Monday, February 01, 2010

Singing a Different Song

The speaker for three of our sessions was an American who looked like a cross between singer Kenny Rogers and Chad Kroeger from Nickleback. I'm not a fan of either of those entertainers, but Dr. Leonard Sweet was both entertaining and thought-provoking. He was introduced as a historian and a futurist -- an interesting combination.

Sweet admitted to us that he loves the Victorian era and has a house full of big, clunky furniture. But he acknowledges that he lives in the 21st century, not the 19th, and he accepts that reality. The implication of this observation seemed to be that a church which is bemoaning its decline is well equipped for a previous day, not the one in which we find ourselves.

Sweet was not a pessimist. To the contrary, with humour he invited us to be clear-eyed and inventive, open to the work of God's Spirit for the time in which we live. He is fond of acronyms: as an example, TGIF. Not the one which might come to mind but Twitter, Google, Internet, Facebook. He claims, rightly it seems to me, that this is the world in which young people function as they search for connection. He encouraged us to be what he calls post-Gutenberg people, accepting that a new revolution is well under way, not unlike the one prompted by the invention of moveable type. He reminded us that the Christian community is a place for authentic connection, if we are willing to let go of some of our assumptions about what it means to be church.

I might say more about Leonard Sweet, but what is your reaction to these comments?


IanD said...

Interesting ...

1. You're bang on about the Rogers/Kroeger dichotomy. Eerie!

2. Love the point about young people searching for connection. I've a feeling that they're still looking - yet another side effect of the 'glue' of our communities (ie - churches) weakening in the past 50 years, and the rise of TGIF;

3. This yearning for connection/understanding may just be the foot in the door for the revival of churches. Certainly St. Paul's has placed itself well in terms of recognizing this and working to address it.

Now having said all of this, I'd offer up the following frightening counterpoint which I read about in the NY Times about a year ago:

How does this rate in terms of attempting to reach a younger crowd?


Nancy said...

An interesting article Ian!

I think everyone is trying to get connected, whether through traditional ways, newspapers, television, or more modern ways, hand held devices and social networking.
It's interesting that this topic of hand helds and social networking is brought up. I attended a mini conference on Friday, where a panel of four discussed in an open panel such devices in the classroom. On the panel was the board director, a UOIT faculty of ed person, someone from IBM and another from Apple.
For what happens in our education system? As the students come through the doors they have to "power down" to conform with the "traditional" way of teaching. The point of these discussions was that we need to change our thinking and how can we embrace these devices yet keep our children "safe"? (a key theme throughout) My philosophy is embrace it all and teach students to be critical thinkers, learning to sift through what is authentic, what is appropriate and what is ethical.
Interesting that these discussions are now happening everywhere, even the church.

IanD said...

The word "authentic" in its educational deployment is dangerous to me, as it's often now been conflated with the word "interesting."

Laura said...

I suppose taking up the future also means letting go of pieces of the past.We can't endlessly add new ways of "doing church" and keep all the things we are currently doing also, as we try to be all things to all people.Our financial and human resources are already stretched. I agree that our "living faith" will look different to new generations...The hard part to me in this equation of change though, is that those folks who we are asking to let go of the way they've always "done" church are the very same folks who pay a big part of our way.

lionlamb said...

I saw the article you point us to Ian and have read about Rob Bell elsewhere. Leonard Sweet actually referred to pastors of his ilk with their strongly authoritarian bent. He wonders whether they attract people who are craving clear boundaries and even those from father-absent upbringing.

Sweet suggested that technology is neutral Nancy, and that it is how we use it (or don't) that is the key. He feels that it is used for evil regularly, so why not use it for good. You two are on the same page (virtual or otherwise.)

Laura, in every interview for a ministry position over the past fifteen years I have asked whether those who pay the bills embrace the change usually proposed by search committees. Unfortunately congregations don't think this through very well.

Thanks to all of you.