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change & irrelevance

“If you don’t like change, you’re going to like irrelevance even less.” — General Eric Shinseki, Chief of Staff, U.S. Army

One of the things I’ve learned over my years as a pastor is this: change does not always equal relevance.  Often we made changes because we were trying to answer questions no one was asking.  Our answers were good; unfortunately they were also irrelevant.

Yet I’ve always seen the wisdom in General Shinseki’s words.  Our task is not to keep pace with every change and breakthrough, but to speak to it in a way that makes sense and leads towards transformation.  Change isn’t always easy, even when it’s necessary.

  • New musical styles may not be your style of choice.  I’ve often joked, “What will I do when rap becomes the predominant music style of a new generation?”  Move to Canada, maybe.  But if rap will reach a new generation for Jesus … I’ll bust out a few moves.
  • Communication styles must adapt to new ways of learning.  Our goal is not to have good content.  Our goal is to make a good connection with good content.  If that means we adopt new methods or become better story tellers, we’ll do so because to not do so means we go unheard.
  • The church must stay within the ballpark when it comes to new technologies or ways of connecting.  Typically, non-profits (churches especially) tend to run five to ten years behind the curve with new technologies.  Do you know how to send text messages?  If not, you’re missing the number one way people under the age of 20 communicate.

I’ve heard it said — and I’m sure you have, too — that we must not change simply for change sake.  That’s true.  But let me amend it: we must change for our mission’s sake lest we risk irrelevance.

Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Ken,

    I think many times we confuse our personal tastes with what is “holy” or “right.” I think Christ broke a number of conventions during his ministry…hanging out with the least, lost and marginalized of society, teaching in parables and taking on the Pharisees.

    We need to be committed in spreading the unchanging Good News in whatever way is relevant to our society. At one point, the organ was cutting edge. At one point, a pamphlet (by Martin Luther) was considered a tool of the Devil. Why should we stop changing now?

    The same is true for Google, Facebook, Twitter, text messaging, a blog, Flickr and YouTube (i.e. the major digital marketing tools).

    We just have to learn how to use them together before we lose another generation from hearing the Good News.

    Here is an article you might want to read:

  • Ken says:

    Hi Eric,

    Great comments and thanks for reading! I’ve been thumbing through Andy Crouch’s book “Culture Making” and believe today’s church has a great opportunity to use emerging technologies in innovative ways. We also need to be creating new technologies as well.

    As one who is comfortable with technology (and typically an early-adopter), I believe it’s important that we help others like us learn to “lead up” when it comes to influencing older church leaders who may not be as comfortable with technology. Thanks again for reading!