I was introduced to the computing world when I was about nine or ten years old. I was in the fourth grade and my best friend Daniel had a Commodore Vic20, if I am remembering correctly. I was fascinated with the machine even though by today’s standards the thing is little more than a large paperweight. That aside, it opened a whole new world for me, one that would lead me into my first career as a graphic designer and one that has become a daily tool in the lives of nearly everyone in the working world today, in one way or another.
In the early years of computing, it was not uncommon for programs – mostly written in Basic, one of the earlier and most popular computing languages – to ‘lock up’ or simply stop working in the middle of a program. When this happened, there was very little that could be done other than to reboot the computer. There were two ways to do it: the ctrl-alt-delete method and the hard restart.
The ctrl-alt-delete method was a backdoor method that a programmer created in an early version of the operating system to quickly restart and check for errors or to see if the errors had been fixed. You simply hold down the ctrl and alt keys and then press delete. The whole system shuts off and starts over and you can get back to what you were doing. The second method is called the hard restart. You simply unplug the machine. Both methods work but I was always told, whether true or not, that the ctrl-alt-delete method did less overall damage to the computer’s operating system. In time however, it becomes apparent that if you keep rebooting and the same errors continue happening, you have to change the operating system.
I say all that to say this, the church needs a new operating system. The methods and mindset we have been using on for most of the last century (our operating system) worked fine for the original machine (the church and world of the late nineteenth through the mid-twentieth century) but the machine has been changed. We are an old operating system running in a new machine. This is nothing new and church leaders, theologians, preachers, and others have been saying this for a while. But churches, with few exceptions, have chosen to continue trying to run the old system even though it doesn’t work anymore.
Now, the new machine, the world we live in, is rejecting the system. The generations of people in the world around us look at the church and see it not only as out of touch with where they are and the world/worldview they are living in, but also unwilling to acknowledge it, unwilling to try to find common ground. To them, the church is like an old laptop that doesn’t have anything useful to them on it. So, what do we do?
We need a new operating system; same purpose, same function (Love God, love neighbor, make disciples) but with a new operating system that speaks the language and meets the needs of a machine that needs the upgrade. It will not be easy. We will not all agree on what it looks like. It may in fact be a painful process. But if we don’t, the system will simply shut down.