That's the Way It Was and Is

I remember reading an article on youth ministry back in the 80’s (not long after I “retired” as a youth minister). The author told about as a youth minister (again, in the early 80’s), he mad a reference at a youth group devo about the break-up of the Beatles. One of his students asked him, “Who are the Beatles?” He then observed that often the things that youth ministers think are important to students are really things that are important to youth ministers. The world changes so quickly; it really is hard to stay current. I’m glad that I am old and no longer expected to even try!

Each August since 1998, Beloit College (in Wisconsin) has released as list called the “Beloit College Mindset List.” This list reminds us old people of how much the world that has shaped the lives of incoming college freshman differs from the world that shaped the classes that went on before them.

Most of this year’s freshman class was born in 1991. Interestingly, the headlines in ’91 railed about government bailouts, bad loans, and unemployment. The Tonight Show had just changed hosts, and people were wondering if the war in Iraq was worth it… so maybe things haven’t change so much. Sure they have. Notice the following (abbreviated) list of the “rapidly changing frame of reference for this new generation.” For the rising class of 2013…

  1. Pan Am, Michael Landon, Dr. Seuss, Gene Roddenberry, and Freddie Mercury have always been dead.
  2. Dan Rostenkowski, Jack Kevorkian, and Mike Tyson have always been felons.
  3. They have never used a card catalog to find a book.
  4. Salsa has always outsold ketchup.
  5. Earvin "Magic" Johnson has always been HIV-positive.
  6. They have been preparing for the arrival of HDTV all their lives.
  7. Rap music has always been main stream.
  8. The KGB has never officially existed.
  9. Text has always been hyper.
  10. Babies have always had a Social Security Number.
  11. They have never had to “shake down” a thermometer.
  12. McDonald's has always been serving Happy Meals in China.
  13. Christopher Columbus has always had a bad rap.
  14. Bobby Cox has always managed the Atlanta Braves.
  15. There has always been a Cartoon Network.
  16. They have always been able to read books on an electronic screen.
  17. Belarus, Moldova, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Latvia, Georgia, Lithuania, and Estonia have always been independent nations.
  18. There have always been flat screen televisions.
  19. The Today Show has always been seen on weekends.
  20. There has always been blue Jell-O.

The message of Jesus Christ is timeless; it is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago. But a lot of the cultural baggage we bring to it hasn’t been relevant for a long time. Flannelgraphs and Kool-Aid-n-cookies were helpful at one times. So was the KJV, Stamps-Baxter songs and week long gospel meetings. All of those things may be still helpful to some people today, but not to most people. The world has changed, and the way the church relates to it must change as well. I don’t like it. To me, Conan O’Brian is an idiot and Johnny Carson should still be doing the Tonight Show (I go to be by 9:30 now anyway). The world has changed.

Wishing things were the way they were never makes them so. We need to understand how the world is so that we can better know how to tell the old, old story to a new generation of people who need it just as badly as bid their parents and grandparents before them.