Educated to Succeed (In a World that No Longer Exists)
History will look upon the years that spanned our lifetimes and declare them to be a period of seismic cultural shift. In the same way the Gutenberg Press changed the world in 1439, the advent of the personal computer and the internet have changed the world again. We live in a time when the Norman Rockwell America in which many of us were reared has given away to an emerging world having little in union with the world it replaced. As a result, most of us were formally educated to succeed in a world that no longer exists. I graduated from Candler School of Theology at Emory University in 1992 and I emerged equipped to do ministry in a piano, organ, hymnal, bulletin led and highly formalized worship world. I came to work each day in a suit and a tie. Today I do ministry in a dual big screen, rock and roll band, internet, Facebook and unbelievably informal worship world. I wear jeans to work for heaven sakes!
We are conducting ministry in a cultural earthquake where the old world is almost completely gone except for a strong pocket here and there and the new world is jagged, volatile and unpredictable. No wonder we all have a bit of vocational vertigo. For many today the church has become the last enclave of the old world where people can still come to exercise power in an economy they still understand, worship with familiar forms, slow things down and take solace in their cultural sanctuary. The problem is that many churches have become “Ecclesiastical Amish” and while they do provide a much desired and appreciated service to their ever declining memberships, they are failing miserably their opportunity to continue the ministry of Christ to a new generation.
Our stated mission at Christ Church is that we exist to connect people to Jesus Christ. Every decision we make from programming, to staffing, to administration to worship style has been made in relentless pursuit of this mission. We often make decisions that are not popular, sometimes our reach exceeds our grasp and not everything we try works but we believe the most risky thing you can possibly do in this new world is act like it is the old one.
Rev. Shane L. Bishop is the Senior Pastor of Christ Church in Fairview Heights, Illinois