A Message From Dad

My father sent me this, which I share with his permission:

I found Jen Lemen’s comment interesting and pondered over it all day., but I think it did not go far enough. The scuffle for “Coolness” goes even farther; the lust for the next cooler thing stifles in depth thinking on too many levels. Are GPS units in vehicles really necessary? Of course not, buy a map. And the DVD screens drive me nuts, and we won’t even get started on cell phones. Heck, I am still trying to understand why people insist on driving in the left lane when there is nothing in front of them in the right lane. I guesa I might as well add attitude to cool.

Age has a way of galloping up on us at a very rapid pace, but it also gives you a lot of time to ponder. My father was born at a time when travel was difficult. Cars were sparse and roads not the best, but with planning, you could get from place to place, just not as fast. When you think about it, the airplane was not very old and he lived to a time when men walked on the moon. I was born at a time when I was able to see what had gone on before World War II and have lived to see technology, at least in theory, make things better for all. However, wars still go on, the environment is not as good, and above all, mankind still can not live in peace and harmony.

When I ponder the differences in my father’s time and today, I see one large difference. In my father’s time, people were too busy trying to make a living and had little time to search for the next cool thing to buy. Another thing, credit cards did not exist, so folks made do with what their means allowed. I am not sure if what I remember, when I was growing up, is accurate, but I think people were happier and more satisfied during that period. Most people attended the church of their choice because the stores were closed and entertainment did not start until after the services. Personally, I never thought the demise of the Blue Laws was a good idea, still don’t.

Here’s the deal from my point. New is okay. Change is gonna come. But I think what Dad is saying (or maybe isn’t saying) is that too often we desire change without recognizing where we’ve come from. Likewise, sometimes we become so enamored with “cool” that we fail to ask if we really need the new thing.

I’m reminded of my video editing days. Time and time again I would see producers demanding the latest and greatest toy, the newest bell or whistle for their video. I would see production houses strain under the cost burden of purchasing these toys, to meet the demands of their consumers. But at no time did anyone ask, “Do we really need this?” More often than not, the folks most consumed with the latest and greatest forgot the simplicity of storytelling. Their program would look real cool, the production values would be real high, but there would be no content. The best projects I worked on, the most compelling, were often the most simple. They were great stories.

That is why I believe in intergenerational conversation as we carry out this thing called church. Too often, those of us in the “emerging generations” (actually, I’m considered to be too old to be emerging) very quickly write off the input of those who have gone before us. “They don’t understand us,” we say. “They are too set in their ways.” And you know what? They said the same thing about their parents, and their parents said the same thing about their parents, and so forth.

Am I suggesting that the emerging church is just a generational thing? No. The world IS changing, and the way we understand church is changing as well. What I am saying is that we need to stay in conversation with those who have gone before us, not those who are digging in their heels, but the many who can remind us of the changes they went through and help us think through the changes we’ll go through.

The question for us is are we seeking to be cool, or are we trying to tell a story . . . the story? I hope that telling the story will always be more important that being cool.

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