When Henry Ford’s car’s started appearing on the dusty roads of America, a lot of people wondered, “Where do you put the saddle?,” thinking the car was just a faster horse.
The car was way more than a faster horse. Besides not needing a saddle, this sublime transportation technology not only helped us get from here to there, it changed the way people regarded geographic boundaries and interacted with each other.
Just as the car is not a faster horse, email is not a faster fax. And, as Seth Godin adds, online project management is not a bigger whiteboard. And Facebook is not an electronic rolodex. Get it?
When we do not embrace or internalize implications of change, we close ourselves off from the world. Technology, for example, is not just a way to do things faster. If it were, then we could better understand some people’s reluctance to embrace what’s new; they simply decide fast is fast enough.
Chinese printer Pi Sheng invented movable type in 1041 A.D. It was similar to the technology that German printer Johann Gutenberg used four hundred years later to produce his famous editions of the Bible. The technology promoted the sharing of ideas and the Reformation itself could hardly have occurred without the writings of Erasmus and Luther being widely distributed. This promoted an accessible faith, the development of schools, resulting in more people reading, who in turn learned new ideas. Attitudes and behaviors changed, resulting in repeated cycles of inspiration, invention, and innovation. The printing press was not just a faster way of producing books.
Similarly, thinking the iPod is just an easier way to listen to music, or that the iPad is just a bigger iPhone misses the game-changing reality that millions and millions of people are using these new tools to profoundly interact with and change the world.
Putting a big screen in front of a congregation, instead of holding hymn books, is not just a faster or easier way to sing. It is an incredible sociological and liturgical game-changer. Exploring how social media intersects faith and church is an emerging ecclesiastical challenge. Some consider the recent phenomena of social media to be just about faster communications, merely having an impact on those who use the services. Facebook and Twitter offer a magnitude of influence on the world that could rival that of Gutenberg’s printing press. Imagine that.
In what ways are you becoming more humble, intentional, and authentic as a human being? What, or who, will you pay more attention to today?
So, we don’t need saddles to drive a car. What game-changing tools are you mastering to make a better world? I can’t wait to see what you come up with.
PS -For my friends in the Presbyterian Church…one more thing:
When it comes to middle governing bodies in the church, we get stuck because we do not internalize the change we all agree we need, and think we are just doing things faster or better with each iteration of meetings and projects. In reality, everything’s changed around us and new tools are revolutionizing the way the people think about themselves and their communities. When we resist internalized change, we diminish our precious spiritual and emotional energy. When it comes to the Presbyterian Church middle governing bodies, we may not have enough time to catch up to the world we wake up to each day. We seem to be speaking to one another in rooms where no one else is gathered to listen.
For more than forty years, our mantra has bellowed about the possibility of change, the challenge of change, the need for change, even sometimes trying to promote a readiness for change. Yet, we have not changed our position in order to fully present and better connected to the physical and virtual world.
We are acutely aware of unintended and un-welcomed change all around our churches, presbyteries, and synods. Yet we keep looking for a faster way to do more of what, sadly, is not working.
We fumble at integration, rarely grasping the game-changing implications of a world that passed the church by long ago on its way to the future.
Instead of leading a helpful and timely conversation in the public square down the road or online, our best intentions seem sabotaged by those of us who are paralyzed by fear, impaired in mind or spirit, or simply unconscious.
If our mission is to avoid risk. We have achieved it. No Special Commission of the GAMC will help, even if summoned. Our consolation is that a few determined presbyteries can collaboratively realign their mission and their assets to produce healthier, more effective, outwardly directed congregations, irrespective of how the synods stumble forward, as if resurrected like Lazarus, but still holding tightly to their grave clothes.
We need more than the nineties’ deep change analysis and form of government upgrade. We need a spiritual and mental reboot. Let’s agree that we don’t need a “faster” church, but a more humble, intentional, and authentic church (and by church I don’t mean a building on the corner). We must be transformed from within to look more like the one we follow as disciples, namely Jesus. That’s the change that matters. Living inside—out, mastering game-changing tools to be fully present (incarnate) in the physical and virtual world.
What is your church doing today to make your community a better place in which to live? What is one thing you will do this week that humbly, intentionally, and authentically shows your community you care and that God loves them?