Martin Luther, in his day, changed how we do church forever. His courage to stand against the status quo is still being felt after 500 years. What most people don’t realize is that the protestant movement was fueled by a new invention that had recently appeared on the scene called the printing press. It enabled the printed word to spread. And the very first book published on this invention was the Gutenburg Bible.
Johannes Gutenberg,the inventor of the printing press, is now the man who is acknowledged as the #1 most influential person of the last millennium.
But what about the inventions of today? The church would do well to recognize the significance of the incredible transformation happening now with information technology, the social networking phenomena, and other factors as we consider the question “Is the church obsolete?”
While followers of Jesus know that the message of the Gospel is timeless and universal, it’s becoming obvious that the church must embrace and fully use the technology of the future if it wants to fulfill it’s destiny. We need to recognize and adapt to some radical cultural, social and technological changes, while certainly remaining rooted in the eternal truths of Scripture to stay relevant in these exceptional times.
In this series of articles we have been exploring 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?” (see INTRO) (see Part 2)
One such area of our culture that is going through rapid transition and transformation is community and communications. Even the word “community” means dramatically different things than it did 50 or 100 years ago. Quite often, the concept of community no longer has anything to do with geographical proximity. Today, “chatters” form a sense of ‘community’ with their friends in their favorite chat rooms, relating around their common likes and interests, while literally sitting in other countries and on other continents. In fact, one out of eight marriages last year in the U.S. were with couples that met online.
Social Media is not just a fad. It’s a fundamental shift in the way we communicate. Consider these amazing Social Media statistics:
• Over 50% of the world’s population is under 30. 97% of Gen Y college students, also known as the Millennial Generation have a computer, and 96% have joined a social media network.
• The first commercial text message was sent in Dec. 1992. Today, the number of text messages sent and received every day exceeds the total population of the planet.
• Ashton Kutcher and Brittney Spires have more twitter followers than the entire population of Sweden, Israel, Switzerland, Ireland, Norway and Panama. (80% of twitter usage is on Mobile devices.)
• The popular internet social gathering spot, “Facebook” has mushroomed.More than 1.5 million pieces of content (web links, news stories blog posts, notes, photos, etc.) are shared on facebook.. DAILY!
• If Facebook were a nation, it would be the 3rd largest in the world, larger than the entire population of USA. 50% of the internet traffic in the UK is for Facebook, and it tops Google for weekly traffic in America.
• Social Media has overtaken porn as the #1 activity of the Web.
Click here to view the YouTube video: “Did You Know? 4.0” (Official update to the original “Shift Happens” video. This fall ’09 version includes facts and stats focusing on the changing media landscape, including convergence and technology)
We are now becoming the “connected” generation. These changes are affecting how we relate to one another and how we reach the masses. Communication is key to this new era. The Scriptures describe “church” as a relationally connected entity, (although traditions have turned it into a lot of other things – more on this in the next part in this series) With the current advances in social media and communications, we now have the tools before us for a time of unprecedented relational and communicational connection.
Perhaps instead of becoming obsolete, the church is being handed the very tools it needs to become all it needs to be, in preparation for a great end-time harvest.
To be continued:
Is the church obsolete? Part 1 of 4 (introduction)
Is the church obsolete? Part 2 – The church and information technology
Is the church obsolete? Part 4 – Adapting timeless truths to contemporary settings