In a recent blog, Seth Godin pointed out that “history doesn’t always repeat itself . . . but it usually rhymes.” Most of us grew up with the world view that history tends to be cyclical—wars, famines, economic disasters—tend to recur on a regular basis. The players may be different, but the circumstances are pretty much the same. This worked pretty well for us when we were much more tied to a low tech, agricultural culture. Godin points out the new reality that the next “big thing” may look very different from the last one, bringing with it a number of unexpected consequences.
For example, when we started using pagers, did we really expect that they would be replaced by compact “communicators” that we call cell phones? Cell phones (and smart phones) have brought a whole different kind of wireless connectedness to our culture—text messages, instant pictures and videos, and delivery of music, movies, and other media—all in the palms of our hands. All of this has changed so quickly that we hardly remember how we were limited to wired media—landlines, faxes, etc.—only a decade ago. Of course, this will pass quickly into something else that we can’t even predict at this point.
Those of us in the church tend to think in cycles as well. Too many of us are “waiting for the parade to some around the square again” so that the methodologies that worked in past decades will be relevant again. Don’t wait. It’s not going to happen. Not only has the way we do church changed, the expectations that people have of church have changed. Certainly, they still desire to come closer to God in worship and grow in discipleship, but the delivery systems have changed even as the context has changed.
The lesson for us is not to become too attached to a particular way of doing something. As Godin says,
“Most of the time, we’re dealing with a moment, a step in a trend. We fail when we fall in love and believe there is no next step.” So what’s the next step for the church?