In 1964 Bob Dylan released his milestone album, “The Times They Are A-Changin.” Apparently it was his first full length release of entirely original material. To most music critics his title track stands out above the rest. The song only lasted a shade over three minutes, but its impact has been felt ever since. Its powerful tone and lyrics summarized and even championed a larger narrative unraveling within American culture. It was controversial. It was rebellious. It was racial. It was political. It was risky. It was the leap that eventual solidified Dylan as Dylan.
A generation was in the middle of transition.
They wanted a voice.
Dylan spoke their language.
Regardless of your feelings or familiarity with Dylan (whom I know very little about), the lesson is valuable. When times are changing, people are listening. And different folks listen in different ways. For instance, in 1964 I’m sure those in their teens had a different response to “The Times They Are A-Changin’” than those in their fifties. Suffice it to say no matter what’s changing, different people listen differently. Some listen in fear; worried that forthcoming change will defeat what they value, trust, and enjoy. Others listen with abandoned hope; fully dependent on some sort of change, any change, because the status quo is killing them.
The former put up walls and resist change.
The latter dismantle every obstacle to change they can find.
Neither approach is inherently righteous.
Things change. Things are changing. Always. In our world. In our country. In our city. In our church. And in our families. Amid change Christians are not afforded the blind luxury to simply tear down walls or build them. We must consistently do the diligent work of listening. But not to popular musicians or culture icons. Rather, we incline our collective ear to the Lord. And that’s not always easy. Because the same God who is the same yesterday, today, and forever is also the God who is doing a new thing.
Last year I read the book, “Imagine.” The author, Jonah Lehrer profoundly and convincingly breaks down misconceptions about how creativity works. Throughout each chapter Lehrer catalogues the ability of different companies, leaders, artists, and musicians to create and why. One of those musicians was none other than Bob Dylan, truly a musical genius with unparalleled creativity and skill. The book spoke to me. It gave me a number of tools and great stories that have helped me in my own creative efforts.
After the book had been out for a few months it was pulled from bookstore shelves everywhere. Apparently the world’s leading expert on Bob Dylan (I guess besides Dylan himself) had accused and sufficiently proven that Jonah Lehrer had fabricated information in his book. In particular he had made up quotes from Bob Dylan to fit the book’s premise.
Dwell is changing. The world around our church is changing. How do we respond? What do we say? When should we remain silent? Should we build walls between us and the city? Or should we tear them down? You know, I’m not always sure. But I do know who to be sure in. And the last thing I want to do is make up something that God didn’t say and act as if he did. So, in the middle of each moment and season of change let’s keep listening.