When I was studying Advertising back in the day, I remember one key thing that was drilled into us by our lecturers “Cut through the clutter!”. What this meant was that the advertiser is forced to elevate her message above all of the other advertising messages out there in order to capture the attention of the consumer.
Now due to the self-publishing capabilities of the internet, Christian commentators (yours truly included) and opinions abound like never before. Coupled with this fact is also the reality that the sheer volume of information that we are faced with in overwhelming. Therefore more and more Christian commentators, leaders, authors, opinion makers and bloggers are become prone to earth shattering pronouncements in order to cut through the clutter; predicting all kinds of watershed moments from the death of evangelicalism in ten years, great emergences, sand-castle like collapses of certain denominations, traditions and structures, to overnight revolutions within the church and so on. (Believe you me, I have made plenty myself.)
Of course all of these predictions are going to happen any moment now, they are going to shake our world, rock our foundations and leave us breathless at their gravity. These momentous predictions are great fodder for controversy and conversation, both in VR and RL. We love to speak about such predictions because they are dramatic, grand and exciting. This is history unfolding before our eyes Hollywood style, all quick cuts with THX sound. It is history jazzed up, made faster and flasher.
However there is a big problem, history rarely works so instantaneously, or dramatically. Change certainly happens, but it is almost always in increments, often unfolding over centuries. History on the whole does not operate in dramatic shifts but rather in simultaneous movements and counter movements. Yes watershed moments and epochal change does happen but it is often not recognized or named for generations.
Every generation loves to picture itself living at a watershed moment, with the destiny of all future generations in its hands. Yet the reality seems to be the life is more cyclical than evolutionary, that each generation has to make its own errors, remember forgotten past truths, and shape the world, in order for the next generation to take it apart again and so on.
Just occasionally instantaneous change does happen in a moment, yet the ironic thing is that almost nobody can predict it. I think of the two greatest moments of change that have occurred in my life 9/11 and the fall of communism. Just when we were settling in for a lifetime lived under the shadow of the cold war, David Hasselhoff’s Teutonic ballads inspired a bunch of East Germans clad in acid washed jeans to take down the Berlin wall with hammers and garden tools, and thus the Soviet Empire collapsed like a house of cards. No one saw that coming. Just as virtually no one predicted that after staring down the Soviet nuclear arsenal the United States would be attacked by a bunch of rich Saudi spoilt brats, armed simply with box cutters, Jihadist propaganda and commandeered commercial jets.
Almost magically as soon as you predict the demise off something it will roar back into fashion. Just as I never thought that Dunlop Volleys sneakers would ever be cool, as soon as you write off a tradition, denomination or style of church it is sure to undergo a renaissance that will leave you blushing and making up excuses at parties as to why you wrote that blog piece. The reality is that these mega-predictions are more about the wishes and wants of the prognosticator, rather than what is going to happen the day after tomorrow.
So next time someone tells you about the next momentous change that is about to come crashing upon our church and the world. Back away from the computer, make yourself a coffee, stare out the window thinking of nothing while you drink your coffee, grab a history book off the shelf and retreat to your most comfortable chair. Repeat until tantalizing feelings disappear.