I’ve been thinking about this for a while. Can the typical church catch up to the frenzy of progression that is happening in technologically oriented fields? Better yet, does it want to? Or even better, does it need to?
In 1965, Gordon Moore, inventor of an integrated circuit and co-founder of Intel, observed that the number of transistors that can be placed on an integrated circuit increases at an exponential rate, doubling every two years. This observation, over the past 40 or so years, has proven itself to be true and is known as Moore’s Law (not to be confused with Moore’s law, which basically says people may not want more information because it will probably mean they have to think more. While the two actually have a very interesting implications when put together, that’s not what I’m interested in today).
Moore’s law has immense implications for anything with technology (specifically integrated circuits) at it’s core. For awhile people, even Moore himself, thought we were at an end to Moore’s law, but recent work in silicon based transistors has extended the reality of the exponentially increasing rate of technology. What this mean is, we have moved from the first programmable computer (Charles Babbage, concept in 1812-1822) to the modern handheld computer in less than 200 years. And 200 years is nothing more than a blip on the 100,000 year history of modern humanity. So, imagine the progress we’ve made in that tiny little blip (from a general concept of computers to handheld, wireless web-surfing) and just try to extrapolate exponentially where we will be in the next 20 years – it’s mind boggling.
Now, look at the past 200 year history of the church. The Great Schism was more than 900 years ago. Luther’s 95 Thesis and the resulting split from the Catholic Church was almost 500 years ago. In the last 200 years…well, we do catch the tail end of the Second Great Awakening, but let’s face it we’ve resisted any change or advancements for the most part. A quick glance at The Presbyterian Hymnal shows a remarkable number of songs from more than 200 years ago.
So, while the world (particularly the technological part of it) has raced ahead at light speed, the church has clung to the past, changing when it was forced to, but remaining relatively consistent over the past 200 years. Honoring our past, our history, is very important and is something for we should strive. Living in the past, however, is not something for which we should strive.
At heart here is the question of relevance. Many of today’s young people sight the lack of the church’s relevance in their lives as the reason the do not attend church. Did you catch that? Not, they don’t believe in God. Not, they don’t like the worship service. They don’t find the church relevant for their modern lives.
So, is it that the church is no longer relevant in young people’s lives or could it be that in holding on so tightly to the past, we are letting the future slip away from us? Could it be that in our resistance to move forward in the world, particularly when it comes to technology, that we are shunning the very thing that would help reconnect the church with the young, disenfranchised believers? I believe so.
Here’s the thing though – at the blazing fast speed at which technology moves forward, a speed that is increasing daily and so far shows no signs of slowing, the more we (the church) hesitate, the more we reflect on the “rightness” of integrating technology into worship or into the way we communicate with the world, the further behind we fall and the larger the ground that we will have to make up. With each passing moment, we are effectively giving up the opportunity to communicate to young believers that what God has to offer them is more than relevant, that what God has to offer the world can change the world for the better, that the church while it is soundly in the world it is not of the world and for that reason can offer them a needed respite from the world without the need to completely disengage from the communities and relationships they have there.
Does the church need to catch up? Yes. Can the church catch up? Yes, but not if it waits much longer.