Avoid the “New” Trap

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A few days ago Seth Godin posted The decline of fascination and the rise in ennui. As I read it, it had ministry written all over it. Ministers and elders need to read this post because it has a lot to say about our culture and how we respond to it. In this post Seth says that we are obsessed with all things new. Our fascination with new has not resulted in an increase in satisfaction. Instead, our satisfaction levels have decreased. The moment we get something there is already something new and better out there. It is important that we get a handle on this characteristic of our contemporary culture. What was just as interesting was the path he says we should take as a result,

“If you’re in the business of making a new thing, this churn may be an opportunity, because it’s easier now than ever to send a hit up the pop charts, whatever sort of pop you make. But it comes at a price, which is that it won’t last, and you’ll quickly have to go back and make another one. The real opportunity, I think, is in trying to build longer arcs. Now that the cycle of new is eating itself in a race to ever-faster, there’s a bigger chance to make long term change by consistently focusing on what works (and what’s important), not what’s new and merely shiny. What’s important, what’s always important, is useful change.”

Seth is talking about products, technology and service here. So what does this have to do with ministry? The answer is, “Everything.” In ministry we are also hounded by the chase for something new. It might be the newest way to disciple people, the newest program or book from a certain mega church or the newest craze in worship music. Those things may have some benefit and potential but they are not an end unto themselves (which often we make them out to be exactly that by saying things like, “If our worship was like _______ then we have arrived). If you want to chase every fad and offer every newest thing, be prepared to maintain that for the long haul. What is more, be prepared for the kind of disciples you are creating and culture you are creating through that route. The problem is, you will never be able to keep up because programs and newness don’t satisfy the soul. We know who does…how do our actions, ministries, etc get people to the only One who can satisfy in ways that are deep, meaningful, and lasting…and not just a flash in the pan waiting for the next exciting thing to knock it off the pedestal?

2 Responses

  1. Great post, Matt. It’s interesting to me that in the middle of this trend we find an increasing number of Christians who leave mainstream churches for Greek Orthodox churches and other Eastern Orthodox traditions. Some ancient traditions are being rediscovered in “new” ways, which isn’t a bad thing.

    1. When you realize the things you have made your priority are short-lived and often a flash in the pan, there can be an “aha” moment that you have a deeper need than the next great thing that will be new for all of 2 seconds. I wonder if that is pushing the trend you are talking about. There was a poll taken sometime ago about that asked young adults which church building the liked the looks of and they picked the cathedral. I can’t remember where I saw that. People are looking for something that has stood the test of time…once all the hype and hysteria faded, it still lives on. That can bring up problems as well that I will deal with in the next post – Avoid the “Old” Trap

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