Saturday, April 24, 2010

Proud In-Law Alert and Proud Dad Alert All Rolled Into One

It's been a very big week for the McKinney I'll probably blog about once a little more time/perspective has transpired. Let's just say that a senior high school student choosing a college is age appropriate high-level stress, which naturally affects everyone in the family...for about 8 months.

So, Kid1 narrowed her 5 available choices down to one full-blown scholarship to a school she liked, and was awaiting word on a scholarship that would give her a similar deal to the school that she always wanted to go to and loves deeply and was her first choice and she'd cry if she didn't get to go there and it's the best place in the history of ever and she'd be the happiest person in the world if she got to go there... every day we checked the mail to see if that scholarship came through. Most days didn't produce a letter.

As a parent you hope your child gets the thing she wants, but when a really good school already has offered an opportunity to go on their nickel, well, let's just say that you feel like your kid can't lose. But you still want her to get what she wants.

Even so, the anxiety built daily and the May 1 deadline was approaching.

Well, the letter came. Well the 2010 equivalent of the letter, which is an internet posting. The scholarship came through. In a huge understatement, there was much rejoicing.

I'll let my super-proud mother and father in-law tell you what Kid1 chose (the choosing seemed to demand sending t-shirts to family members in Alabama--and California):

Kid1 gets to go where she always wanted to go and dearly loves and she doesn't have to cry because it's the best place in the history of ever and...


...this week she's the happiest person in the world.

And, well, as I've said many times before, I lead a charmed life.

And, well, Hook 'Em, Horns!

Monday, April 19, 2010


Comic courtesty: ArcaMax Publishing.

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Proud Uncle Alert

My outlaw/partner-in-crime niece Katelyn playing soccer:

What I like is that if you look in the background, all her teammates have on "normal" socks. Check out hers.

But, it's about more than fashion, folks.

On Friday night, upon leaving the movie theatre I get a text message informing me that she scored not one, but TWO goals in the closing minutes of her game to win!

I really don't think it's much of a stretch to say she just might be the first female player in Barclay's Premier League. Just sayin'.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Strolling Through Gordon MacDonald's "Who Stole My Church?", Part 14: Chapters 17-20
This will be the final installment on this book!

Reminder: I've been working through this book with my old college roommate, Hollywood. His church is going through it, and I thought it'd be fun to go through this book about a fictitious New England church realizing that they're "aging" and struggling through the aspects of what that is and what it looks like so it doesn't die. Anyway, these are the thoughts this book provokes as I go through it...and it won't hurt for you to read the earlier entries on this.

I'm a lot like Crash Davis.

Please tell me you've seen Bull Durham. If you haven't, run, do not walk, to your nearest retailer and purchase the DVD. Watch said DVD. Do so at least once a year. Your life will be better for it.

For the uninitiated, Crash Davis is a journeyman minor-league catcher who has been sent to the lowest-level minor league club to mentor Ebby Calvin LaLoosh. "Nuke" is the organization's recently signed pitcher destined for stardom in the bigs, but he has a "million dollar arm and a 5-cent head." He needs to learn everything from pitching to how to handle the media to dealing with groupies to life in general.

Crash takes his job seriously from the get-go. After Nuke's first well-pitched inning, he's understandably excited when the team returns to the dugout. Crash immediately tells him the mistakes he made on several pitches in a heated tone.

Nuke can't believe it. "Can't I just enjoy the moment?" he asks Crash.

"The moment's over," is the reply. Crash then grabs his bat and goes back to work in the on-deck circle.

For better or worse, that's my professional mindset. Whenever things go well, well, it's because we planned them that way. I want to focus on the things that didn't go well so we can make it better for the next time. I go back to work in the on-deck circle. Man, the moment's over. The Haitians have a proverb that comes from the terrain of their island nation, "Behind every mountain is another mountain." Same idea. Get to the top of one mountain, then it's behind you, and on to the next mountain.

