Museums or Memorial Stones
It's a funny thing how time manipulates our past to create memories that resemble the original events, but now have the baggage of nostalgia tied to them as well. When I was in elementary school, I would wake up on Saturday mornings, grab a bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch, and hunker down to watch Saved by the Bell. The night before, our family would have plopped down on the couch, fired up some microwavable TV dinners and gotten our TGIF on with "Full House," "Family Matters," "Perfect Strangers" and "Step by Step." Whether it was the time around the television with my family, riding bikes around our small town with my friends, or practicing music in my buddy's garage, those memories seem larger than life now. At the time, I didn't think anything of them. But I'd be lying if there wasn't a part of me that wished I could go back. Maybe it's because "it was a simpler time," but that only works in hindsight. In the moment, we didn't know any different. Or maybe those moments truly hold some significance in our lives.
Do you have memories like that as well?
Interesting how we weight current events against our memories, which let's be honest, are fickle and often unreliable. But we use our memories, "the way things used to be" as a barometer for the success of the thing in front of us, and I'm just not sure that's the right thing to do.
I'm privileged to work at a church that works very hard to remain multi-generational. It would be easy to cater to the young or indulge the old. But instead, we do the hard work of honoring all generations, because we think that's what the Kingdom of God should look like. Some days it feels like EVERYONE loses, and it's just a matter of who you're going to piss off least. But we really do try to lean into the young, because they are growing in their relationship with the Lord, while honoring the old and those in-between. And honestly, there are just seasons where you're going to put more attention on one group than the other.
The difficult thing as a church leader is to avoid making harmful generalizations and assumptions about whole groups of people. I always remind myself to put people over product. Because the last thing I want is to get us where myself and the other leaders feel God is taking us, and to look back and see a trail of bodies in our wake.
But it never fails that decisions that are made within the church, or in our own lives, just don't sit well with us. Often, it's because there's been a change to "the way it's always been." I understand that, especially as a worship leader when it comes to song selection. I try to remind myself that the reason some people hold the hymns so closely is because they had actual, real encounters with the Lord through those songs. Maybe when they were young in their faith, or at a pivotal time in their lives. Growing up in a Baptist church, I understand that and have similar feelings about those old hymns. And the thing is....that's ok.
We just have to remember that not everyone has the same history with How Great Thou Art, or the Grand Piano, or whatever song, belief, liturgy, or style we're holding onto so tightly. And it's going to happen to us young people too! One day, some punk kid is going to want to come into OUR space and mess with OUR thing, and we're going to want to freak out. What then? It's going to happen to all of us at some point, because NOTHING STAYS THE SAME.
But this is what I felt like the Lord has been showing me. It's not about picking sides. That's a losing battle. What we have to remind ourselves is that it's about MUSEUMS AND MEMORIAL STONES.
We cannot make the church a museum, where everything points to the past. Where we stand around an artifact and say, "if only we could do that again." "If only others would see this thing as valuable as I see it."
Because the thing is.....the artifact isn't the thing. The artifact is just a reminder of the actual thing. It's a memorial stone.
In the Old Testament of the Bible, there are stories where God's people would setup a pile of stones at a location where God did something extraordinary. Like when Joshua let the Israelites across the Jordan river into the land promised to them by God. The Israelites setup memorial stones, to remind them of what God did.....and then they KEPT WALKING. They didn't camp out at the river...they went on to defeat other peoples and take more land. The rocks weren't the thing, but they were meaningful. The rocks reminded them of what God did, and in dong so, pointed them forward to what God might do next.
It's the same with us. We need to continue to setup memorial stones in our lives. To stop and say, "God did something special." We need remember it so that we can tell our children and our grandchildren about it. But we also need to keep walking. Because there are more encounters to be had with God than there are rocks on the ground.