Hey…nice to catch up with you on the blog. Thanks for the comments you posted while I was so far from a wireless signal it felt like 1981. After 8 days unplugged with my family, I thought a bit about how life has changed in the last through years because of technology.
Three trends that got me thinking about church and being a wired Jesus-follower in 2008:
- Has the iPod killed commercial radio? I’m not one of those guys who hates new music (I love a lot of it), but I am flipping through stations quicker than ever and longing to get back to my playlists. And I’m a former radio guy and still have friends in the industry! What, if anything, will keep me tuned?
- Unique content I can’t or wouldn’t normally download.
- Great personalities (DJs) I like who have something interesting I want to hear.
- Specialty channels continue to erode the market-share of the major tv networks. Two trends in that one:
- Broadcasting is giving way to narrow-casting. We like what we like.
- Eclectic is becoming mainstream.
- People have been quick to pronounce newspapers dead – and circulation is dropping quickly. But last week, I picked up a couple of Globe and Mails for the first time in ages, and I think I fell in love again. People don’t really read newspapers for news anymore, but the Globe has shifted to honestly intelligent, thoughtful interest stories you just wouldn’t find elsewhere and you likely wouldn’t search for on line (their print version is better at this than their online version). Smart.
What’s the common trend? People have been turning away from traditional media in droves over the last 20 years, insisting that get what they want when they want it.
So how does this impact Christ-followers? I think we went through a period in the 80s and 90s where pretty much
all we were about were the preaching and the music, and this decade has
made it a lot harder to compete. Why not just play your favourite worship music in your iPod and download the best preaching podcasts your can find, and call that church? I used to feel threatened by that thought a few years ago. But now it excites me. Bring it on. I doubt that will kill the local church. It might make us more literate and sharper.
But what will keep followers and non-followers of Jesus meeting together as a the church (in person) into the future? Some thoughts on what keeps me coming back and might keep others:
- Real community. Human interaction. Dialogue. Conversation. Touch. Genuine caring for each other. Can’t download that…yet. Sure, we can do that on-line to an extent, but something happens when Jesus-followers and people who don’t yet follow meet eyeball to eyeball that is powerful. It happens in groups and in just about any setting in which people gather.
- A person. I think we used to think we were introducing people to an Idea (God, Truth), but the heart of the Christian faith is a relationship with a person (Jesus). Somehow facilitating a personal relationship is easier and more effective in person.
- An experience. There are times when I’m listening to iTunes when I feel close to God, but being together in community brings a presence that transcends solo experiences of God.
- Surprise. God is way more creative and interesting that we admit. In hosting services, preaching, worship and in different environments we host, there is something about a live experience that is creative and engaging that can help people experience Christ in fresh ways that a download can’t bring. And then there are the moments you can’t script, where God just moves. Wow.
- Love. Can you love people fully without being present? Is love complete without presence?
What do you think the "unique" marks of the Christ-followers gathering in person will be in these next few years together? What keeps you coming back, or what has driven you away? I’d love to hear from you!