I’ve lived most my life in the Silicon Valley, a place many consider the epicenter of innovation in the technology age. My uncle worked for IBM when I was a kid. I remember his dark blue coffee mug with that simple and emphatic logo. At the time, IBM was the big fish in the growing pond of computer technology. Today, you rarely hear the name. This is the undeniable and relentless speed of technology.
I still live in the Silicon Valley today. For the past fifteen years I’ve spent the majority of my time in vocational local church ministry. I’ve served in a mid-sized church that started in the 1800s, in a church plant that was just getting off the ground, and a multi-site megachurch that was reaching thousands every weekend.
I’ve experienced a variety of sizes, cultures, and approaches when it comes to the local church. All of these churches are wonderful and continue to do important work. And despite their differences, all of these churches shared the same drive for innovation.
If you’ve been involved in the life of a local church somewhere, this is probably familiar to you. A strong innovative spirit isn’t limited to churches in the Silicon Valley. Churches all across the country, and the world, have spent (at least) the past few decades pushing hard toward the edge of innovation. Specifically, technological and, even more specifically now, digital, innovation.
Radio ministries turned into television ministries.
Television ministries turned into podcasts.
Podcasts turned into online services.
The morning service turned into multiple services.
Multiple services turned into multiple venues.
Multiple venues turned into multi-sites.
Multi-sites are now turning into micro-sites.
Let me first say, in my opinion, this is good (for the most part). I’m grateful that there are forward-thinking, highly-skilled followers of Jesus who are using their technological skill and acumen to further the Good News of God’s kingdom the best way they know how. I applaud you and hope and pray you continue to push the boundaries in dynamic, responsible, sensitive ways.
But even good and wonderful things have shadow-sides. And if we are not mindful of them, the shadow-sides can quickly co-opt the good and the wonderful.
In the ancient world, when the written word was first introduced to cultures that, up to that point, had been built upon oral tradition, it was met with trepidation and fear. Many thought that the written word posed a monumental threat to human imagination and intellect.
The thinking went that if we could now write down our ideas and stories, we would have no reason to remember them, thereby enabling us to become a dumb, forgetful people. Of course, the ancients were wrong. The written word has, for the most part, made the world a better place.
I do not fear the new technologies of the digital age the way the ancients feared the written word. Not at all. I am a fan of new technologies. What I do fear however, is that our pursuit of innovation may sometimes come at the cost of our primary calling.
And so, for my church leader friends, I want to share this simple thought:
In our pursuit of innovation, may we never forget that our primary calling is to remember. May we never forget that our primary calling is to remember God, his story, and to live, share and provoke others with that story.
The call to remember is strewn throughout the Scriptures. Here’s a beautiful example from Isaiah 46:9: Remember the former things, those of long ago; I am God, and there is no other; I am God, and there is none like me.
What are we to remember about God and his story? That he is God and that no one and no thing else is or ever could be.
Sounds simple enough right? But think about how often we forget this. Think about how many different altars we erect in our lives, worshiping at their feet with the nonchalance of swiping a credit card or browsing the internet.
Think about this in the lives of the communities you serve, the people you love and lead. We are a forgetful people. You. Me. All of us. It wasn’t the written word that made us forgetful. It was our own appetite for that which could never really truly satisfy us.
And so we are called to remember.
The night before his death, Jesus asks his friends to do this exact thing. Remember. Here’s some bread and here’s some wine. Continue sharing this meal with one another. And whenever you do, remember. Remember my body and blood. Remember the story they tell. Remember. Remember. Remember…
I hope and pray for you and me and all the rest of us, that each and every time we gather with the communities we love and lead and serve, we would take time to remember.
May the songs we sing, the prayers we pray, the words we speak and the words we hear, the bread we break and the cup we drink… may all these sacred things and everything else too, help us remember. He is God and there is no other. There is no one like him.
Author: Jay Kim
Jay Kim serves on staff at Vintage Faith Church in Santa Cruz, CA, overseeing leadership and teaching. He also serves on the leadership team at The ReGeneration Project. Jay is a graduate of Fuller Seminary and currently live in California with his wife Jenny and their daughter Harper.