Posted: 3/17/17 at 7:30am. Column by Ed Jordan.
In past decades, companies, leaders, and churches had years to strategize and develop plans, train people, and then implement the plans. Since there was time to predict possible complications, you could plan adjustments to keep an organization or the church progressing toward long-term plans. Today things move so rapidly that many changes are already established before we first perceive their existence. A world that moves so fast puts us in permanent response mode; we don’t even have a chance to be proactive.
Changes, developments, by-products, consequences, and further changes occur so quickly that no matter how fast a complex organization adapts, it’s never fast enough. It used to take years for a corporation to develop new products or to respond to new trends. It used to take companies years to become adept at using a new technology, before newer technology comes along to replace it. Development and change are outpacing our adaptation speed.
Change used to take longer, allowing for time to adjust and compensate. The invention of the printing press made a tremendous impact on the world, and print media was the dominant form of communication for hundreds of years. It dominated until the radio was introduced and eventually became the primary information and entertainment source for decades. Television was dominant for around 40 years. Now the primary sources are internet-based and in real time. People don’t wait for the evening news on TV. They get instant messages of breaking news on their cell phones all day long. Today’s business world is just trying to keep up.
In contrast, most church organizations operate mainly with volunteer staffing, volunteer leaders, and limited budgets from the offerings of attenders. By the time a church can mobilize to gain consensus about new problems and strategize new plans, it’s very hard for a church organization to adapt quickly enough to keep pace with the rapid changes occurring. The challenges come at us at light speed, and a complex, volunteer organization functions at tortoise speed in comparison to our changing world. There is no longer time to foresee cultural changes and trends far enough ahead to develop organizational long-range planning.
Something is missing in this scenario. There are missing links in our lives and organizations that can help us deal with the speed of change. I would like to suggest a couple of missing links in our chain. The first is that we must remain firmly linked to God. In Revelation 1:8 (NIV) God says: “I am the Alpha and the Omega,” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Don’t panic! Eternal God is with us, and not being phased out.
The second link that is missing today is the link between generations. I was recently reading a book by a Jewish rabbi, who said that the Hebrew word for generation is a spiritual and qualitative concept rather than a numerical measuring marker. He said that in their thought, a generation really involves generational continuity between at least three generations so that the grandparents, parents, and children have common shared lives, values, and experiences.
From his perspective, it takes three generations linked by a continuity of interaction and shared life to really have one generation. The grandparents pass their values and wisdom to their children so that they retain what their parents know, then they build upon it by passing it and their own experiences on to their own children, who will in turn pass it on to their children. Thus all that the grandparents, their parents, and their own children know makes the lives of each generation richer and wiser. It is not just being linked by DNA, but it is multiple generations interlinked with each other.
Without this generational continuity, each new generation has to start its culture and learning the lessons of life from square one. Not having generational continuity through families and churches leads to diminished potential for future accomplishments, culture, and relationships. Perhaps this is why Paul urged in 2 Timothy 2:2 (NLT): “You have heard me teach things that have been confirmed by many reliable witnesses. Now teach these truths to other trustworthy people who will be able to pass them on to others.”
Rather than madly trying to react to the world, why not become purposefully proactive to learn all we can from God, and relate to and learn from older generations all we can, so we can purposely pass on all the rich treasure of truth, heritage, wisdom, and life experiences to one another?