Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Outdated

How much of what you learned in college is outdated now? I recently read this in Learning in Adulthood,
It has been estimated that the amount of information in the world doubles every seven years and some have projected that information will soon double every 20 months. Others have speculated that half of what most professionals know when they finish their formal training will be outdated in less than five years, perhaps even months for those in technology-related fields (15).
I know a good bit of what I studied in my poli-sci classes in undergrad is completely out of date now. My senior thesis was on Just War and MAD (Mutually Assured Destruction) - kinda not an issue any more. But do you know what hasn't been outdated - my Bible classes. Sure, new controversies have flamed up (Federal Vision, New Perspectives on Paul), and old ones flamed out (Open Theism), and some just continue on as ever (women in ministry). But the content of the Bible, the categories of Theology haven't changed much.

As interesting is that is, what really got me thinking is how the church should respond to such an ever changing world. Should we try to keep up with all the trends, with the new and cool? What happens when a church tries to keep up, but lags behind a couple of years? Or decades? Have you ever been to a church that had obviously been cool in the 70s/80s but never made a transition to the 21st century? In the words of Luke (my son, not Gospel writer), "Awkward." I've been at churches that seemed obsessed with Bransonesque type musicals. Cool in the day, but really odd to see in a church now - though maybe slightly cooler once again since Glee is such a hit. Honestly, I still don't get Glee, but that's kinda my point. I'm a generation removed from Glee. It's not cool or fun to me, but really really stupid (and I'm a little suspicious of guys who get into it too). One last example, I remember sitting in a class on evangelism with Robert Coleman. Great man, old man. It was 1998 and we were talking about 'cutting edge evangelism techniques'. What was he offering? Women's Tea's. Really cutting edge Dr. Coleman - in the early part of the century!

What should the church do? I think we should make sure we're really outdated - like a thousand or more years outdated. I think the oldest things in our play book should be central - like the Word, the Supper and Baptism. Michael Horton writes,
Perennially tempted with 'mission creep,' churches are easily drawn to pragmatism in their methods of evangelism, worship, and outreach. There are myriad resources for personal spiritual development, yet the means of grace that Christ identifies explicitly as essential for his embassy in the world are often marginalized or ignored. Even in public worship, human creativity (which always leads to idolatry) is often prized over faithfulness t our Lord's commands. Instead of the means of God's grace, preaching often collapses into moralism, baptism becomes a testimony to our commitment, and the Supper become another opportunity for us to do something: to feel, reflect, remember, experience and rededicate ourselves...Our prayer for all of our churches is that they will regain their confidence in the ministry that Christ has ordained for the expansion of his kingdom, gathering regularly 'for the apostles' teaching and fellowship, the breaking of bread, and the prayers;' (Acts 2:42). This is not only the description of public worship for those who are already converted, but the means of making and sustaining disciples throughout the world (Modern Reformation, July/August 2011, 64).
I'm certainly not saying that the songs we sing should be from the 1920's (which seems to be the average date of the hymns in the hymn book). I like a good deal of the contemporary music. But, I would fear if a church was built on the music it offered. And I don't think we should turn off the computers and projectors and go back to printed lyrics on a page. I like that we are all looking up and not down. But could we still do church if there was no power? Or have the techonological aspects of our worship overshadowed the meaty - the Word and the Sacraments?

New isn't bad. Tech isn't bad. But lets not hitch our wagon to the cool and new at the cost of the old, the tested, the commanded, the biblical.

2 comments:

Mark said...

I think it's important to distinguish between what is culturally bound and what is transcultural truth. The problem is less about new vs. biblical than it is cultural (whether old culture or new culture) vs. biblical. Sure, there are people doing the newest things who are doing them for the wrong reasons. But there are just as many--maybe more--people doing old things for the wrong reason.

I think this is sort of what you're saying but it's a bit confused. I would say, "Don't hitch your cart to culture, whether old or new. Hitch your cart to essential truth, and then adapt to the cultural context(s) in which you find yourself ministering.

Dan Waugh said...

Mark,
Rereading what I wrote, I realize how confused it is. I have not made myself clear.
I agree that their are people doing old and new things for the wrong reasons. That's not my concern here. My concern is that there are plenty of people doing things, culturally old or new doesn't matter, that aren't prescribed in Scripture. They may have the best of intentions, right motives, but they end up getting in they way. The essential truths get obscured by the cultural medium, especially when it is outdated and 'hoky' (or is it 'hokie').

Certainly I agree that we should hitch our wagon to the essential truths of Scripture, but I would push a little further - we should hitch our wagon to the methodology prescribed in Scripture as well (which flow from these essential truths, I believe).

Clearer?