Yes, it has been quite the journey.
When I first started attending North Beach Youth Group back in the early ’80’s my first memory of clothes was cargo pants and a flannelette shirt. Part Triggs Bogan, part surf grommette.
As I rollerskated around Balcatta Roller Drome those were the days. Mind melting sugar infused slushies, ’80’s synth music and the chance to see real girls and maybe even, gulp, invite one of them to the slow roller dance with Hearts “Alone” pumping out.
Church was strictly a pants and shirt affair. Until I started wagging church when my olds went off to plant another church, and I kept attending North Beach. Sort of.
When I started pastoring on my own at what was then Bedford Baptist it was obvious that if I was going to be preaching I needed to make sure I wore a tie. Most of the older men wore suits and ties, even then in the ’90’s.
A transformation of sorts took place when the church started to attract people from the actual area we were located in. These folk were much more relaxed. In fact while they may have worn a suit during the week, there is no way they wanted to wear one on Sunday. In fact there was one particular man who stood out. He had three daughters, had recently come back to church and was just the sort of family we were trying to attract. I said to my deacons, you know this is the sort of person we are trying to reach, from our own community. From that point on I ditched the tie and pants and started wearing jeans and a nice shirt.
At Inglewood now we have implemented a policy of sorts just to make sure those on stage are not too casual! In fact being too casual can distract people from Jesus. That will be different for every church and culture. I am not making rules here. Just principles. Dress for who you are trying to reach.
Recently I have been wearing a $17 Target Flannelette shirt along with my standard black or blue jeans. Its comfortable and suits me and our area. The wheel has come full circle.
Over the last few days I have had opportunity to hear from a wise sage in Duffy Robbins. The Masterclass a few friends and I took yesterday at Vose was on communicating to young people. It was challenging and confirmed a practice I have. Duffy talked about the need to speak the language of the children and teenagers in your church.
There is a radio station in Perth called Nova. I was introduced to this by my daughter who likes the music, which is not surprising considering she is a pre-teen. There are obvious problems with listening to Nova. In particular the lyrical content of a fair percentage of the music they play. Of course they are seeking pleasure in every form it comes, and with no real sense of a moral compass. Duffy talked about helping young people see how the choices they make affect the rest of their lives. If young people made the choices they are encouraged to make on Nova we would all be in a world of pain.
However, its not all bad, in fact some of it is good. For one thing we know that all people are looking for God, but they have not yet discovered what to call Him. Contemporary music carries with much of it that sense of searching and longing. There are songs about family, about missing parents, dysfunctional relationships and the pain of regret and bad choices. In fact much of the human experience we might find in the book of Ecclesiastes.
The issue for me is language. Not the explicit language. But the language they are speaking. If I am to communicate effectively to even those teenagers within my own home, I need to speak their language. And the teenagers within my church speak this language, I don’t naturally. I mostly listen to Worship Music in my car. Or podcasts. And that is good for my soul. But listening to Nova is good for my mission.
I actually enjoy a lot of music on Nova now. Thats my confession……
I listen to a lot of music and a lot of worship music. Recently, as any reader of this blog will know, I have been listening to a lot of Elevation Music, and also Bethel Music.
In our church we are doing now around 4 of the songs from Elevation’s new album. And more to come. Why is this? Because they are keenly biblical, singable and most of all fresh. What brings this freshness? This is the intangible element I have been thinking about.
I spoke to my worship pastor about this and she said that many churches are now doing Elevation worship songs. This surprised me, I thought this was our little secret! It can be a risk to go away from what you have always done. A bit like moving from hymns to the ‘Brown Book” all those years ago. (Obscure reference, let the reader understand).
Then I had a long and frank conversation with a key leader in a large church and she too was sharing how they are now doing Elevation material. We discussed why this is.
My conclusion is that when God is doing something, He is doing something. And the freshness comes not from listening to what contemporary secular artists are doing. Although actually that is important to. The freshness comes from hearing what God is saying, to the church, right now. And churches are picking up on this. They are listening for the Spirits voice. Hearing and responding to what God is doing, today. Yesterdays message was wonderful, but it was for yesterday. Todays message is what we need to hear.
Recently the media have been reporting that James Hird, the former Essendon player and coach, has lost his bid to have his insurance pay for his legal costs. It is not for me to say who was right and wrong in this whole saga.
But I will say this. Hird said he as Senior Coach would take responsibility for the supplements program at Essendon. This supplements program has caused Essendon players to suffer under sanction after sanction. Yes, they took the supplements, but they followed the lead of their senior coach. It seems to me that since this supplement saga broke James Hird has done as much ducking and weaving with almost as much skill as he did when he was a player for Essendon.
As an opposition supporter I watched Hird on the field with a mixture of jealousy and admiration. What a player he was.
Yet what do we all remember him for now? This murky business where he has done interview after interview ducking the same responsibility he said he would take at the start. This is what he is now remembered for. Not his onfield heroics, but what he as Senior Coach has overseen, and then actually refused to take responsibility for. The players, at least in part, must have a deal of frustration for him, perhaps wish he was never coach in the first place.
It is a sober reminder to me. It is not how you start. It is not even how you do in the middle. It is how you finish. Of course the best example of this is Jesus. We remember His birth, we remember His miracles and His teaching. But most….we remember those famous words…’It is Finished”. And the miracle afterwards.
I hope and pray I have many years left of ministry. I hope and pray my next 20 are as significant and meaningful as my last 20. I hope and pray for those older than me, that they finish well.