Every now and again I get an itch to be doing something other than what I’m currently doing. This isn’t because I’m feeling unfulfilled in my current calling (what my friend Frank called “Target Days” because he wants to chuck it all and go work at Target). Rather, I get an itch because I see a need that fits a number of my gifts and skills – a need that makes me wonder, “Should I be doing that?”
Now, because I am a Christian above all else, my itches tend to make me wonder how I might be of better service to the Church Universal. The need I see is certainly there, and there are precious few people devoted to fulfilling that need (as I perceive it) – a point which makes the itch begged to be scratched all the more. I wonder if I shouldn’t devote myself to doing serious work on becoming a technologist who works on educating the Church in the possibilities, challenges, and risks that digital communication have for Christian ministry.
Why do I have this itch? Well, I’m tired of hearing about churches who still don’t have e-mail (a dead medium), groan that their communications techniques (which are from the 1950′s) no longer work, and declare that they are hopelessly at a loss to figure out how to connect with people in the current cultural climate. It’s painful for me to experience Churches, in a world of near-instant communication, who shelve questions which come up between monthly meetings – only to forget to bring up the question in the intervening-time. There is no reason for Churches to steer like barges, making decisions which are discussed briefly and implemented slowly (if at all). I envision a church which is in constant communication, where conversation can be both lengthy and deep over the course of weeks. I envision a church where votes need not wait until the next meeting of a board, but if they do wait until the next meeting each member will come with deep knowledge that springs out of on-going conversation. In this world, it’s a need. People move quickly, and there is no reason why we cannot move both quickly and deeply.
I’d like to see Churches learn to be in communication this way, but this is the problem. Churches are inherantly “conservative” institutions – they don’t like change as a matter of culture (even “progressive” churches are this way). The communications revolution has changed the very way people in this culture communicate at a base level, and it leaves churches with their collective heads spinning. This is why I’d like to be a technologist for the Church Universal. I have no doubts that I’d convince “everyone” that these communications tools are helpful, or even useful. I also have no doubt that I’d be able to convince people who see the communications revolution through rose-colored glasses that there are also downsides and dangers to all these technologies . I do feel, however, that if people are given a language by which they can reflect upon and ask questions about the opportunties opened to us in this new world then the Holy Spirit can help churches dream of our hope once more – even for this world. I’m idealistic that way.
This is my itch, and it will probably never get scratched the way I’d like to see it scratched. For three main reasons:
- I can’t change the fundamental fact that I’m a pastor, this is my calling and no one who has affirmed this calling in my life has seen fit to tell me that the Holy Spirit is leading me elsewhere. I’ve started people on a particular journey at Central Baptist, and until the leg of the journey I’ve been called to lead is complete, this is where I belong.
- I have a fundamental lack of formal education in this area. Yes, I’m a geek, and some uber-geeks let me know that they consider me one of their own even though I don’t know a line of C++ (for which I’m grateful). If I wanted to introduce myself as a person who can help on technological issues in the Church, however, I’d need a lot more credentials than I can garner now. For starters, I’d have to do some serious post-graduate work in History, Communications Theory, and Sociology before people would even begin to be remotely encouraged to listen to what I have to say. To be honest, I feel like I would need to take such of course of study before I can even hope to offer anything of real depth to the Church.
- The window of opportunity to discuss these issues will be long-closed by the time I finish my call at Central, and the education I feel is needed. Churches don’t have 10 years before they can begin developing a language with which to apply technology and the communications revolution to ministry. Yet, that’s what it would take before I’d really feel that I could do anything more than offer people a new puddle to play in. The Church needs more than that.
So, I will likely never scratch this itch in the way that I think it needs to be scratched, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be doing something that helps the Church more forward. My work with ABCNJ and my trip to the Bibletech conference are examples of how I hope to be of some value. I just know I could do more, and I’m looking forward to working with people who are actually called to do more than I am able to manage.