Church In the Inventive Age Part 2 – “But There Is Nothing New Under the Sun, Right?”

As mentioned in the last post, I think everyone interested in the future of the Church should read Church in the Inventive Age by Doug Pagitt. While there are a lot of other great books you could read as well, this one is very brief and in my opinion, provides a clear perspective on why the Church needs to invest itself in change.

A couple early quotes from Doug:

“It’s only a slight exaggeration to say that everything in our lives, everything we depend on for basic survival was created in the last two hundred years. Think about your typical day. You wake up in a bed made of materials – internal springs, polymers, anti-microbial fabrics – that didn’t exist 200 years ago. You are awakened by an alarm clock that was invented in 1876 (or maybe an iPod that was invented in 2001). You take a shower (indoor plumbing arrived in the mid-19th century); eat eggs shipped by trucks from a different part of the country, purchased at a grocery store with a credit card, and cooked over an electric stove. You drive a car to work and maybe make a few calls on your cell phone on the way” (p. 3).

10A05E1A-E34E-4D56-AF56-D25DE5924381.jpg“In the last 200 years, American culture has moved through three distinct ages – the Agrarian Age, the Industrial Age, and the Information Age – and is heavily engaged in a fourth – an era I have dubbed the Inventive Age. With each of these ages has come a shift in what we think, what we value, what we do, and how we do it” (p 4).

“I’m calling us to find our place in a swiftly changing culture, to consider how we need to change what we think, what we value, what we do and how we do it. I’m calling us to be the church in the Inventive Age” (p. 5).

Aside from institutional aspects like marriage and so forth, I cannot think of one aspect of my life that I am using that was around prior to 200 years. From the way I drink coffee to the way I interact with others, indeed everything is different in some way.

Every so often when I am discussing this, someone will be quick to remind me that “There is nothing new under the sun.” In moments like these, I would like to take the literal scroll of Ecclesiastes and hit them over the head in hopes I can beat out the strict literalism in their mind. Unfortunately, no one reads from scrolls anymore – we have been using books and e-readers now and these objects are prone to bruising (Actually during the Davidic/Solomonic Kingdoms, scrolls, papyrus, and codex were used together – Go Egyptians! And I do expect an archeologist to dig up an ancient Egyptian Kindle any day now). Still, the printed book, e-reader, the engine, and countless other inventions would have been new to the “The Teacher” of wisdom and frankly, this is not what Ecclesiastes means when saying there is nothing new.

Seriously, for those especially who tend to tune out upon hearing the words “new”, “change” and “rethink”, this is an important era in the life of the Church.  And like very era, we need to be faithful with it.  I would like to convince you that it does not undermine our faith in God, the Scriptures or the leading of the Holy Spirit to see the Church and live out our calling in new ways. In fact, we have been doing it throughout the Church’s history. It would be wise for us to search the ancient ways of the Church and to discover new ones. Doug does an excellent job launching from here and I think once we clarify certain assumptions, a bright and hopeful age becomes possible.

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