30 years ago I graduated from college, and April 27th marked 25 years since I officially became “Reverend” Patrick Day.
I vividly remember trying to decide where to go to seminary. I was interested in Austin Seminary in Texas. A friend who was from Austin told me, “Patrick, because I want you to succeed, do NOT go to Austin. You won’t make it.” Apparently Austin Seminary is right downtown where all the fun is. What was very apparent was that I had more growing up to do. I was also interested in Pittsburgh Seminary. A friend who was from Pittsburgh said, “Pittsburgh is a hard city. You’ll fit right in.” I don’t know what she meant, but I was intrigued.
Off to Pittsburgh. I was the only one in my class that came straight from college. That meant a lot of Friday nights with nothing to do. And THAT meant a lot of Friday nights perusing the NEW RELEASES shelves at Blockbuster Video.
Blockbuster Video was a huge part of my life during that season. New releases came out every Tuesday. I was there every Friday.
I wasn’t alone. Blockbuster was part of everyone’s life in the 1990’s. At my first church, youth group home nights were spent eating pizza and bickering at Blockbuster over which movie to get. Inevitably there would be one 14 year-old who would try convince their small group leader they were allowed to watch “Con Air“.
Watching the movie may have been the evening plan, but picking the movie was just as important a part of the evening.
In 2000, Blockbuster had the opportunity to buy a little company called Netflix. They passed. After all, who would want a movie delivered to their house? Everyone would want to come to the store to choose a movie, right?
Netflix is worth $176 billion.
Blockbuster has one retail location still open. It’s in Bend, Oregon. Stop in if you still have your membership card.
I still have a VHS player. It’s not broken, but I can’t remember the last time I used it. Even movies I owned on VHS, I now own digitally.
It’s not that there’s anything wrong with the way things used to be. It’s just that the way things used to be is the way things USED to be.
Life, and in my corner of the world, Church is the same way. I remember going to church in the 1980’s and working in a church in the 1990’s. It was great. It was simply part of our lives.
It isn’t part of people’s lives anymore, and the churches that will thrive are the ones that will look forward, not back.
Find a person under 30, say the following statement to them, and see what kind of reaction you get. Go ahead. Find someone under 30 and say to them, “BE KIND. REWIND.” There. Did they even laugh, or just stare at you?
What we did last century (Yes, it was last century.) may not be totally broken, but we’re not going back to it.
And we shouldn’t be disappointed. After all, only the method has changed, but the core of the experience is the same. I don’t work directly with youth in the church any more. But I am guessing when they get together as a small group to watch a movie, they still bicker over what to watch. They just bicker at someone’s home instead of the store. I am guessing there is still a 14 year-old who is trying to convince their small group leader that their parents are totally cool with them watching “Texas Chainsaw Massacre.”
Life is changing, and that’s okay.
We just need to be willing to look ahead, take the chances that Blockbuster didn’t take, and see where that leads us.