They're not the Peanut Gallery
One of the break out sessions in a conference setting a few years ago addressed how to keep up with the times. Part of the session asked participants to complete a survey of their personal habits in several categories---reading, television choices, movie genres, favorite music, sports, food and restaurant types, and a couple of other sidelines of family and personal life. The responses were always delicious. Reading them usually involved some way to strip away the projections most of us factor into such devices. Number one was always the spiritual lens through which most of the indications were filtered. Most everyone listed the Bible as their favorite reading, church music as their preferred listening, the religious channels as their viewing choice, and The Ten Commandments as the movie they watched over and over again. Restaurants were usually the ones that didn't serve alcohol, and the food was typically southern style.
Once that layer was removed the notations were varied. But, there were a few common themes. Now this was several years ago and the trends have shifted somewhat. Then TVLand was the channel of choice, Bonanza, Gun Smoke, and Andy Griffith were TV favorites, movies leaned toward the classics and older fare, the food generally fast, and music was almost always the local Christian radio station or the Gaither specials. Most of them did not read the newspaper every day, or check news sources on the computer. Rarely did any of them list a current best seller of either fiction or non-fiction. In a nut shell, they were basically out of touch with their times.
Relevance is a key issue in communicating his truth to the people around us, believer and un- believers alike. In fact, most church researchers list irrelevance as one the reasons so many of the millennials are taking the exit ramp from traditional churches. Speaking the truth of the gospel is our charge in every context. But, speakaing it in a way that communicates to our mission field is most important. This was illustrated to me graphically a couple of years ago on Super Sunday. Now, let me admit I'm not a professional sports fan. College sports is my preference. So, on Super Bowl Sunday I made reference to the game to illustrate some point in my morning message and I announced the wrong teams. Oops. Hundreds of men and young people and a couple of the ladies looked at me like I just landed from the third rock from the sun. It didn't ruin my credibility. But, it did commmunicate that I was unplugged from what was happening at that time. You know, irrevelant to that moment.
One of the pastors in my group at that conference was deeply troubled by his responses to our questionaire. His church was in a suburban bedroom community and he had experienced some disconnect from the congregation. It was like a confessonal for a while. Like many of us boomers that old stuff was his only point of reference. I told him about my own personal booboos, like when I called the congregation the "Peanut Gallery" (Google it if you don't know what it is). Or the time I said our children sounded like a broken record. Many of the younger folks in rthe church those days looked at me like I had two heads. Total disconnect. If we're talking about Marshall Dillon and Chester, Ben Cartright and the boys, or even Barney Fife, we may be casting farther back than many of them can go. That day my pastor friend said he rarely kept up with the news, and the last book he had read was in seminary, twenty years ago.
OK, we're all different. We we have varying levels of interest, colors, flavors, politics, and ways to work a crossword puzzle. Still, the Word of God is fresh and alive, eternal in impact if we faithfully proclaim it. As his chosen spokesmen, we must stay relevant to the people and situations we are called to serve. We don't have to watch all the garbage or listen to some of the trash or read the smut out there. But, we do need to know about it. In one of my last sermons I used the title of a book, "Fifty Shades of Grey" to discuss declining moral values in the nation. One of my ministry friends heard it on the Podcast and sent me a text to ask what the book was about. I couldn't answer because I haven't read it. But, I read a couple of reviews, and could telll him in broad strokes the drift of that best-seller. We need to know this kind of stuff.
Jesus knew what was going on in his day. He knew what the teachers of the law were saying, how the politics happened, and what was in front of the people very day. Because he knew he had deep compassion on them.
It's just vigliance. And we better pay attention for the night is coming.