"As images displace the
written word for communication, our thinking
patterns and preferences change. An image
shows us the world as it is -- an array of
ambiguity and mystery. It does not explain or
organize the world the way language can. As
printing wanes, so also does our preoccupation
with creating categories." -- Shane Hipps, 2005.
tectonic plates of our culture have shifted. While we
may never write a eulogy for the age of the written
word -- which implicitly taught us to think
linearly, rationally, and logically -- a new day has dawned.
Images, symbols, pictures, and metaphors form the
new language of our culture. We no longer
describe something, we snap a picture with the cell-phone and email
it. Companies don't add their names to advertisments. They simply
flash their logo. The phenomenal rise of desktop
icons, YouTube, My Space, and ten thousand other graphics-based
elements in our lives, is dramatically
changing our thinking patterns.
These changes carry
enormous implications for the gospel and the
church in the West in the next 20 years.
suggest -- in no particular order -- just a handful
of changes already in motion.
First, three-point deductive
sermons will appeal to smaller and smaller numbers
of people. Classic expository sermons will wilt on
the vine, not because they lack accuracy, but
because they require uncommon thought processes
from the audience.
Second, evangelism will largely
fail if it remains dependent on apologetics or
convincing people of a plan of salvation.
The plan will need to be replaced by
the story and we'll need to appeal
to the heart more than the head.
Furthermore, evangelistic images will undergo dramatic change - from
warfare images to gardening ones, from "winning
souls" language to "nurturing souls"
Third, we can expect greater interest
in multi-sensory worship experiences. A few
songs and a sermon - all done in nice order and
with polish - will become less and less attractive.
The emerging generation will desire more
participation than performance, more stories
than lectures, more visual stimulation than cerebral
presentations. And the visuals must be iconic, not
Powerpoint presentations loaded with
we should prepare for much more egalitarian churches, where
power and responsibility is not vested in
paid staff and elected Boards but shared throughout
the congregation. The Internet has made everyone an
authority and altered the perceived need for
experts in the
Kingdom. Knowledge is power and the masses can
now access the knowledge they want with the click
of a button.
Our graphic interface
culture will dramatically change the shape, face,
and perhaps theology of the church. As images open
the door to ambiguity, mystery, and personal
interpretation, they also make our thinking more
Eastern than Western.
Need we fear these
changes? Not at all. The gospel was birthed in
such circumstances. Is rationalism completely
dead? Not at all. But be prepared. What lies ahead
is unlike anything any of us has seen.
Let's be like the men
of Issachar (1 Chronicles 12:32). Opportunities
In HOPE -