activities.”


            The church is changing, and we need to get used to that – and more than that, we need to rejoice when the church changes.  We should rejoice because when the church changes it is probably because Jesus Christ, who alone is the head of the church, is bringing these changes about.


            The church is the most adaptable organization in history.  The Presbyterian motto is “reformed and always reforming.”  You know what happens when an organization refuses to change?  It dies.


            AT&T – anyone know what those initials mean? 


            American Telephone and TELEGRAPH.  Telegraph?  Does anyone other than Boy Scouts even learn Morse Code today, and are there any operating telegraph machines today?  Maybe, but not many.  But AT&T is still a large company, earning $32 billion in revenue in 2012.  AT&T was founded in 1885, but it changed and adapted.  Along they way they understood that they were not in the telegraph business but the COMMUNICATION business.  Instead of telegraph machines, today they are into cable television, cell phones and internet technology. 


            They changed and adapted.


            On the other hand, there is the Kodak company.


            Back in my day, Kodak ruled the world’s photography culture.  Back in my day, I took photographs with a camera that held a roll of film.  Then I took the film in my dark room and developed the negatives.  When the negatives dried I put the negatives into an enlarger and projected an image on paper, then dipped the paper into a developing solution then a solution of fixer and let that paper dry.


            Today, I take a picture with my telephone and in an instant I post it on Facebook and people all over the world can see it.


            Kodak was slow to change.  If you bought stock in that company in 1990 it would be worth 97% LESS than you paid for it.


            The church is changing because we are being led by God to change and to adapt.  Don’t cry about it.  Rejoice. 


            We will sing the old familiar hymns, but we will sing new hymns that aren’t in the hymnbook but are on the radio.  We will still enjoy the organ and the violin and the flute and piano, but we should also welcome the guitar and drums.  People will dress differently, worship differently, find new ways to do things – and that is fine.  Because Christ is leading this church to new things.


            When I was in seminary, I used to spend time in the archives of the library.  I was fascinated with the fact that they had diaries that belonged to former students and professors.  One of these diaries was written in the late 1800s.  It was written by a young college student.  In one of the entries of the diary, this young man was excited about the new preacher at church.  But he said the old people didn’t like the new preacher.  The reason the old people didn’t like the new preacher is because the new preacher’s sermons were too short – they only lasted 50 minutes.  So worship was less than 2 hours long.  And to top it off, the new minister did not have a beard!  How can a person have any wisdom if he is too young to grow a beard!


            Things change in the church – and that is a good thing.


            How many people here still use 8 tracks to listen to music?


            How many people have no clue what I’m talking about when I talk about 8 track tapes? 


            They were big fat cartridges that played music, they often got jammed up, and if you wanted to listen to a particular song, you had to listen to the entire tape because there was no way to rewind it.


            But – in 1973 people loved these things.  Everyone wanted to have an 8 track player in their car.


            Now let me ask you – how many have iPods or other digital music divices?


            Things change – and so does the church. 


            And the young people who are NOT the future of the church, but the present of the church, are going to bring changes – and we need to welcome that.


            We should not be like the old people of Ezra and weep over the things that used to be, but rather we should rejoice at where God is moving us forward. 


            So – our question today is how we can help Jimmy with his new ministry to youth here at Grace Covenant.  First, we should know that the youth are not the future but the present church here and now.  Second, we should be excited and joyful over the new things God does with and through the youth.


            A third thing we should do is to be faithful.  What will turn more young people away from the church more than anything else is our hypocrisy. 


            Hypocrisy was, as far as I can determine, the one thing that most distressed Jesus in his earthly ministry.  He had very little patience for it.


            Paul in the New Testament lesson tells young Timothy, “Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”


            That is good advice for people of all ages – we need to live the Gospel.  Set a good example for one another.  Our speech should be Christian.  Our conduct should be Christian. 


St. Francis of Assisi once said, “Preach the Gospel at all times and when necessary use words.”  By that he meant that the best sermon we preach is not with words but with actions. 


If the older people here want our young people to have faith – then the older people should show faith, live faith.


One last thing – and this is for those who are in middle school, high school, or college.  If Jimmy is to succeed at his ministry here, he needs something that only you young people can give. 


It is found in Paul’s letter to young Timothy – we read from it a few moments ago in our Scripture lesson. 


Do not neglect the gift that is in you.”


God has given you gifts.  Use them.  Don’t neglect them. 
If it is music, we want to hear you sing or play musical instruments in worship.
If it is public speaking, tell me and we'll let you read the Scripture or lead in prayers on Sunday.
If it is working with younger kids - let Candy know.  Vacation Bible School is over, but there are always ways we need your help.
If it is creativity, then barge into one of our committees and give us an air of fresh ideas for what we are doing in this church, your church.

Copyright 2013
Maynard Pittendreigh