Hurricanes, Trump, and iPhones: Following Jesus in a world that changes faster than we can track
The pastors went on a retreat together earlier this week. I love the team and working with them. They are like my family. We trust and accept each other. We love and care for each other. And we challenge and encourage each other to keep moving with the Spirit. I’ve been a pastor for seven years now and the team has been the main reason why it was even possible for me to start this journey at the green age of 24.
We spent an hour or so praying and thinking about how we respond to change. And that got us thinking about all of the external change that’s happening around us. There is a lot of change that we can’t control that we need to learn to adapt to, I think. There is socio-political changes that are noteworthy—I don’t think I’m underestimating how much of a drastic shift Donald Trump’s inauguration caused. There is climate change—hurricane after hurricane devastating cities in North and Central America as of late. There is also technological and cultural changes, and they are happening at a rate that is hard to even keep track of.
The world is changing so rapidly that people don’t seem to have the time to consider and contemplate how they fit in or how to respond. They are stuck reacting simply to survive. Technology changes so fast, we don’t have time to ask questions. In the postmodern era, even meaning changes so rapidly. We don’t have time to consider what something used to mean before it starts meaning something else. Even words change. Forms change so fast, and their content becomes fluid too.
Not only that, we are flooded with information at a faster rate than ever before. We are conscious of suffering in parts of the world and country in a new way. It can be overwhelming and distressing. Some of us want to turn off completely because the ignorance of that option is better than the anxiety of the other.
There has always been a disparity between the powerful agents of change in the world—the state and the market being primary—and their subjects, but it seems to me like that disparity is growing more and more rapidly. We don’t have time to pray, reflect, feel, or think about the things that are happening. All of a sudden, we’re walking around with GPS devices on our wrists and in our pockets that can recognize our face and we haven’t stopped to ask why or how. Amazon will soon be in our back yard droning us our Prime orders; and it'll feel normal. I'm not even opposed to all that, but can we have time to think? Our capitalist overlords aren't even thinking about what they are selling, it seems.
Who has time to do theology in this era? We have to adapt to merely survive in late capitalism. This reactionary response to the changes that occur make us slaves to influencers that are bigger than we are. I’m not even sure they are measuring their decisions, but rather are guided by collecting more power or money—perhaps fixated on surviving themselves.
What can we do in a world that changes so rapidly that we need to respond or be left behind? How can we slow ourselves down in order to mentalize about the current state of things?
Pay attention to how the world is changing its action and its thought. This means trying to stay informed about what’s happening. Some of us do this more than others, and we can rely on each other. In order to respond to the ever-changing world, we have to have an idea about how it’s changing. I think leaders in our community should help us with this and help us contextualize it too.
Let God inform your desire and decisions. Get a real idea of what God wants you to do and be. Have an interior life, developed through prayer and silence, that helps firm up who you are in the world and what to do. You’ll get tossed by the waves without that. How is God revealing himself to you? And how will you continue to reveal God to the world?
Discern in community, not alone. We can’t do it alone. In a world that actually makes connection easier, stay connected. Don’t unplug just to zone out. Unplug to relate to your friends in person. Keep a sense of your community. For those of us in Circle of Hope, rely on your cell and those who have made a covenant with you. Think together. Discern together. Listen to the Spirit together.
Be humble enough to learn something new. But just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s good. Develop a dialectical relationship between what’s new and what’s old, what worked well in the past and what could work well in the future. Soften your heart, open your hands, but remain rooted and grounded.
The Great Commandment (love God and love others) and the Great Commission (make disciples of all nations) are the big jobs of the church, if you ask me. We need to keep learning how to bring those things into the present ever-changing atmosphere. On the retreat, I decided that I needed to figure out how to adapt to the changes around me, while measuring the changes that I need to make to do what God has given me to do and be who God has called me to be. It’s good work to do, and it’s best done in community.