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Stop Wishing the World Were Different

Two weeks ago I spent an hour talking to an old friend. She was lamenting the state of the world. She was upset about the ills of the world.  And I was too. I wasn’t upset the same way she was. She wasn’t talking about ending poverty, war, genocide, or abolishing nuclear weapons. She was disturbed by the onslaught of technology and screen time invading her life – and the lives of her children. “I’m not a Luddite,” she protested, “but it’s just too much.” Taking her stand, she had  recently challenged her son’s high school’s mandate that students do homework, write essays, take tests, and turn in assignments electronically.  Her son had to produce a paper entirely researched on the computer and she did not like it.

My friend is partial to the way she was educated – libraries, notecards, essay tests.

I attempted to explain the benefits of technology, especially in the emerging world, a world  increasingly technologically driven. She wasn’t buying my argument. By the end of the conversation I wanted to say – in the most pastoral way possible – “Stop wishing the world were different.”

You Can’t Reclaim It

Life is lived through the windshield, not the rearview mirror. There is no way to go back. As much as you like and enjoy your past experiences, there is no retrieving them. Imagine this: Do you want your parent’s life?   Some folks do. Most do not! Don’t assume generations behind you want your experiences. Our greatest legacy is for future generations to gain from the learnings of previous lives and integrate them into their own. God has arranged a forward-movement to life. Anything less is settling.

The Good Ole Days Were Terrible

My oldest daughter spent a good bit of her first 3 years sick. She acquired  a virus that popped up every three-months. You could set your watch by it.  The virus was disgusting. It made her throw-up for days straight. My second daughter never got that virus. By the time she was born, there was an inoculation for it. Progress is good.

I don’t know anyone who has died from Polio or needed an Iron-Lung.

My father grew up in Mississippi. He was legally forced to ride in the back of the bus. I wouldn’t even know how to catch the local bus.

That’s not to say our times don’t have ill’s of their own, but your view is too narrow if you think the old days were the heyday of some great America, some better culture. We should keep that in mind when our cupidity for yesteryear manifests.

Everything Was Once Progressive…For Someone

Everything people complain to me about – translations of Scripture, worship songs, technology, etc… – was an advancement to someone. If you privilege the way it “used to be” or the way you grew up, you are simply a slave to a particular cultural moment. My kids doing homework on an iPad would be as foreign to me as a washing machine would be to Civil War era persons. Our horizons are so limited as to assume our cultural moment, our heyday, is or should be, normative for all time. In this respect, we are like most people who have ever lived.

Culture Can Only Be Made

Andy Crouch’s book, Culture Making: Recovering Our Creative Calling, is convincing, We can lament and bemoan our culture if we choose, but since we can’t get it back, we have to create more of the kind of culture we want! If there is something we want changed,  we have to change it. No one wants to hear you complain. We all have enough problems. Yet people are drawn to problem-solvers. If your concern is that we are moving away from one way of life, an alternative existence has to be compellingly articulated. If not, the world will pass by you, your message, and your passions.

One of the great scriptures is 1 Chronicles 12.32 which speaks of David’s mighty men. It says the men of Issachar were “men who understood the times and knew what Israel should do.” If we want to shape our times for God, we too must be people who know the times.

First step: Stop wishing the world were different and start creating the world you want.

How do you think cultural changes, church transitions, and technological advances are shaping our world? Good? Bad?

 

 

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  • kathryn

    A rain that happens in between two vastly different displays of faith in Elijah’s life. One minute he’s swinging with great faith so bold and secure he calls fire down from heaven.

    And then only a few verses later we see him dangling by a thread as he runs and hides in a cave.
    The Lord soon comes to Elijah in a gentle whisper and shows him what to do at the end of that thread. “Go back the way you came,” (1 Kings 19:15).
    God was saying, “Backtrack and remember all the places where I’ve been so faithful before in your life. And know. Know with assurance. And boldness. And confidence. I AM. I AM the same faithful God.”
    (from Prov. 31 Woman L.T.)
    I was so much like your friend…please let us return to pens and paper, find myself a great stack of books for research…
    I can still write with a pencil, I can still choose books to use for research (it’s that smell of books; addicting). What may be helpful, is to trust in faith,God placed us right here, right now, in this time. I trust the Great I AM. (this is a bigger deal than you would even know).
    Now, where is my favorite No.2 pencil? kathryn