See, I rarely focus on the things that went well. We planned them to go that way. Events transpired exactly as we'd hoped in some ways. It's the unintended consequences and happenings that went awry that need to be fixed. When I plan, I like measurable goals to get to intended outcomes that are clearly laid out. So, for example, if we have a sleepover to set up for the sunrise service there are a few intended outcomes:

Did the set-up provide a unique atmosphere for worship?
Did the teens have unifying fellowship?
Did the adults involved build into the lives of teens in some small way? Some large ways?

So, once the service begins, I take a look at the arrangement. I thought it did, but made a mental note of how far the communion tables were set back and we'll want to move them closer together next year. We also need a better system to allow people to worship through giving at that service.

The kids had a ball playing "sardines" (backwards hide-and-seek) as well as having office chair races around the downstairs area. All the teens were laughing and involved in some way...which was a response to last year's overcrowded group that left some teens alone and feeling as if they weren't part of the group. So, this year, we limited the number of helpers. Mission accomplished. I might move lights-out back half an hour because we interrupted some fun time to put them to bed for only four hours. So what if it's 3.5 next year?

We had a couple of men who made bacon & eggs & pancakes for breakfast who interacted with the teens and had fun doing it. The female staffer had some meaningful conversations, and I got to hang out with teens I didn't know that well yet. Next year I might want one more male and female adult to make a few more caring adults available just in case more kids want that.

So, what appears simple to others--a sleepover--in my mind has a set of goals and things I can measure to determine if it was a success. Parents will think it went well because their teen will come in and say how much fun they had, but I've already got a file started on how to make it better. The moment's over--even if there are still taped pieces of paper above a door frame (the finish line) with the time-trial results from the downstairs chair races. On to the next mountain.

This works well when I'm in control of the group making the decisions. The trouble comes when I get into larger groups of pastors, directors and staff who are more like Nuke LaLoosh. They plan a picnic, people came to the picnic in great weather, eggs got found, kids left happy, so everybody's celebrating a great event and saying we should do it next year.

Don't get me wrong. I enjoyed the picnic in great weather. I even took my dog, who enjoyed the picnic in great weather. I liked seeing the kids happy with their eggs and playing in bounce houses and I think we should do the event next year. But the looks I get when I ask a simple question about having enough eggs or more/fewer bounce houses, etc. usually indicate that the group often views me as a "downer" in these settings. "Why can't you just enjoy the moment?"



...the moment's over.

And that's where MacDonald gives insight into the types of groups that can affect change in a church setting. He defines them as "generative groups," "toxic groups" and "habitual groups."

The characteristics of "generative groups" are that they have a strong sense of mutual purpose, they're synergistic (everyone's effort counts), each person grows, is not afraid of conflict and they inspire others who look at the group.

The toxic group has a "me-first" spirit, low morale, they blame others, they drag down an organization and destroy people.

The habitual group has repetitive activities (they do things over and over because they've always done it that way), they are exhausting (they don't energize people because activities are rote and not for a greater purpose), and they play nice by denying or ignoring problems.

Obviously, the best kind of group is generative. And I enjoy being part of meetings where that's the mindset. We're trying to accomplish something, there's creativity and creative-tension takes place using everybody's gifts and talents and perspective and others get inspired by the vision.

Unfortunately, most of the meetings the world is involved in is looking out for number one. Failure is always someone else's fault, the organization weakens and people get hurt. Or worse, they don't "fix what isn't broken" (often failing to see the things that really are broken), committees stay the same and everybody's nice and polite and the world is simply a happy, conflict-free place.

The reality is that I don't understand why people think that the true spiritual life has to be polite. I'm like a New Yorker in that way. See, I'm of the opinion that New Yorkers aren't rude, they're simply frank. They tell you what they want or need (yes, this can be done with the honk or a horn or a waitress bringing you the check before you ask because there's a line outside or a guy barking at you to get moving) and you know where you stand. See, I don't think Paul was the least bit polite when he went face-to-face with Peter when he starting mixing Law and Grace. I think that was a heated exchange where other disciples had to step in and separate them. Same for when Barnabas wanted to take a younger minister along on a mission trip after he'd bailed on the group once before. My guess is that discussion almost came to blows, too.

