Picture this for a moment: you’re a tired, overworked, underpaid and under appreciated door-to-door VCR salesman in 2018. You’ve been in the business for forty years and when you started out things were great. VCRs were flying off the shelves and you couldn’t process orders fast enough. But over the past 15-20 years, business has struggled. No one seems to be wanting to buy VCRs anymore. So you’re angry, you’re frustrated, and if you’re completely honest, you’re a little bitter. You longingly look back to the good old days when people valued VCRs like they should, and you shake your fist at this new generation who doesn’t seem to appreciate a good old fashioned VCR.
Okay, back to reality. Are you at any point feeling sorry for this salesman? Any sympathy? Probably not. Why? Because what in the world is he doing trying to sell VCRs door-to-door in 2018? Culture has changed. People don’t like strangers knocking on their doors unexpectedly. Think back to the last time a stranger knocked on your door and interrupted dinner with your family. How excited were you? And even if you were excited, why in the world would you buy a VCR? We’ve most past that as a culture. We’ve even moved past DVD players and to some extent Blu-Rays. Everything is online. You don’t need a VCR when you have Netflix. Culture has changed. The frustrated VCR salesman can be as angry as he wants to be, but he’s going to be waiting a long time if he’s waiting for America to go back to the good old days of VCRs.
That illustration in a nutshell sums up the driving force behind this blog New Wineskins. I grew up in churches that longingly looked back to the good old days of church in the 1950s. I had church members shake their fists at the younger generation who had the audacity to want drums, guitars and contemporary music in church. Why couldn’t they just appreciate the piano and organ? Why couldn’t they be satisfied with the Baptist hymnal? For the same reason your grandkids will never grow up using a VCR, even if you cherished yours growing up. Times change. Culture changes.
Now let’s be clear: the message of Jesus never changes, but how we do church should always be malleable to best reach the culture we’re currently living in. We need to change the way we design our church buildings. We need to change the way we preach. We need to change how we dress and how we talk at church. We need to update our music and get our hands dirty in the community. If churches today continue to operate like VCRs in a Netflix world, we’ll continue to suffer the declines plaguing our denominations.
Our mission (Matthew 28:18-20) isn’t to enshrine a particular style of how to do church. Our mission is to reach people. Don’t let your church be the frustrated door-to-door VCR salesman. Help usher your church into the 21st century. There’s an entire world up here waiting to be saved.