  • Gloria Killeen

    I so agree with your thoughts in this post!
    Last Wed. my husband and I went to the National World War II Museum in NO, La. We are both history buffs so didn’t make it through the entire museum. We’ll have to go back to see the rest!
    One thing we came away with was that there were ALOT of scientific advances that occurred because of the war – some of which the world would probably rather have not seen come about – nuclear weapons for one – but many others are things that are common place in our lives today – computers, styrofoam, etc. I believe that there is a way to lovingly combine the old ways with the new. I’ve seen it happen around me in our congregation. The only way for it to really go well is for people to be willing to look for the positive and not cling to the negative – and you are right we must, must learn from the past!
    Just a few ways that I have seen and experienced technology become a part of God’s avenue for taking care of people – FB used for prayer requests and offering words of comfort to others, FB connecting some local friends with other people in other parts of the country – particularly military families that were moving to a new area and want to connect with a local church there, and Blogs used as a means of expression and support (vertual support groups).
    We still need to keep in contact with people on the ground – can’t have only virtual churches but I have experienced much support myself in the last year from many across this country through online contact!
    May God use us in any way that He chooses to reach His kingdom purposes!
    Blessings – Because He is Faithful,
    Gloria

  • Deanna Love

    As an older (!) person I am amazed at all the “i” things available. Traveling to Houston yesterday I realized that my son, my 10 year old granddaughter and I had 6 i things with us. We did manage quite a bit of conversation during the 7 hour two-way trip. We went to see the movie “Hell and Mr. Fudge,” and as I watched Edward type card after card and research book after book, I thought how much easier his life would have been with a computer and the internet. I guess I am saying that I think these changes have been good. I also see some changes in the church that I think are wonderful – people searching scripture and finding that all our old answers and beliefs were not necessarily good or correct. I am saddened by the decline in church attendance, but I think that some of this is the result of our not wanting “the good old days” where we had all the answers and were not willing to accept others’ input/fellowship. I’m not saying that the old things were all bad because I am ONE OF THEM! Love you, Sean!

    • Your not an old thing, Deanna, you’re a wonderful thing.

  • Amy Palmer

    Sean,
    I agree with what you have said. Much of the NT is about moving forward and away from the old way of doing things. My only thought is I live in a country where they value recycling and have come to love it also. There are many “old” things worth cherishing, many “old” things that can be made new. It is a little sad to see how quickly we buy the newest thing out there only to disregard something perfectly usable. My husband and I hope to buy a fixer up home some day and make it as green as possible. I’m just saying we should be wise with what we discard as we buy into the future. Enjoy your posts. God bless!
    Amy

    • Amy,

      We are committed to recycling as well. And, where I live, that’s a new thing. At any rate, I’m really talking about more of a mindset committed to stasis rather than holding onto certain kinds of relics that offer less value than we often assign them. I’m often accused of being progressive (whatever that is) and forward-thinking, but in many ways I’m boring and conservative. In our world, someone who doesn’t race out and buy the hippest new thing is avant garde.

  • Ron Dunagan

    In my own mind progress is a good thing as long as I can understand it, it makes my life easier, and doesn’t involve the cable company. Change for change sake doesn’t make sense, it’s just change. Change for a purpose is a different animal. It benefits others. Every one of us is a promoter for change. When we see something that will benefit others we are an instigator of progress.

    As always your posts and replies are thought provoking. Thanks, Sean.

  • Amy Palmer

    Sean,
    Thanks for your response. I really do understand what you are blogging about. I did a horrible job of writing what the point is that I am trying to say. Coming from a generation that had to go to the library to do its research I absolutely love the internet and the info I can get in an instant. Progress is a wonderful thing and we can be good stewards of it. But there can be something really great about the way things used to be and we can learn and cherish the old without being a slave to maintaining a culture that has passed. I can think of two examples. My daughter is a Harding Grad. with a degree in nursing. At one point in her clinical she was forced to write all of her charting by hand. This resulted in pages and pages of info. She complained that “Didn’t they know this is what computers are for?” But what she learned was how to think through her charting and make better notes. Sometimes the hard way around is a great teacher. Another thought, I was privilege to see the Dead Sea Scrolls and saw the painstaking undertaking of writing texts of scriptures by countless people through hundreds of years. By hand, before the printing press. Some Bibles hand written by Monks were breathtakingly beautiful, works of art. And let’s admit, who has time today or the dedication to do such things today. Maybe that is something we lose as we progress. We gain shortcuts, ease, access, but we can still maintain a deep appreciation for how things use to be done. After all, isn’t that what gets us here?
    God bless all the work you do!!
    Amy

  • Laurie Templeton

    Thank you for writing this blog. We just began using “The City” this year at Singing Oaks and we just started pre-registration on the Children’s Module for our new Check-In system. A lot of people are totally cool with it, but others are upset. We have adopted this system for obvious safety concerns, but we have also adopted it because we want to be a growing church. It is easy to maintain the comfortable, but so difficult to initiate and persist in necessary change when others are unhappy. I appreciate this blog so much. Change is never easy, but I think we’ll look back in a year and be so thankful we took this opportunity.

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