In a recent daily meditation for the Center for Action and Contemplation, Father Richard Rohr wrote that “you never think yourself into a new way of living. You invariably live yourself into a new way of thinking.”
That reality has always been relatively clear to me – especially when it comes to faith and the gospels; but it became even more clear several weeks ago when I participated the 2012 Western National Leadership Training in Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Futurist M. Rex Miller, author of The Millenium Matrix, was the keynote speaker for this annual conference and his topic was “Developing Leadership in Changing Times.”
Miller’s starting premise for both his book and presentation was as follows: In the beginning was the Word….[and] what happens when you change the container of the Word. In other words, the new ways (aka containers) in which and through which we communicate, are encouraging (even compelling) us to live into new ways of thinking about words and the Word, about institutions and about leadership.
He took us on a brief tour of the cultural containers in which both religion and society have operated (terms and dates coined by Miller):
In the Oral culture – aka ancient (? BC- 1500), the credibility of the word was that of the person who spoke it.
In the Print culture – aka Modern (1500-1950), we began to see the word as idea, more than as relational.
In the Broadcast culture – aka Post Modern (1950-2010), the word became experiential;
In the Digital culture – aka Convergent (2010 –), the word both becomes and facilitates conversations.
The implications for society and certainly for faith and religion are downright mind boggling, at least for someone like me, who didn’t become conversant with digital until I was already into adulthood . The digital age has changed our understanding of what it means to be relational, accessible, and communal. We are indeed living into new ways of thinking that are happening so quickly that we barely have time to adjust to one adaptation before another has taken its place.
When Miller showed us a brief video from YouTube, I was struck by how much I still have to learn. I encourage you to open the link and let this speak for itself. Ask yourself if you could have imagined (if you are not a late Gen-Xer or a Millenial) such a scenario.
The digital age is changing the way we lead, the way we think, and the way in which we see the world. Miller points out that “the changing technology of communication has also fundamentally altered the character of the church” (p. 140), despite the slowness (and even reluctance) of many to live into this new way of being. As we become familiar with and integrated into what it means to live in an interactive culture, we will embrace these opportunities for teaching and learning, for worship, leadership and communication.
The Gospel of Matthew reminds us that we cannot put new wine into old wineskins, lest the wineskins break, the wine be spilled and both wine and wineskins be ruined (9:17). The digital era – and the emerging convergent church — are the new wine, searching for appropriate spiritual and institutional structures that will flex and expand to embrace “the connected intimacy and simultaneity of the [new] digital culture” (Miller, p. 143).
Are you ready?