The same thing is happening in the church, and I don’t mean changing doctrine to suit the situation, I mean changing the means by which we teach that unchangeable Word, and the ways we edify one another while still clinging to the constraints of obedient faith.
Gone are the charts drawn on white bed sheets and the overhead projectors flashing carefully covered up lists, revealed one line at a time when the speaker moves the sheet of paper he laid on top. Now we use power point and remotes. Even my three year old grandson Silas knows to pick up something rectangular and point it at his make-believe screen when he pretends to preach like Daddy.
We must beg people to use the carefully selected library of books we have in the back hall—they are happier with the internet and Bible study programs, not to mention Kindle and Nook. Even the riffling of Bibles during the sermon has decreased—many now have all 66 books on something the size of a wallet. You are more likely to hear beeps or mechanized “plops” than the quiet shuffling of pages.
Now the preacher doesn’t just have to raise his voice when an infant begins to cry; he has to raise it when someone forgets to turn off his cell phone. Now the song leader must wrestle with an audience who not only wants to sing at their own pace regardless of his direction, but with the ones who cannot for the life of them understand or “feel” syncopation. Fanny Crosby would never have set words to a syncopated tune.
But some things will always be the same.
Children whose parents tell them to “Listen!” will still come up with ways to keep their wandering minds on the sermons, counting how many times the preacher says certain words or writing down every passage he uses, and in that play will begin to memorize scriptures that stay with them for a lifetime.
Someone will still sniffle a bit during the Lord’s Supper, and someone else will momentarily hold up the collection while he tries to persuade his two year old to put the coins in the plate, and the children will learn what is done and why.
A deacon will stand in back and count while another one makes last minute notes for the closing announcements, those precious words that help us “weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice.”
Serious men, in khakis and open neck shirts instead of suits and ties, will still listen carefully to the preacher while their wives juggle their own listening with trying to decide if a requested potty trip is really necessary or just a ploy to get out of this boring seat for a few minutes.
People will still ask for prayers when life deals them a harsh blow, and brothers and sisters will gather round with hugs and tears, and offers of help.
Excited new converts will still sit closer to the front than old ones, listening with rapt attention, diligently taking notes to study at home, and thinking up questions that will keep the elders busy for weeks.
Young parents will be suddenly motivated to attend regularly for the first time in their lives by the responsibility of the small souls God has placed in their hands.
Widows will contentedly sit, patiently waiting for the time when they can meet their mates “at the gate,” as my mother asked my daddy to do just moments before his passing.
Older couples will do as I do, looking around at all the new but still seeing the old in spite of the new, comforting themselves that God’s way still works, even in this perplexing age of technology and unparalleled advancement.
As long as there are people to hear it and hearts to believe it, planting the seed will make Christians spring up out of any plot of good soil. It has worked for nearly two thousand years now and we, in spite of the wow-factor of our inventions, will never outdo the results God can get with one Book. If you ever forget that, then look around some Sunday morning, not for the differences, but for the things that never change, and that never will as long as faith exists on the earth.
"O my God," I say, "take me not away in the midst of my days-- you whose years endure throughout all generations!" Of old you laid the foundation of the earth, and the heavens are the work of your hands. They will perish, but you will remain; they will all wear out like a garment. You will change them like a robe, and they will pass away, but you are the same, and your years have no end. The children of your servants shall dwell secure; their offspring shall be established before you. Psalms 102:24-28