But those groups were generative. They got things done...and yes, I think you can have love and still have creative tension and all that jazz--so don't say I'm unfeeling or cold or whatever. Most interactions should be polite and caring and sensitive. I get that. However, if you're passionate about something (like Law and Grace, or the effectiveness of telling folks about Christ and the best way to do that) it might escalate. It should, IMHO.

See, they'd had one successful mission trip.
Paul's next mountain didn't involve the kid. Probably felt he needed a stronger team to scale the next mountain. Barnabas took the kid for his mountain.
But they didn't rest on laurels. They had a plan. They worked their plan. They evaluated past plans and what worked and what didn't. They understood the bigger picture. They didn't try to be the star. They didn't seek power. They didn't destroy people (in fact, the young minister went on to be one of Paul's most trusted colleagues). They didn't do things the same way because it worked. The didn't hurt for enthusiasm and excitement, that's for sure...even amidst shipwrecks and jail time.

So, frankly, I have little time for toxic groups or habitual ones. Unfortunately, in most churches I've observed (including where my friends and co-laborers serve), those are the most prevalent.

But there's room in the kingdom for those of us who identify with Crash Davis instead of Nuke LaLoosh. I'm not really about enjoying the moment.

Because man, the moment's over.

One last quote that sums up the book (which ends very sitcom-like with a tidy, sweet story of how a drug user found the church and an older guy discipled him and everything's happy-clappy) when one of the group's retired members--a Crash Davis type, for sure--decides to mentor a young man trying to get his life back together in his mid-20's:
"That's the greatest gift men our age have to give these young men. Whatever you want to say about the homes they grew up in, the fact is that most of us had adults who were basically available to us. But Ben is a good example of a generation that feels fatherless...sometimes even motherless. Too many of them have never heard their parent's stories. No one was around at the right times to take on their questions and help them figure out how they were going to make their way in the world. So they had to figure it out for themselves or get insights from their peers. Last night as an important evening for Ben. An older man took him seriously."

"By the end of the evening we had covered a host of topics concerning the behavior and attitudes of the younger generations and how poorly prepared our church was to make them a part of our congregational life."

So, I think everyone over 45 needs to read this book and decide:

Do I really want to be part of a generative group that wants to tell our stories to younger generations, and ask hard questions to see if we're prepared to make younger folks a part of our congregation life...and even harder questions about setting out what targets we want to hit, and making measurable goals to get there?

Or would we rather status quo the whole thing?

Or would we rather protect our turf?

But, no matter how successful you've been in the past, or how great the present is, well...

...the moment's over.

And in the words of Dr. Suess, "Your mountain's waiting, so get on your way."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Strolling Through Gordon MacDonald's "Who Stole My Church?", Part 13: Chapters 16
Reminder: I've been working through this book with my old college roommate, Hollywood. His church is going through it, and I thought it'd be fun to go through this book about a fictitious New England church realizing that they're "aging" and struggling through the aspects of what that is and what it looks like so it doesn't die. Anyway, these are the thoughts this book provokes as I go through it...and it won't hurt for you to read the earlier entries on this.

One of my gifts for high school graduation was a Smith-Corona typewriter. It was electric. It had a special ribbon that let you hit backspace, re-type the letter that was a mistake and it would erase that letter. Fancy.

My liberal arts major demanded a lot of research papers so I spent a lot of nights in the dining hall of the Sigma Pi house typing them. Suffice to say that my Smith-Corona Selectric II with WordEraser Correction ("the most advanced typewriter correction system to date!") pretty much got through college.

I took it with me to Dallas Theological Seminary in 1987. Early on, I was clacking away on some paper and a couple of the guys on my hall strolled in. Lots of papers at seminary, they said. Lots of time demands at the grad school level and so much to read, they said. The school bookstore has sweet deals on something called an Apple Macintosh SE and you could actually "compose" your papers, they said. Taking too many steps to complete the papers what with writing on a legal pad and then typing it out, they said. Besides, the Macintosh SE will do the footnotes for you and handle all the spacing and layout stuff, they said.

