Good grief. Indoor plumbing may be centuries old in concept but only became available to a majority of people in my life time, that is, the past 64 years. I do remember when people put a chamber pot under the bed, and went to an outhouse to take care of business. Realizing this forces me to look around, take notice, and realize that most of the objects I use every single day are of relatively recent invention. It's hard to imagine life today without these conveniences, simple things like ball-point pens, microwave ovens, mobile phones, the lap-top, a nice coffee machine, bottled water, instant messaging, the shower, deodorant, yada yada yada. Well, maybe not the mobile phone!
It is a world in movement, constant flux, and change! Flash back to the Tower of Babel in the Book of Genesis and comprehend for a moment why God confused the their language. "The Lord said, If, as one people all having the same language, they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible to them" (Genesis 11:6). God wired humans with a creative flair, an innovative spirit, and the ability to invent. While history is tick-marked with the moral and ethical digression of fallen humanity, there's also a record of steady industrial, mechanical, and now technological advancement that continues to influence our lives. I mean, think about this. The best camera I've ever owned in my life is my iPhone.
So, here's the deal. It's The Secular City envisioned by liberal Harvard theologian Harvey Cox in his book back in 1965. It's identifiers are anonymity and mobility, meaning that people seek to blend with the masses, and are on the move. And, we've been commissioned to make disciples in that world, the world that is fast, changes exponentially by the nano-second, and where people generally want to hide. How to pursue mission in that kind of world is the question. Some churches do it well. Many more, perhaps as many as 85-90% of local congregations, are on life support. They are disconnected from the world around them.
What is so incredible is the way God has permitted the creative mind of man to do mission in that kind of world. Many vibrant, growing congregation are also on the cusp of using technology, the information super-highway, and cutting-edge systems to communicate, serve, and minister to the world around them. It's the biblical truth that the message never changes, but the methods do. They must. The new thing God is always doing (Isaiah 43:19) demands new structures, organizations, and processes to make disciples in a world like this. We're not selling buggy whips anymore, and we dont' have an outhouse on the grounds. Well, yes, we do truck some porta-potties for events on occasion. But, we must proclaim this never changing gospel in ways and means that engage the world around us, like now.
There's an old story about the country parson paying a visit to the family out in the boonies. When he went inside to meet with the family he asked the little girl to bring him the most important book in the household. She brought him the Sears Roebuck catalog. Some of you don't know what that is. So, go here. At one time it was the premier shopping method in rural America. Sears stopped printing them in 1993. It was a terrible business decision. They couldn't adapt their old catalog to the new www world. They've changed that now with the Lands End Brand and many other ways to shop on-line. But, their failure to change their methods cost them dearly in market share and name recognition.
We're entrusted with truth that is eternal. But, if we're allergic to changing methods, our disconnect from the world will just become greater.
New wine, needs fresh, new wine skins. Jesus said it. We must believe it. And, more, practice it.