Is the church obsolete? Wow! This writer was shocked at the words that reverberated through my mind and heart. Somehow I felt this was a significant and profound question for a man who has given his life to the church as a pastor and teacher for 30+ years.
When I think of the word “obsolete”, my memory takes me be back to the 8 track music player that I absolutely had to have in my first car, as a teenager. A few of us still have a box or two of those old bulky tapes in a garage, but nothing to play them in. Sitting here typing into my word processer, I also remember my first manual typewriter, and the accompanying bottle of “white-out” for the spelling mistakes I would inevitably find when I finished typing. Some people believe that the church as we know it is obsolete. They may have a fairly strong point.
Today we are in an amazing age of advanced technology and communications. To drive home the point, consider the invention of the transistor, a little less than 70 years ago. Of course the transistor is a common component of most of our commonly taken for granted electronic items from radios to telephones to sound systems, TVs, microwave ovens, computers, etc. Transistors show up in places as diverse as airplanes, cars, broadcast stations, recording studios, remote controls, air conditioning, etc.
In fact, technology has increased so fast that many people are alive today who were here before television, Xerox, penicillin, polio shots, frozen foods, plastic contact lenses, digital watches, birth control pills, radar, credit cards, splitting the atom, lasers, frisbees, ball point pens, dishwashers, clothes dryers, electric blankets and air conditioning. They would have never heard of Big Mac’s, instant coffee, daycare, group therapy, nursing homes, FM radio, tape decks, CD’s, cordless keyboards, cellular phones, artificial hearts, ram, megabytes, hard drives, software or word processors.
Of course, nothing takes God by surprise. Thousands of years ago the Lord spoke to the prophet Daniel of these days. “But thou, O Daniel, shut up the words, and seal the book, even to the time of the end: many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall be increased.” Dan. 12:4
This shift that we are in surpasses the transition from agricultural to industrial and industrial to technological. It is historic. Our past experiences and our current knowledge may not be adequate in this new age of communications.
The church is in major transition as well. Most people know that the church, as it has been, is neither satisfactory to God nor adequate to the task before us in these closing days of this present dispensation. World population is presenting the possibility for a larger harvest of souls than has even been seen in the cumulative total of the previous 2,000 years. Meanwhile, the question that begs to be asked is “Are we trying to package a timeless message in an outdated methodology?”
Consider that we only crossed over our first billion in population less than 150 years ago, and now there are close to 7,000,000,000 on planet earth. An amazing population growth statistic tells us that there are more people who have been born within the last 100 years than in the past 2,000 years combined. And prior to the 20th century, the fastest man had ever traveled was 35 miles per hour. Advances in technology, communications, travel, education, and social media are compelling us to rethink our entire approach to spreading the Gospel and the way we “do” church.
The challenge before the church is how to preserve and propagate an eternal and universal message in the context of a rapidly shifting civilization. In this examiner series we will further explore the church in relation to advances in communication and information technology, the social networking phenomena, and other factors as we consider the question “Is the church obsolete?”
To be continued…
Is the church obsolete? Part 2 – The church and information technology
Is the church obsolete? Part 3 – The Church and social networking
Is the church obsolete? Part 4 – Adapting timeless truths to contemporary settings