See, I'm kinda old school about things like this. I'm loyal...even to the typewriter that served me so faithfully.

So, for a few weeks I clacked away after spending hours in the library with my legal pad. "Do it your way if you want, but you can save time, man." they said. For weeks.

And then one weekend Greg was going home to see his girlfriend and told me to take his Macintosh SE and just do ONE paper on it to see if I liked it. He even gave me a blank 3.5 disk of my very own to back up my work.

I was sold, man. They were right. "Composing" papers was better. It saved steps and legal pads. It handled the footnotes. The spacing. The layout. I discovered the joys of hitting "print." I spent my newfound free time trying to scrounge composition time on the various Macintosh SE's on the hallway when they weren't being used by their owners. I purchased a lot of lunches for the lenders. They also let me play "Wheel of Fortune" with them, too. The Smith-Corona Selectric II with WordEraser Correction didn't have that ability.

I tell you all this to say that I have this unbelievable ability to resist new things until somebody shows me how it's better. But once they show me, I border on evangelistic zeal about that new thing.

The higher-order life-liver sister Jilly has been instrumental in this process. She's always gotten into things before me and then usually converted me to the new thing once the new thing got an upgrade and I got the old thing.

Like the Palm Pilot. Before that, I'd just headed to the big box office supply store and gotten a year-long spiral calendar and wrote everything down. Next thing I know I'm learning some new alphabet with the stylus pen and using HotSync technology. I was also playing Torrey Pines golf course during elder meetings.

Like the iPod. Before that, I was very happy mowing the lawn or working out with the Walkman. Not to mention that I had a pretty extensive catalogue of cassette tapes to handle my music needs of the time. Next thing I know I'm not ever going into CD stores again, clicking "buy now" on iTunes and the Genius feature knows what mood I'm in and plays the songs I want to hear.

Like satellite radio. If you're still listening to regular radio, my friends, you have no idea how great 220 channels of demographically researched goodness can be.

Anyway, chapter 16 has the pastor coming to his discussion group with a business book he read that describes how people respond to changes. The book he quotes extensively is entitled "The Diffusion of Innovations" by Everett Rogers.

Basically, there's a bell curve of responses to innovation and change. According the Rogers, there's about 2.5% of people who absolutely LOVE change and innovation--they're daring and risky and push for changes all the time.

Then there are about 13.5% who are called "early adopters"--they know a good thing when they see it and are pretty quick to get on board once they get information.

The next group, 68%, are called "early majority" and "late majority"--usually split evenly but some take longer to come around than others. They like to think things through and talk about stuff and want to see if it works before they get on board.

The remainder, about 16%, are called "laggards." They are bound by tradition and are the last to change, if they ever do. He makes a point to talk about how this shouldn't be viewed negatively by any means...and he uses the idea of people who went through the Depression who had the natural tendency to be "bird in hand is worth 2 in the bush" mentality. They'd been burned and hurt and didn't want to risk or change.

And this has a lot to do with local churches.

Because the vast majority of people are "wait and see" kinds of people. And when you combine those people with those that aren't likely to change, well, that's an overwhelming number: 85% are going to wait and see before they change if they ever do.

Of these categories, I tend to see myself as an "early adopter." This was especially cool when I had a staff of 5, three of which were innovators, another an early adopter, and one was in the early majority. Our Friday morning staff meetings were designed to brainstorm and this is where they flourished. A lot of ideas were bouncing around and it didn't take long to weed out the bad or goofy ones and we'd get a lot of synergy going around a change or innovation or tweak and the team would get behind it pretty quickly. They'd get VERY excited about the possibilities.

Then, we'd communicate to the parents and teens...

...who were much more reluctant. Why are you moving to two nights for the middle school? Won't that hurt group unity? Why are you redecorating the room again? Why are you moving the weekend for the Pine Cove retreat? Will the move to Sunday morning for high school Sunday School hurt attendance? Do you really think middle schoolers going on a mission trip is practical? I could go on.

