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Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Are They Live, or Are They Memorex?

When I was a kid, I used to get laughs imitating the great jazz singer Ella Fitzgerald. At that time, she was seen constantly in a television commercial advertising Memorex cassette tapes.

“Random” people, placed in a windowless room, would listen to Ella’s voice, and a tape of Ella’s voice, singing a jazz riff— something along the lines of “be bop bop a loop a bah bah, ba beet bop a loop bah, baah baah... BEEP BOP BAH LOOP BAH! BEEP BOP BAH LOOP BAH!"

It was when she hit these last few notes, a glass of water would shatter from the vibrations of her pitch. (Strangely enough, people assumed that glasses of water would shatter when my voice would reach this pitch as well, but I digress.)

The catch was, supposedly a glass of water would shatter when Ella Fitzgerald’s voice was played singing this jazz riff. The punch line for the commercial was designed to motivate you to buy Memorex cassette tapes – “Is it live, or is it Memorex?”

There was something convenient about cassette tapes back then. Like MP3 songs on my iPod today, cassette tapes could offer you music on demand with a technical precision born out of the Industrial Revolution.

On the other hand, live singers could be troublesome. Ella Fitzgerald notwithstanding, sometimes live music did not sound as pretty or as technically precise as did recorded music. Furthermore, flesh and blood singers were often prima donnas. Yet, in the 1970s, just as today, people will pay extravagant sums of money to hear musical artists singing. Patrons consider the product to be worth the cost.

Thinking about Memorex tapes reminded me of an article a preacher friend of mine named Rick Cobb wrote several years ago. In the church, it is easy to seek precision when equipping people for ministry. It is easy to cater to those Christians who look nice, sit in the pews, and create few or no problems. Taking the time to equip people for ministry, motivating them, often proves to be chaotic and unproductive.

I maintain the chaos is worth the investment. Maturity does take time; however, when churches invest in people, over the long run, they seem to produce more Christians who are inspired to ministry. They need no persuasion from staff members or elders. They are ready to serve. Memorex Christians look good in snapshots, but I choose "live" – with all of its hassles.

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