You can decide if technology will stand in the way of your goals or help you reach your goals
Pastors must be lifelong learners to survive the unceasing waves of change in today’s culture. | by Dale C. Bronner
So much happens in life that we just don’t see coming. So quickly our entire existence can turn upside down. We’re left asking, “God, how am I supposed to respond to this?” Our responsibility as pastors and leaders is to be students of life, constantly learning about the world around us, so we can minister life to others.
Uncertainty has always been a factor on a personal level, but now more than ever, it’s true on the cultural level. All around us, everywhere, there’s rapid change. Uncertainty is the new normal. We see perpetual changes in technology, in communications, in transportation, in economics, in government, and in politics. Change is rampant in every industry and every trade.
Imagine that you were born several decades ago, but for most of your life you’ve been in a coma and just now woke up. You wouldn’t even know how to conduct yourself in these times.
Take technology, the most visible example. It’s totally expected that in a matter of months, or a few years at most, you’re going to need a new cell phone, an updated computer, a constant stream of new software, an enhanced TV setup, and a new and better model of every other electronic device you happen to own. In your grandmother’s day, if you said, “Grandmamma, you’re going to need a new phone soon,” she would answer, “No, baby, my phone’s working fine.” As long as she had a dial tone, she certainly was not going to buy a new telephone.
Technology is changing not just how we communicate, but also how we drive across town, take trips or vacations, make reservations or register for events, follow up on a child’s school work and grades, buy a car or house, and even how we shop for groceries. I grew up in a small town where we didn’t even need money at the grocery store because everyone knew us. They would just keep a log at the store and say, “Mrs. So-and-So got $25 worth today.”
What does this all mean?
First, we have to grasp that the environment is always changing. New waves are always pouring in poised to rock your boat. So, don’t be overwhelmed.
Second, the changes happen faster than you can imagine. You think it’s about time for a letup, a pause, a little tranquility for a moment, but the next wave doesn’t allow for that, or the next. They just keep crashing against you.
Third, you find yourself in new places. Driven by the waves, you’re going in new directions, headed toward new destinations that you may never have imagined.
Fourth, you realize that course corrections are needed to reach the destination you desire. You can imagine what would happen if you were just lying on your back on a float in the ocean doing nothing but soaking up the sun. You’d soon be drifting, carried some place new. We all know this. But if you were on land, you’d think you’d be okay. You’d think you could stay put just fine. But you won’t. We’re all on a seascape. If we lie back and relax, we’ll be swept away, headed in a direction we don’t want to go.
We have to realize we need corrections, and be willing to make those corrections. Here’s how.
With such rapid changes all around us, we sometimes need to stop and reevaluate. You’ll know it’s time to reevaluate when you start experiencing stress, resistance, frustration, failure, disappointment or difficulties. If you’re chronically irritable, angry or unhappy with your church, your spouse, or your life, it’s time.
When you reevaluate, your first responsibility is to face and define reality. Think, “Where am I right now?” You can’t just run off with plans until you first find out where you are. Your current reality is most likely a new reality, not the past reality that you’ve grown accustomed to.
Perhaps your most important responsibility is to have clarity. Clarity is the ability to see reality and to acknowledge “this is the way it is.” There’s a saying that the man who wears two watches is never certain of the time. You must be absolutely clear about who you are and what you’re called to do.
To help get clear, write it all down. Then refine it. If you have to write five pages explaining your vision, you’re not clear enough yet. Get so clear that your vision can fit on a t-shirt.
2. Get Wisdom
Once you know where you are, get ready to reinvent yourself. If your church burned to the ground today and you had to start over, what would you do differently? What would you start back up immediately and what would you never start again? What would you replace? What would you update? What would you keep the same as before?
Wisdom is applied knowledge. Wisdom looks ahead and takes the right action today for a better outcome tomorrow.
Wisdom prepares you for the next season of your life. In Proverbs we read about the virtues of the ant. The ant “provides her supplies in the summer and gathers her food in the harvest” (Proverbs 6:8). She looks ahead and sees the future and prepares for it. That’s wisdom.
Ask yourself “What needs reorganizing or restructuring in light of my current reality?” That’s wisdom.
To face today’s realities, you have to constantly confront your limitations and make necessary changes.
Companies that don’t innovate don’t survive. Neither do churches. In fact, the more successful a company is, the more it has to innovate in order to stay on top. Those who don’t innovate are overtaken or displaced by those that do. If your church doesn’t innovate, it will become irrelevant. And individuals who don’t innovate or reposition themselves will find themselves out of touch and out of influence.
Keep changing and keep challenging yourself.
In an essay entitled “Self-Esteem in the Information Age,” psychologist Nathaniel Branden makes these observations:
“We now live in a global economy characterized by rapid change, accelerating scientific and technological breakthroughs, and an unprecedented level of competitiveness. These developments create demands for higher levels of education and training than were required of previous generations. Everyone acquainted with business culture knows this. What is not equally understood is that these developments also create new demands on our psychological resources. Specifically, these developments ask for a greater capacity for innovation, self-management, personal responsibility and self-direction.”
4. Take Action
Dealing with today’s rapid change means we have to adapt, to learn new skills, accept new challenges, and refuse to give up. Be committed to reading, to listening, to upgrading your personal knowledge and skills. Set aside time and resources to invest for training and development.
Become competent at what God has called you to do. Seek ways to improve yourself. Martin Luther King Jr. said that if a man was a street sweeper, he should sweep that street as well as Michelangelo painted or Beethoven composed. “Do it so well,” he said “that nobody living, dead, or yet unborn could sweep it any better.” He also said, “If you can’t be the tallest pine on the top of the hill, be the best little shrub in the valley.”
Commit yourself to tackling technology, to learning how young people think, to solving problems through innovations. You can do just about anything you set your mind to if you give enough time to it. Everything you say you can’t do is because you haven’t invested the time to learn to do it. If you put sufficient time into it, you can master it.
“A man’s gift makes room for him” (Proverbs 18:16). There is a gift within you that will make room for you in today’s challenging culture. Pursue it.
And finally, never quit going through these steps. To be all that God has called you to be in the midst of today’s never-ending waves of change, become a perpetual learner. Eric Hoffer wrote, “In a time of drastic change it is the learners who inherit the future. The learned usually find themselves equipped to live in a world that no longer exists.”