But the key to this is communication.

For example, at the end of my first year at CBC I discovered that we had a rat in the python regarding attendance. I was looking at the 5th grade numbers...the kids who would come into the middle school ministry in a few months. That number was nearly double the number of 8th graders who would be coming into high school. This meant that, in theory, our Wednesday night middle school program would be going from about 25 kids a week to 45 or so.

Well, they were meeting in a teen's home because, first, that's our philosophy of ministry. Second, 25 kids in a playroom isn't too uncomfortable. But 45? Well, we'd need more space to effectively disciple. The problem was that our church's children's ministry used our entire facility on Wednesday night and ate up a HUGE volunteer pool.

So, we had to change.

Immediately, we had 15% on board with moving to Tuesday nights at the church...all staff, elders, deacons, etc., seemed to understand and were excited about the possibility of using high school students to minister to middle school students. But we knew we'd get resistance, so we knew we'd have to communicate clearly and effectively with parents and teens.

We called a meeting and it was heavily attended.

After giving the statistics and showing them we had an issue, I showed them the changes we'd like to make. We were clear. We were concise. We used logic. We shared our vision. We used our enthusiasm.

And then we set the hook: "We'll be happy to chuck all this if there's anyone in this room who'd be happy to host 45 middle schoolers every Wednesday night for 32 weeks."

No hands went up. Everybody chuckled.

Meeting adjourned...and most folks went away happy. Or at least they understood and could get excited. Within 6 months we'd had the 85% buy-in when the late adopters saw how cool our ministry was and how effective we'd been. Sure, we lost some of the laggards.

But I remain convinced that would've gone terribly bad if we hadn't done all our homework and communicated clearly and concisely...with passion and enthusiasm because we really believed this was the right thing.

So, in my mind...

...since some people really like their...

...Selectric II with WordEraser Correction
...terrestrial radio

...they have to be clearly shown the benefits of innovation.

Or you'll cause more problems and create confusion and hurt unity and there will be more unintended consequences in a congregation than you can imagine.

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Strolling Through Gordon MacDonald's "Who Stole My Church?", Part 12: Chapters 13-15
Reminder: I've been working through this book with my old college roommate, Hollywood. His church is going through it, and I thought it'd be fun to go through this book about a fictitious New England church realizing that they're "aging" and struggling through the aspects of what that is and what it looks like so it doesn't die. Anyway, these are the thoughts this book provokes as I go through it...and it won't hurt for you to read the earlier entries on this.

Chapters 13 & 14 pretty much set the stage for what I want to talk about.

See, MacDonald's fictional church had an issue that could potentially split the church: They wanted to change their name. Apparently, they felt it would help them as they "reinvent." Maybe it would. Maybe it wouldn't. But I can see why that was an issue that created passionate responses on both sides.

I mean, a name is significant...I mean, think of McDonald's. You immediately have recognition. I mean, my kids could spot the golden arches from their car seat off an interstate exit a mile away. Happy meals and ball pits (well, before they were deemed unsanitary). A Big Mac or Quarter Pounder. Filet-O-Fish pushes during Lent. Relatively inexpensive and quick.

But there are also some negatives...largely dealing with the health consequences of constant eating there or preservatives in the food or large corporate farming practices. My point is that the name alone creates images in our minds.

My guess is that it's the same with churches. Mention any number of churches in our area and people that have never attended any of them have images in their minds of them. Some good. Some negative. And MacDonald's church was in the midst of a debate on whether or not to take the large denominational name out of the church's moniker. You can see where this would cause problems. You can see where this might have benefits.

So, in the course of these two chapters, a member of the fictional group decides to leave the church over the issue.

And that's what I want to talk about today: How we view church in a suburban American culture.

See, I view a church as a family...and I'm seeing that view as in the extreme minority. Maybe it's because I'm on the professional paid staff of a congregation but I really don't think that's the case. I think it's because the Bible refers to us and "brothers and sisters" of the same Father. We're a local expression of the universal family of God. We have gifts and talents that are supposed to be used to help the family mature. We're supposed to celebrate and look forward in hope to the return of our King together. New birth to home going and all the points in between: births, marriages, funerals, graduations, championships--the whole kit and kaboodle.

