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Catching up or keeping up?


It was a collision of cultures if there ever was one. Sunday night we double dated with our children, Scott and Liz Carpenter, and several thousand geezers for the Beach Boys concert at Koger Center in Columbia, SC. They had given us dinner out at the Blue Marlin and the concert as our Christmas gift. In the past there have been items of clothing, gift cards, household gadgets, perfume and cologne, pictures, and any number of thoughtful and generous gifts. But, this one moved to the championship category as we enjoyed one of the premier musical groups from our high school and college days. It was one great evening. Two of the Beach Boys, Bruce Johnston and Mike Love were originals from the '60's and they amazed us with great sound for nearly three hours. We haven't had so much fun, fun, fun since her daddy took the T-bird away, if you know what I mean.

The collision of cultures was the way their technical geniuses mixed their great vocals with modern light, sound, video, and staging to produce such a nostalgic visit back to the '60's. During one song Beach Boy Mike Love asked all the audience to activate the flashlight app on our smart phones. All over the building us geezers waved our flashlights in the darkened room as they sang one of their heart-throb pieces. We all grooved to that old sound with our techie toys.

The couple next to me, both members of the class of '62 didn't have smart phones or flashlights. In conversation they told me they didn't like all this newfangled techie stuff and didn't own smart phones, devices, consoles, laptops, iPods, Starbucks Gold Cards, or Fitbits. They reminded me that now they were too old to catch up. Next time they said they would bring their old RayOvac pocket size flashlight so they can swoon to the oldies with the rest of the crowd.

Which reminded me how many of us are playing catch up in a world that is moving so fast. It's just amazing how the world has shifted since the www revolution of 1990-1991. Every day I'm invited to consult with churches without a web presence, pastors and spiritual leaders who have taken a detour from the mainstream of cultural development, and so many other colleagues who are living in the '60's or '70's. Just yesterday I was talking to a friend about how blessed I was to be able to teach two classes at Charleston Southern University this semester. I mentioned what a pleasant surprise the students in these classes had been to me. One of my compliments about them was that there didn't seem to be a snowflake on either roll. He didn't know what I meant using the word "snowflake". Evidently he hasn't read a newspaper or news magazine over the last couple of weeks, or watched television news. He was totally out of touch with what is happening in our nation right now. Talk about catching up!

The truth is we can't go back to the '60's or any of those precious times in the past. Even in this technologically advanced time we still haven't mastered the science of backward time travel or stopping the clock so time will stand still. What is more, we've been appointed to live and serve at this time in human history. Those of us in the community of faith, especially those of us called and charged to lead it, have been commissioned to engage this world in the here and now. Catching up should never be our deal. No, keeping up should be the front line of engaging and connecting to this fast and ever changing world. What is more, this stance isn't about conforming to the standards of the culture (see Romans 12:2), but of being salt and light in it, the ambassadors of Christ in our little piece of it..

Scripture is annotated with reminders about newness. God is doing a new thing (see Isaiah 43:19) and has chosen to house this new creation in human beings that he has made new, frail and limited and throwback as we are. Jesus challenged his disciples with the images of the new wine of the gospel being contained in old wine skins and the mismatch of a new piece of cloth being attached to an old one, neither positive reflections. The Gospel of the Kingdom involves the declaration that God's ancient plan is a new covenant that touches and changes lives in every nation and generation.

And, that's an issue today. Much of our proclamation today is seconded to playing catch up. The millennials, our largest generational cohort, have basically opted out of church because we are dated, worn, and out of touch. It's one of the reasons so many of the growing seeker congregations advertise that "we're not your grandmother's church". They're trying to project a spiritual body that is keeping up, and not catching up. Typically they're theologically sound, orthodox in doctrine, but a thoroughly new creation in their evangelism and mission of making disciples.

Our greatest challenge today may be discipline of keeping up with a fast-moving world. Please do me a favor. it will take 6.56 minutes. Click right here and watch this video. It is already dated news today as it was published in 2016. But, it reminds us how fast life is happening, and how significant is our challenge to keep up. Some of us will say we don't live in that world. But, our children and grand children do, and we'd better get there if we plan to be his ambassadors in that world.

Catching up or keeping up? That may be the question of the hour.


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