The 1,000 Foot View of a Fickle Public? (Or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Blog)

Scott McCellan recently posted a reader’s response to the very idea of a magazine like Collide.  To pull from the posted quote: 

You don’t seem to be interested in the 1,000-foot view. You take a myopic look at things like Facebook, etc. that will fade away and be replaced by something else in a year or two by a fickle public. In doing so, it seems like you promote the methods over the message. Any church that follows fads like that will always be chasing after the next thing in the never-ending quest to be “relevant.” Christ wasn’t interested in cool. He was interested in loving people, and in doing that, he redefined cool. 

I’m posting my response on my blog instead of the Collide blog because I don’t want anyone to be confused with my opinion on this matter with any kind of official Collide response (since I’ve written for them). First, I have to say how awesome it is that Scott would be transparent and post such a quote and response that’s diametrically opposed to the very nature of the magazine, and open it up for discussion on his blog.  Second, I think that the respondent who wrote the quote is completely wrong on the idea of culture more-so than any kind of question about Christ being “cool” or about chasing something “relevant.” The respondent appears (to me) to be frustrated with methods or the “fickle public”‘s desires changing every two years or so.  The problem, to me, is that he thinks that churches interested in things like Facebook or some cutting edge technology or underground cultural shift is an attempt to be somethinig that the church is not.

For me, acknowledging that I am, in fact, a part of mass culture and am influencing and partake in it, I see a very different side of this arguement.  It is not that the church is struggling to keep up with culture and “fads” but that the entire concept of “fad” has radically changed in the past few years.

A “fad” is no longer a “fad” – it is culture.  Innovation follows innovation in today’s world and, as such, the mass media and culture is always shifting and changing.  By the time any cultural shift hits mass/old media, the culture leaders have moved on to something else.

The New York times recently produced an article on how the fast-paced world of blogging-for-pay creates additional stress and has negative health effects on the bloggers.  This may be true for most of us.  However, today’s young adults have been blogging for years; today’s children are used to blogging being a part of their lives.  Blogging wasn’t a new thing to many people several years ago, and it’s certainly not a “new thing” today.  But people still treat it as a fad.

There are still many spiritual leaders who don’t understand that blogging or Facebook groups or church web sites aren’t some attempt by the church to catch up to culture.  I, instead, proclaim that it is the exact opposite.

The freedom that technology brings to broadcasting a message means that, for the first time in church history, lay people can share their faith journey with the church – and world – at large.  No longer must the strongest, most Spirit-driven message come from the pulpit.  Instead it can come from a teenager’s blog or a media guy’s video cam.

Magazines like Collide and sites like digital.leadnet.org exist not so the church can chase after cultural shifts, but so that leadership can understand the changes their membership is goign through.  I fear a pastor who doesn’t have a blog because it tells me that he won’t be able to connect with where I am in life.  I fear a church that doesn’t have a website because it means that they think people will find out their address by looking it up in the phone book (you know, that big yellow thing you throw away when they keep delivering it to you).

My biggest fear, however, is that those of us who have embraced the new tools at our disposal won’t be mentored and loved by our forefathers who have not embraced the technology.  That they will think it’s all a fad and that we don’t understand the 1,000 foot view and, as such, aren’t worth investing in.  And all their knowledge and passion that could be broadcast to the world will simply die with them.

So please, don’t judge me and my kind as being fickle or not understanding of Christ’s love just because we have the ability to flow with the changes in culture and understand that “fads” are either dead or the norm, depending on your point of view.  I’d rather learn from you.  I’d rather sit at your feet and discover what your heart is about and how your passions can still impact humanity on a person-by-person basis.  I want to know what has you so caught up that you want things to stay the way they always were… because I’ve never lived in a slow-enough-paced world to even know what that means.

And, in truth, I can’t wait to see what replaces blogs and what’s after social networks and how videos change our worship services.  I can’t wait until music ministers can embrace the internet and use tools like LifeWay Worship to gain access to hundreds of songs to find the right one to compliment the worship experience.  I can’t wait until the seminaries provide completely online degrees so the pastors who can’t take the time to leave their congregration can be better educated.  I can’t wait until we get past this bubble of growth in the digital world and have a new common denominator where people are connected all the time and have been used to it so that it isn’t so stressful on our bodies.

And maybe then I can feel loved by the people who judge me and my tools of communication as worthless. 

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