Like genetic families, we're supposed to do life together.

All of it.

But I'm not sure that's the Average Joe's view in suburban America. We're experts in the art of consumerism...and that translates into what people generally look for in a church. Do they have a ministry that meets what I'm looking for? A small group for my life station? A kid's program that has all the bells and whistles? A pastor who is a gifted & charismatic communicator who keeps my interest for 35 minutes? A good Sunday School class? A good missions program? A good youth group? A good senior citizens group? A worship experience that's quality and not-too-loud? Free coffee?

And notice I didn't even talk about theology. I mean, even within evangelicalism there are views that might be a bit different that affect how Scripture is interpreted and I've discovered that the very thing that unites people while making you distinct is the one thing suburbanites generally don't even bother to look at.

So, generally people pick a church based on what's in it for them.

And, frankly, I'm sure folks picked my church that way, too. The street certainly runs both ways.

But the reality is that when whatever that reason happens to be gets changed or discontinued or somehow, someway differs from the reason you chose it, well...

...they're outta there.

And, 9 times out of 10 with no explanation given to staffers and/or leaders like deacons and elders. Most of the ones that are given aren't really the full story, either. Most folks leave and take the path of least resistance even if the most loving thing would be a full explanation.

Now, don't get me wrong. I know choosing and leaving a congregation is hard on the people doing the coming and going. I don't want to diminish that reality one iota. When a family uproots from relationships and makes a change in where they worship, well, it's not an easy decision. It's one that is often made with lots of thought and prayer and deep emotions are involved.

But MacDonald says something that I think speaks for all of us who view the local church as our family:
"The truth is, speaking as a pastor, you give your heart to the people of a congregation if this work is indeed a calling. You invest in them, think about them constantly, try to find ways to build Christ into their lives. You exalt in their spiritual development. You share difficult moments. And you rejoice when good things happen to them...If you really do give away your heart, then when people leave, they take a piece of it with them."


Is that ever true.

And most people have no idea how much that affects us "pro-Christians."

See, it's supposed to be about family. The good. The bad. The in-between.

Not about bells & whistles.

But make no mistake, when folks leave over a name change or free coffee or ball pits or the hipper-more-with-it or, well, anything short of theological agreement (and yes, people's theological nuances can change--but those are always the easiest ones when they leave, because they usually explain that they've come to a different position and need to go to a church in line with current understandings)...


...just know you take a little piece of our hearts with you.

Because you do.

Friday, April 02, 2010

Strolling Through Gordon MacDonald's "Who Stole My Church?", Part 11: Chapters 9-12
Reminder: I've been working through this book with my old college roommate, Hollywood. His church is going through it, and I thought it'd be fun to go through this book about a fictitious New England church realizing that they're "aging" and struggling through the aspects of what that is and what it looks like so it doesn't die. Anyway, these are the thoughts this book provokes as I go through it...and it won't hurt for you to read the earlier entries on this.

Our family gift for Christmas last year was a year's worth of satellite radio. We got the special deal for two radios--one for the car and one for the kitchen--and, well, if you're asking me, it was money well-spent.

What I like most about the deal is that the "stations" are all segmented to let you listen to whatever you happen to be in the mood for at that moment. There's four or five different channels for most genres of music. For example, if you're into country music, there's a station that's doing top country hits, another that's doing "roots" of country, another that's doing "oldie" country, another that's doing a compilation of hits from different get the idea. And this is for pretty much all genres--and manalive I didn't recognize how many styles of 80's music there were.

See, I didn't listen to the music that most people associated with the 80's genre. You know, whatever MTV was playing. The punk movement was just coming to Alabama about 5 years too late, which allowed me to slide from Van Halen & Ozzy & AC/DC to Social Distortion, Black Flag, X, and, of course, The Ramones.


There's a satellite radio channel for that.

