A MidWeek Musing looking at the Past and Future
Sometimes I realize after I write or say something that what I have said or written is nothing more than a very obvious fact or reality. In fact, when I replay those words in my mind, I often think I should have a superhero cape with big letters C and O on the back which would stand for Captain Obvious.
However, even though I know that what I am about to share is indeed obvious I can’t seem to help but share it. Maybe being Captain Obvious is my superpower!
Anyway, here is the statement. In the last 50 and 25 and 10 and even 5 years, our world has changed a lot.
50 years ago, was 1973 – it was bell bottoms and Hippies. Nixon was President and Agnew resigned from being VP. The Sears Tower opened, the first Jet Ski (it was stand-up only) hit the market, and it would be 3 years before Apple Computers was founded. Rent was $175 a month and a new house was $32,500. Most people were in a church somewhere at least once if not twice a week.
25 years ago, was 1998. Do you remember Windows 98? Y2K fears were beginning to explode as the year 2000 was just around the bend. 9/11 was still 3 years away. Cell phones were rare and plans were sold by minutes of use. The search engine Google is founded. Apple Computers reveals the iMac computer. The United States has a budget surplus for the first time in thirty years. Ireland and the United Kingdom sign the Belfast Agreement, also known as the Good Friday Agreement. It would be a year before the Columbine School Massacre would take place. And while church attendance was down, it was still the norm for most families.
10 years ago, was 2013. Twitter begins to be publicly traded. YouTube had already been taken over by Google. The Boston Marathon Bombings occurred. The government went through a shutdown over the inability to compromise on the budget. Sony was on the 4th generation of the PlayStation. Miley Cyrus was leaving Disney and going out on her own with a series of attention-seeking stunts. Apple released two new iPhones, the 5C and 5S, and the new iOS 7 is also released. School Shooter Lock Down drills were as common as fire drills. Church attendance was in a downward spiral and had been for some years.
5 years ago, was 2018 – No such thing as Covid-19. #MeToo is in full swing. 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are killed in a now regular school shooting event. Prince Harry and Meghan Markle's wedding took place. California wildfires were now commonplace due to climate change. Stephen Hawkins dies. Brexit’s final terms are semi-agreed to. New homes were beginning to be cost over $300,000. The killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi takes place. And church attendance is the lowest ever in the US and a rising statistical group of folks with no faith or interest in faith called the “nones” has made rapid growth in surveys about American Religious life.
Yes, the world has changed rapidly; yet many of our institutions and particularly the church have failed to either change with or communicate the mission of the church in the wake of this change.
It reminds me of a story I found in an old issue of The National Review. Here is an excerpt.
When World War II broke out in Europe, all of the major powers had to move quickly to muster their armed forces, and all available weapon systems had to be utilized. In the case of the British Army, this meant re-activating equipment that had not been used since the Boer War in South Africa a half-century earlier. One piece of light artillery in particular had an interesting firing procedure. Per the operating manual, five men were assigned to fire the cannon. But two members of the crew were required to perform an odd ritual. When the piece was loaded and ready to fire, two members of the crew would snap to attention and remain this way until after the cannon launched its round. The artillery officers were baffled by this routine and saw no need for those two men. Finally, a long-retired artillery officer was called in to watch the firing procedure. After viewing the crew fire the cannon several times, he exclaimed, “I have it. They are holding the horses.”
During the Boer War, horses were still the principal means of transporting artillery and moving it into firing position. This particular light–artillery piece would have required two horses, and therefore two soldiers had to hold the reins of the horses during the firing of the weapon to keep the animals from running off. Horses had long since been phased out, but the five–man crew was left intact. This meant that two of the five men functioned merely as placeholders. (From Jonah Goldberg, “Dan, Done,” National Review, March 28, 2005.)
The challenge for us today is to recognize the areas in which we need to change in order to stop being placeholders and thus maximize our impact in the world as followers of Jesus Christ. Change is inevitable. We must move forward with Jesus lest we lose our true reason for living and end up reaching for the reins of a horse from yesteryear.
In the coming months, we will begin to once again examine the churches’ role and our own church’s place in this new context. We had started some of those discussions BC (Before Covid.) However, Covid put us (like most organizations) in survival mode and now that we have begun to emerge from it, the world has once again changed because of both Covid and the political landscape that Covid helped bring to the surface. Our goal now is to find our place in it so we can share the gospel of Jesus Christ and make it relevant to a skeptical age; all why doing the good that is ours to do as we proclaim that Love Matters Most.
In the name of the Creator, Redeemer, and Sustainer. Alleluia Amen.