A few years ago the Macbook Air came out. When I saw it advertised I was mildly unimpressed. Yes it’s super thin but has very few ports, no CD/DVD drive and little connectivity, other than bluetooth. Not to mention the fact that it started at $1,500, making it really expensive.
But then I held one.
One of the professors at seminary got one because he travels quite a bit, and for that it’s pretty hand. As soon as I picked it up I giggled and said, “oooo, that is so cool!” Even though I knew that this was an limited piece of technology I was still sucked in by the newness and novelty of it.
I wonder if that’s what our faith has turned into.
It seems like everywhere I look there’s pressure to have the next new thing in Church. Rick Warren once said, “Our Message must never change, but the way we deliver that message must be constantly updated to reach each new generation.” I understand that he’s wrestling with the tension between an ancient religion and a modern setting but more often than not it feels like the emphasis is put on the new medium and not the ancient message. This even comes through in one of his other quotes, “At Saddleback, anytiem a new tool comes down the line, we embrace it. Right now we’re using TIVO to broadcast our weekend sermon into several different venues on our campus.”
The medium has replaced the centrality of the message.
In a conversation with another pastor in my conference he made the comment that, “The language that we use grows tired very quickly and constantly needs to be updated.” He said this in the context of discussing their new mission statement and reflecting on how their old one was no longer reflective of who they were or shaping of who they wanted to become. I partly agree with what he’s getting at but this is also a church that has been quick to adopt the next new thing over and over again in the past.
It’s more than just language getting tired.
Even in my own life, I’ve begun to be very shaped by and attracted to ancient forms of spirituality. I’ve been drawn to the contemplative vein of spirituality, some of which dates back 1,500 years. It is very old. It is not the next new thing…..in comparison to the history of the world. If I am honest with myself, though, it is the next new thing for me. I’m drawn to it because of it’s ancient and lasting nature but it is also new and different from what I had grown up with.
It’s the next new old thing.
We are being taken over by the theology of the ‘new’. It’s sweeping over us without us even knowing. Our highest good, our pearl of great value is no longer Jesus and his message, but rather it is the next new thing.
This church doesn’t meet my needs.
It isn’t high energy enough.
Organ music is for funerals.
Praise music is so 90’s.
Whatever it is, it’s not attractive because we’ve been there and done that. The novelty has worn off. It has grown stale for us.
The most significant thought that I’ve had in relation to this topic actually has to do with sports. I ran across a little anecdote that said that in order to become skilled at any particular motion (shooting a basketball, throwing a baseball, etc…) that you have to do that motion 10,000 times. As someone who has played a lot of sports over the years, I would say that that sounds about right. In order to become good you have to practice, practice, practice. And then when you’re sick of practicing, practice some more. In order to get good for the big game, you have to spend hours working your tail off in the snow and rain, getting up early and staying late after practice. Honestly, most of it kind of sucks, but it’s necessary in order to be good.
Why is faith different?
Why is it that we think that every time we do something in church that it’s supposed to be this magically fresh experience where the heavens open and the the light of God stirs our soul so that we are giddy with excitement?
When we make faith into something that is supposed to be new and fresh all the time we loose the opportunity to truly deepen our faith. Yes, there are some days that doing our spiritual disciplines kind of suck. Prayer is sometimes empty and rote. Fasting is sometimes an obligation. Leviticus is an awfully boring book to wade through. But we train our mind, bodies and spirits in these practices so when we really need them we are capable of doing them with the depth and skill of a pro.
Larry Bird famously wouldn’t leave practice until he made 10 free throws in a row. Some nights he was there until late in the night.
Tonight, don’t go to bed until you’ve said the Lord’s prayer 10 times. Then tomorrow….do it again…….and again……and again……..and again…..and again……………………………..