Yesterday I shared a little about my first steps into the ministry that happened twenty-five years ago. Today I want to follow that up with sharing some of the significant changes I have seen during that time.
Let me say up front; I want to keep these positive. Sure, several negative things have happened I may share those soon, but today I see only the good. Here are some of the great things that I have seen happen since I started preaching every week.
1. The Worship Revolution – I was not prepared for this. The first two Churches I served were hymnally driven. We picked out songs from the hymnal, and the numbers were told to the congregation before each one. The worship leader would hold up their finger to indicate which verse was next and we usually skipped one of the verses for some reason. Then came a worship revolution. At first, we introduced a new chorus to the congregation that was only a few lines long, and we repeated it over and over. Then came to a new wave of worship and bands were introduced to congregations. Now, there is no longer a thing called contemporary worship; there is just worship in all its forms.
2. Technological Advancement – At my third Church I started using a computer. The elders could not understand why we needed it, so a kind individual donated one. I started printing the program with it and putting a sermon outline inside the folder. Soon the words for worship went up on a screen. By far, the biggest change is the internet. It literally changed everything. People now go to websites before visiting the Church, sermons are shared online, and announcements along with prayers are spread through email.
3. Greater Resources Available. During my first ministry, I subscribed to magazines and a once a month audio tape called “Preaching Today.” Every month there was great excitement as I could listen to two sermons and a lecture or read about the latest trends. Now, I have access to thousands upon thousands of free resources. Each week I listen to the best preachers in the world and read some of their blogs. I have far more lesson material and sermon ideas than I could have ever imagined. These are available to anyone who wants to use them, not just preachers. What a great time to be alive.
4. The Rise of Community Service. When I started the ministry, I taught evangelism classes. I would train people on how to talk to friends, neighbors, and acquaintances about faith. Most Churches have no program like that anymore. Instead, the Church now goes out into the community to do good works. The hope is to shine the light of Jesus into the world and allow that to become a bridge to share what we know about faith. Churches are leading the way in many communities with projects to help the poor, homeless, refugees, disaster victims and a variety of other projects.
5. Flexibility in the Church. In the early years, people got upset at the word “change” being used. Now, I make changes every week, and no one says a word. The world itself is changing at the speed of the internet, and the people in the Church have lost their resistance to it. In fact, most people embrace change nowadays. Sure, there are a few who are vocally resistant, but not the majority. The Church now has video venues, multi-site campuses, multiple services and is trying new things like never before.
The past twenty-five years have seen its share of changes. It makes me excited for the next twenty-five years. I pray as times change that the Church embraces the positive advancements for the good of the gospel. Every year the people of God need to be working to reach the next generation not holding on to the past methods that are no longer effective. By the grace of God, we will continue to use everything we possess for the name of Jesus.