Which I like, but I digress.

Anyway, my friends would get in my car and hear the Ramones or Black Flag and their immediate response was that it was awful and noise and you couldn't understand the words and it was angry and all the other reasons most everyone else on the planet didn't like punk music.

But the reasons I liked it was that it was ABOUT something. It wasn't fluff about "Relax, don't do it" or "Mickey being so fine and blowing my mind." Anti-abortion song in punk? Got it. Berlin wall? Covered. Generational angst? Bingo. How stupid TV is? Done. Outrage over Reaganomics? Yep.

And it didn't have to be technically perfect. Anyone could learn 3 chords and have a band. Turn up the amp, put lots of distortion and reverb in there, and do-it-yourself.

And it got a reaction. Nobody was "meh" about punk. Either loved it or hated it--nothing in-between...kinda like the NHL. Or the Talking Heads.

Anyway, chapters 9-12 of the book are all about the evolution of church music, and how it evolved in history. The characters spend a lot of time talking about what hymns they loved and why they loved those hymns so dearly.

Then the pastor would interject with some insights into why that hymn was written and the life-circumstance of the writer. Very interesting stuff, too. Basically that some of the hymns they loved dearly were written by young people writing songs they liked that the older people in their churches didn't like. More or less writing songs as a reaction to what the older people were singing in the services.

The author did bring up a question hat one of the older ladies in the group had that will require more discussion in later chapters: "Does all the music we love have to be thrown out the window just because young people want something different? Isn't there any place for the music we grew up loving?" A great question, too. Which will be dealt with later.

But, there is a moment where young people were invited to the meetings, and they discussed that they "couldn't" sing the they were listening to music from a foreign land's culture.

They couldn't "hear" hymns.

And MacDonald says, "If his comment described where a lot of young people were in the Christian world, then we really had a bigger problem than I'd realized. He was suggesting that we have generations who don't understand each other's words, but they don't even have an ear for each other's music."

I think he's correct. We don't have an ear for each other's music. I do have trouble with singing hymns sung in the original formats. Much like other people have for when young people sing the exact same hymn in a different format.

And, interestingly, churches seem to have focused on making sure they have technically proficient musicians (many of them paid) playing on great stages with big screens and lots of money put into great sound with incredible lighting (I've been to churches with "robotic" roaming lights set to timers) rigs...

...and this generation...

...much like punks made music accessible to anyone who wanted to play it... more interested in the character of the person playing the music and his reasoning for playing it. They want their worship leaders "authentic."

And, that's how I like my favorite musicians.

I like Jay Farrar of Son Volt--even if we all know his voice isn't all that great. He's singing because he loves it. He's singing because it's his story. He's singing about things that matter to him. From his perspective.

And that's how "worship wars" start, kids.

The problem is that the people who make the decisions in most churches are all of the older generation...very happy to provide the youth with rooms and bells and whistles in their own area of ministry, but what goes on in the main worship service at churches is the personal preference of a very small group.

I like how MacDonald puts it into perspective for the older members of their fictional group: "In their [the teenagers] day-to-day world, they tend to run with people their own age; they speak a youthful dialect, a type of subcultural language. And when they come to church--many of them coerced by their parents--where a culture is laden with adult perspectives and practices."

I'd suggest that it's a two-way street, too. Teens need to understand that adults have their own way of cultural interaction.

And, as per usual, I see this as a chance for both generations to serve one another. The young people need to learn from the grownups...and the grownups need to learn (and especially choose to serve) the younger generations, too.

But, in most churches, it's the young who have to do without in the main services. No big deal, patrons. That's really the way it is. And I have very little hope for change.

Because I know for sure that I don't "hear" much I like when it comes to music in churches anymore than the vast majority of humans "hear" the music that means so much to me.

However, I like the ideal of a congregation with a mixed bag of worship styles so everybody gets something they like periodically and we choose to serve when that style isn't the one we prefer.

I don't see that happening, frankly, in very many churches.


But if satellite radio can see the need to provide options for everybody, well, why can't we?