Church: The Winds Of Change Are Beginning To Blow


Shadows of the Past: Generational and Cultural Changes

I remember Bob Dylan’s song The Times They Are A-Changing that Peter, Paul & Mary made famous during the infamous protest era of the late ‘60’s & early ‘70’s’:

             Come mothers and fathers throughout the land

             And don’t criticize what you can’t understand

             Yours sons and your daughters are beyond your command

             Your old road is rapidly agin’

                                                                                                  Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand

                                                                                                   For the times they are a-changin’

As a 26 year old, I thought those lyrics prophetic as the madness of the civil rights movement, women’s liberation movement, anti-Viet Nam War movement, the drug revolution, the free love philosophy, and the rebellion against “the establishment” philosophy swept the nation. “Leave It To Beaver” was replaced by “Woodstock”.  Flat top haircuts were replaced by Beetle “bangs” with sideburns or long haired hippies.  To those in their teens or twenties Dylan’s lyrics seemed to make sense, warning the past generation of a new mindsets in American culture, life style, and attitudes were in order. Truly, the times were a changing.

Ironically as my age number have been flipped, 62 years old, I find myself at the other end of the spectrum of these lyrics as those in their teens and twenties are ready to sing the song back to me, warning me of changing times.  In my life time I have seen the Berlin Wall fall closing the cold war, Tell Star, the first satellite, cross the sky to man walking on the moon, the birth and the death of the space shuttle, the invention and implementation of the internet, the world wide web, the birth of actual 4 in. floppy disks and their death only to be replaced by “the cloud”, going from using telephone booths dropping quarters for time and “land lines” to paying dearly for wireless smart phones that now control our lives, from teenage girls writing notes to their friends while giggling to teenage girls giggling while texting, from sending love letters through what is now referred to as “snail mail” only to be replaced by email, instant messaging, MySpacing, Facebooking, Tweeting, and social media, from seeing a "live" satellite transmission picture of a water fountain in Paris to being able to Skype anyone anywhere in the world, from listening to “tapes” on 8 track cartridges and later cassettes to DVD’s to online with Itunes on Ipods, from renting a movie on tape at Blockbuster to getting a movie from a redbox for a buck in what use to look like a soda machine, and from writing in actual cursive writing in a journal in ink, to typing in different fonts with pictures in a blog like this!

My grandparents rode to a local church a couple blocks away in a horse and buggy, a model T-Ford, or a VW bug because it was close.  My generation all owned cars and passed each other while driving to different churches all over the country.  My children’s generation is “bored” with church as I grew up with it, seeking high tech, high powered, multi-screened, high production services in megachurches or just “surfing” the internet to make new “connections” rather than physically making them in a church building.  I went to church twice on Sundays, to choir practice on Tuesdays, mid-week service on Wednesday, and youth group on Thursdays, as well as attend V.B.S., daily Vacation Bible School, as a kid and attend church camp for a week as a teen during the summer.  My children’s generation may go once a week, if at all.  Church life defined my social life as a teen, but social networking defines the social life of my children.  The Church is only one small part of their social life, if it is at all, while it was all consuming to me.

So with all these changes, and only in the brief span of ½ century, no wonder Dylan’s lyrics are being thrown back at me.  I remember what we called a “generation” gap with our parents….. oops it has returned as roles have “changed”, and I am now the parent and the lines…..

                  “Your old road is rapidly agin’

                  Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand

                  For the times they are a-changin’

….. hits home.  In my next series of blogs, I hope to look at this dilemma that I am now forced to face.  How has American culture changed?  How is American Church culture changing?  I hear my parents and grandparents singing in my one ear, “Give me that old time religion; it’s good enough for me. It was good for the Hebrew children; it was for my mother; it was good for my father; and its good enough for me,” and Dylan singing in my other ear, “Your old road is rapidly agin. Please get out of the new one if you can’t lend a hand.’”

I remember in the ‘70’s crying out to the Church to “lend me a hand” when the Charismatic Movement swept the country, but they rejected my cry while choosing instead to oppose what was happening to me and the Charismatic Movement until the fruit of that movement was “acceptable” decades later.  Now in the "two thousand and teens" decade, Dylan’s lyrics resounds as I, and the Church that I helped develop to my generation in our culture is about to be asked “to lend a hand” or “get out of the new one”.  How are we to respond?  How will we respond? Ooops, how are we responding already? That is the topic of future blogs!