It may seem little far from my normal reading list but this book is essential reading for those who want to understand the rapid and transformative shifts that are happening in the world in which we live. I will save a full review for someone smarter than me but one sentence really jumped out at me last night.
“But today’s technological revolution is unequaled in scope, touching almost every human activity in the world at dizzying speed.”
And it is not just technology. The author lays out the many shifts that are happening in the world, categorizing them as “The More, Mobility and Mentality Revolutions.” Unlike some other current thinkers, Naím doesn’t lay all these changes at the feet of technology. However, it is one very important piece of the puzzle.
I had to stop reading for a while after I read that and then I couldn’t sleep. Here is why:
I do not think that the Church understands how radical, unparalleled, and permanent this shift is.
I think, at best, we are stepping up our game when it comes to communications and technology. At worst, we are falling further behind. What is worse is that while the majority of the Church and, individually, the churches are missing the change that is occurring around them, some factions are quite aware and taking advantage of these changes to further the cause of their self-identified brand of Christianity.
One thing is clear to me: Christianity will survive this revolution. What is not clear is whether or not it will look anything like the Gospel.
To get at that point, we need to clarify content and substance vs. platform and delivery. I consider myself an Evangelical Christian. I believe in the need for conversion and perfection. I believe our beliefs need to be lived out in action. I believe in the power and authority of scripture. And, I believe in the centrality of the cross to God’s redemptive work. At the heart of the Gospel is a message that has not and will not change. However, the ways in which we share that message have changed, are changing and will continue to change based on the context of the world we live in.
Some conflate content and delivery or firmly believe that even the delivery remains unchanged. But then how would we explain the Reformation? Prior to the work of the reformers, the delivery of the Gospel was tightly controlled by the Roman Catholic Church. The reformers took advantage of seismic shifts in technology to change that. They took advantage of innovations like the printing press, improved access to education, expanding literacy and improvement in health and quality of life to change the way the message of Jesus was delivered.
Most Protestants are quite pleased with the way the Reformation worked out. But think about this: what would have happened if some other branch of Christianity had jumped more quickly and decisively to take advantage of the shifts that were occurring?
I love helping churches create new websites. I enjoy helping ministries get started with live streaming and social media. But the world is changing faster than that. We need to do more than polish up our technological façade. The world is caught in a tsunami of change. That is neither good nor bad. It just is. My kids were born into a completely different world than I was. The change is becoming exponential meaning that our current selves won’t be able to recognize the world of 10 years from now.
As a Church, we need to stop trying to catch up to ten years ago and decide that we are ready to lead the way forward. The promises of God are not going to change. But the world is. If we don’t bridge the two, who will?