Religion And Technology In The 21st Century – I have served, loved and fought with the church my entire life. She is near and dear to my heart. Much of what I write is for or about the church, and my upcoming book Uncomfortable (Crossway, 2017) is a love letter to and to the church in all its strange, painful glory, challenging it. On Sunday I will be installed as an elder at my home church, Southlands. As I think about this new responsibility to protect the flock and care for God’s church (Acts 20:28), I have thought about the special challenges facing the church in the 21st century. And there are many. The following 21 are in no particular order and are by no means exhaustive, and reflect primarily (but not exclusively) the American evangelical context. I should also note that each of these represents not only a challenge but also an opportunity. The church has historically thrived when tested, not comfortable.
As I solemnly accept this new role in my local church, I pray that God will give me and my fellow elders the wisdom to face these challenges with humility, faith, and luck.
Religion And Technology In The 21st Century
1) Biblical Illiteracy. Biblical literacy is a huge problem in the American church and makes many of the challenges on this list even more challenging. Simply put, people in churches (and even more so those who are not in churches) may pay lip service to the importance of the Bible, but most of the time they neither read nor know it. Surveys have found that 82% of Americans believe that “God helps those who help themselves” is a Bible verse. 12% believe that Joan of Arc is Noah’s wife. 50% of high school graduates believe that Sodom and Gomorrah were male and female. It’s a shame and there’s a lot of work to be done.
Religion In Europe
, connected to God and each other through the unifying power of the Holy Spirit. But the 21st century world is working in our lives and distracting us until every moment distracts us from presence. The church needs to re-prioritize its calling as
, and for this we need to cultivate practices and liturgies that create the space and forms for this presence to be felt and known.
3) Non-physical tendencies. The path of technology is away from incarnational presence and towards a unique experience. We increasingly live our lives through screens, streams, apps, phones. Our relationships are digital. This deepens existing Gnostic movements (cerebral religion rather than embodied religion) and underlines the essential physicality of the church, the “body of Christ” in the material rather than just theoretical sense. Churches should find ways to encourage physical meetings, the practice of the Lord’s Supper, meals together in neighborhoods, physical movement during worship, shaking hands and embracing each other, whatever the cost! Anything to re-sensitize people to the reality of the flesh of the church in the world.
4) Division. We live our lives mediated through windows and boxes. We talk to several people at the same time, post an excerpt from our life here and another there, consume visual media in one window and read the Bible in another. All of this makes it easier to divide our lived experience into disconnected categories, a process that destroys our spiritual creation. Integrity is wholeness (whole = whole number), all parts of our life united and reflecting the Lordship of Christ. Churches today must work hard to do this.
The Culture Of Schooling
5) Boredom. We are an uncertain culture. Everything is accelerated; We can barely remember which Netflix show we liked last month or which restaurant was hot last year. We have a short attention span and get bored easily, and this is a huge challenge for the church. The values of convention, tradition, and stability that define the church are deeply embarrassing in our savage age. Churches are naturally tempted to use tricks and trends to solve this problem, but this is not recommended. The difficult task of the church in the 21st century is to move people to awe, wonder, and worship without watering things down or constantly reinventing the wheel.
6) Temporarily reset the wheel. The boring challenge leads to this challenge: “rethinking” the church every two years. The problem is endemic in American evangelicalism. It is exciting to read the schools of books that come out every year that provide a new paradigm or order for a revived church. One is tempted to simply become Catholic to avoid a delinquent glut of blog posts and “The church must be _____ to survive” book rants. In this sense, I think that the evangelical church should be a little more Catholic, trusting a little more in continuity instead of seeing each cultural change as an invitation to reinvent the wheel.
7) Complexity. Related to our temptation to reinvent the wheel is the temptation to complicate Christianity and church life. We see this in the 345 definitive “interpretations” of the gospel that different authors and theologians express every year. We see this in the large staff and variety of programs that transform churches into complex bureaucratic corporations. Complexity is difficult. It is a challenge to the mission. Especially at a time when faithful churches continue to grow outside the mainstream culture, we need to be leaner and more flexible. We need to rediscover the beauty of simplicity by focusing on the Church’s key historic practices and sacraments. The more complex we make the church, the less countercultural it is.
8) Christian consumers. The ubiquity of consumerism in late capitalism has completely absorbed the church, to the point that “shopping at church” and “what I learned from the sermon” are things we say without thinking anything about them. People go to Sunday services to “get something.” They choose churches that “fit them” and match their list of options, just as a person would choose a car or a new pair of jeans. But churches must challenge this attitude rather than accept it. The church is a place where members of the body come together for reasons beyond themselves. It is an invitation to join Christ in what he is already doing in the world, not an invitation for Christ to confirm our self-righteousness.
Challenges Facing The 21st Century Church — Brett Mccracken
9) Temptation to homogeneity. It’s no wonder that the consumerism of modern Christianity has led to churches that are more homogeneous than ever before. When we go to churches that suit us (in the way we look, talk and worship), we are naturally surrounded by people who look, talk and worship like us. But homosexuality is not the best thing in the Bible. The power of the gospel is to unite diverse groups of people, breaking down walls of hostility that naturally divide us (race, class, culture, gender, musical preference, whatever). At a time when social media allows us to curate diets and surround ourselves with people who agree with us and validate our prejudices, this task becomes even more difficult.
10) The “Authenticity = brokenness” fallacy. I wrote about this a few years ago and I still believe this is one of the biggest challenges facing the church today. At the heart of this is a disbelief in change and a weak theology of sanctification, a problem that leads to “this is just who I am” claims, essentialism, and impermanence. Are we not a people of resurrection and hope? Is not the Spirit that raised Christ from the dead within us now? Our anemic belief in change is accompanied by an explosion of disruption, and it’s a toxic mix. Many Christians today are simply more compelled by sin (although we call it “brokenness”) than by holiness, and this is a big problem for the church to deal with.
11) The Idol of Independence. Few things pose a greater threat to the Church in 21st century Western culture than the clear mindset that individuals are the sole arbiters of their identity, morality, and destiny. The “be and do what is right for you” philosophy of meaningful individualism is fundamentally opposed to Christianity, which calls us to bow to the lordship of Christ. Churches must oppose this and disciple the people around them, however sincere and true they may be, to the authority of Jesus Christ, as revealed to us in the Scriptures.
12) Counter commitment. We live in a culture that resists commitment. The Millennial generation is the FOMO (“fear of missing out”) generation, preferring to keep options open rather than committing to something or someone and closing off other opportunities. We’re the generation that made RSVP-based party planning an unstoppable endeavor. We are the generation that is choosing to own a home at a much lower rate than previous generations. 91% of us plan to stay in our job for less than 3 years. We are much more likely to be affiliated with a religion or political party than previous generations, and we marry at lower rates and later in life than our parents and grandparents. Naturally, this leads to a weak (if any) commitment to the local church, which makes it difficult to create disciples and true “long loyalty.”
How Technology Promotes Religious Belief
New technology in the 21st century, technology in 21st century, religion in the 21st century, educational technology in the 21st century, art and religion in the 21st century, bad religion 21st century, 21st century technology inventions, 21st century learners and technology, 21st century technology skills, 21st century science and technology, technology and the 21st century, technology in the 21st century classroom