Have you ever noticed that your cell phone seems to start malfunctioning right around the time a new model rolls out? This is called “forced obsolescence,” and it is the policy of planning or designing a product with an artificially limited useful life, so it will become obsolete after a certain period of time. This is a devious practice, but it is also very effective. It keeps the world clamoring for what is new and next, instead of focused on what works best and longest. While this is easy to see in everything from cars to technology, it has also affected religion as well.
The “old fashioned” religion of previous generations can seem like a bad fit sometimes for today’s throw-away society. So we see churches introduce up-to-date programs and hip worship formats to attract members, hoping to stay relevant instead of becoming obsolete. But some worry that catering in this way won’t succeed without serious compromises.
I think this challenge is a good thing. Why? First, we don’t have to worry. The Christian faith is 2000+ years old, and it’s been through much worse challenges than changing music styles and attention spans. And second, I think that the fickle and faddish nature of the current culture doesn’t undercut the need for the Christian faith, but actually emphasizes it instead. Jesus promised his disciples that “heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Mark 13:31 NIV).
When Jesus spoke those words in first-century Israel, he already knew that 2,000 years later, humanity would need his love, forgiveness, grace and eternal life just as badly as they did then. He knew that the world would change radically when it came to culture and technology. But he also knew that there was one thing that would never become obsolete: humanity’s need for a Savior.
As long as humanity exists in our fallen state, we will always need Christ. We will always need what Christianity has to offer. Styles of worship, sanctuaries, or different preaching can come and go like new models of technology, but as long as the words of God are taught, they will remain as relevant and fresh as ever. God’s Word, Living and Written, will always bring renewed life as the Spirit speaks in and through it to bring us back into right relationship with our Triune God.
I’m Joseph Tkach, speaking of LIFE.