31 October, 1998

Dish Towels and Churches

 They were perfectly fine for me. Those towels had been a wedding shower gift from Dan’s grandmother. She died over ten years ago. And those towels have wiped a lot of dishes and even more hands. I like my towels.
When a friend helped me out last spring, she noticed that my dish towels were “tired” and thin. So for my birthday, she gave me a new dish towels. She meant well. But I couldn’t bring myself to admit that the towels Dan’s grandmother gave me so long ago were no longer adequate.
We get attached to things. We don’t like to get used to new things. Yet in the lives of many of us, things change rapidly around us. We can cook dinner in seconds, thanks to microwaves. We drive cars that are more computer than automobile. Televisions allow us to watch three shows at once. And computers give us instant communication with people half the world away.
The world is constantly changing around us. Normal is only a setting on our washing machines. The world changes every nanno-second. But we resist change in the things that are most dear to us..... especially our churches.
My towels look fine to me. But to my friend, they are thread-bare and inadequate. She didn’t know them when they were new. She didn’t know who gave them to me or why. She only knew what she saw..... towels so thin you can see through them. And she couldn’t find any value in them.
The same thing is happening in our churches. Younger people who didn’t grow up in the church — or who left it a time ago — see what happens in our churches as thread-bare and not of much use. The music is so very old. Things happen so very slowly — especially to those who live with computers and watch MTV for entertainment. There’s a bobbing head behind the pulpit and the scene doesn’t change. They don’t understand the meaning of it. It’s not spoken in their dialect. And they can’t find any value in it.
I’ve not thrown out my old dish towels. They still work for me. I use them along side of the new ones. But someday they will fall apart and die. Hopefully by then, the new ones will be familiar friends with stories of their own. And they can carry out the work.
We don’t want to throw out our way of being the church either. It still works for us. But we must learn to adapt to a new generation of seekers, to be open to new ways of being Christ’s church. Because someday we will die. And by then, new generations need to be friends of Jesus with their own faith journeys.
And they will carry out Christ’s work.