The other evening I went for my daily jog. While I was puffing along in what I thought was warp speed, a young, sleek female zoomed past me so fast I couldn't even say "hello". If you haven't felt slow lately, it may be because you just aren't old enough. Suddenly slow is metal-to-the-pedal for me. It must be the new normal I keep hearing about.
Several years ago I read a great book by Leonard Sweet. It's one of the books I usually recommend to pastors to challenge them about the cultural markers of the new world. In Carpe Manana (Zondervan, 2003) Sweet outlined paradigm shifts characteristic of the digital age since the introduction of the worldwide web in 1990. One of them is about speed: the old world was about vast, while the new one is about fast. His thesis was verified one day as I strolled the business aisle of Barnes and Noble. There it was on the best-seller shelf, a book titled It's Not the Big that Eat the Small, but the Fast that Eat the Slow by Jason Jennings (Harper Business, 2003). Making note of those dates just further underscores the velocity of change so visible today. Both of those books were published thirteen years ago. Everything is even faster now.
Do me a favor. Take six minutes and watch this YouTube video clip, Did You Know
2016. There's a short advertisement just before the clip, so forgive that. I'm not
selling anything. You can access it by clicking here. It's a fast paced reality check
about the ways technology is influencing life. Now, there's a disclaimer about the
data communicated in the video: I haven't fact checked the statistics or claims
made by Jose Esteves, creator of the material. Just the same, I don't doubt any of it.
But, I'm a sucker for this kind of rapid-fire presentation and accumulation of what
are reported as factual research.
The point? The institutional church is often in the slow lane of societal movement. It may explain to some degree our waning influence in the public square, that we are somehow distanced from what is happening in the world around us. In many instances our resistance to change and the threat of being overrun by business models slows our response to the unique spiritual needs of people on the move. Several strands of thought interlace as we consider ways to keep up----
1. God does not change and doesn't need to be re-shaped for these times.
2. Jesus is the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow and doesn't need a face-lift
or more contemporary veneer to resonate with sophisticated moderns.
3. Jesus prayed that his people would be in the world but not of it. The person of
Christ and the truth of the Gospel must be the defining character of his church
even as we attend to engage communities experiencing fast change.
4. Making disciples of all nations is the mission of Christ's church in all
generations. This mission cannot be replaced the by impersonal anonymity and
mobility of a techno world that is distinctively secular.
5. Church organization must be streamlined to engage so that God's people can
respond to local mission needs in a more timely manner. Using technology in a
redemptive manner may enable his church to communicate the Gospel more
effectively in such a high-speed culture.
Acts 13:36 is often quoted as a proof-text to encourage this kind of engagement. Paul was preaching to "men of Israel" (verse 16) at Antioch in Pisidia. As he rehearsed the mighty acts of God in Jewish history he mentioned King David and his service of God in his own generation. Luke recorded it---
For David, after he had served the purpose of God in his own generation, fell
asleep and was laid with his fathers and saw corruption.
God's purpose is certainly not seasonal or adjusted to any particular time. King David was, however, noted in this instance for serving God's purpose during his own time. It is a lesson we may wish to learn in these fast times.