Thursday, April 07, 2011


In some vision conversations we are having on the oversight team we have been challenged to look ahead twenty years and try to envision what the demographics of northwest Houston, technology, and Christian spirituality and practices will look like. This is a challenging exercise! To understand how much things can change in two decades we need only look back twenty years. When I think of huge developments relating to Christian practices I think of two in particular: technology and community. In 1991 Angela and I welcomed our first child, Morgan, into the world. I was a student in seminary and we had been married two years. I had used a word processor/typewriter since college and made the BIG decision to invest in a laptop computer (Compaq; 32 MB hard drive; $999 at Sears). Back then we sang in worship from hymnals. Intra-congregational communication was by phone tree or letters. People doodled or passed notes when the preacher bored them instead of playing games on their smart phones. In the early 1990’s we began using email. Then power point became a part of our singing and teaching in worship and classes. In the 2000’s social networking began to radically transform the way many of us interact and maintain friendships, associations, and even do business. Who could have foreseen all this? The second huge development, regarding community, is less tangible and describable. But I’ll start with coffee. In my first full-time ministry position in New Milford, CT in 1992, when I wanted to visit with a church member outside of breakfast or lunch we would go to a diner and have “pie and coffee.” How Norman Rockwell is that?! The proliferation of Starbucks and other boutique coffee shops had not yet occurred. There were restaurants, diners, or park benches. Or at least that’s all I remember. Then the coffee revolution hit, and with it a different way to socialize -- “Let’s meet for coffee.” When I went to Los Angeles in 1994 the difference was significant: “Let’s meet for coffee” became a great way to spend time with people. This both stimulated and satisfied a great hunger for what sociologists call “the third place,” that site or activity other than work or home where we enjoy spending time. These days when I preach or teach and ask people to open their Bibles, more than half do so on an electronic device. We can Skype, which is much more engaging and intimate than simply conversing on the phone. We can meet with anyone in the world, and have a multi-party conversation, by video conferencing. More and more pioneering churches are planting satellite campuses that are semi-independent but inter-connected, with the preaching and teaching simulcast from a central site. The possibilities are amazing! In 2031 I will be 68 years old and Angela will be [deleted by censor]. We know we want to be devout Christians but we can’t foresee many of the details. Hebrews 13:8 declares that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Some things will never change. Like the Great Commission and the Great Commandment. Like our need for a Savior, for meaning and purpose beyond ourselves that is found in the Kingdom of God, for authentic community. What could West Houston and our mission look like in 2031? What will YOU look like? What trajectory are you on spiritually? The apostle Paul says in Philippians 4:13-14, “One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” Amen and amen.


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