Spock’s supposed sage words to Captain Kirk “It’s life Jim, but not as we know it!” actually come from the 1987 No. 1 song ‘Star Trekkin’, not the cult TV Star Trek series. The song is a hilarious picture of Star Ship Enterprise hurtling through the universe “boldly going forward, still can’t find reverse…”. I’m sure churches aren’t alone in our travel sickness, as other organisations & businesses scramble for the breaks & reverse gear as Coronavirus catapults us into crisis after crisis.
Apparently the 2 Chinese images for ‘Crisis’ symbolise both ‘danger’ & ‘opportunity’. Whoever & wherever we are in present pandemic crises, we must be alert to the many dangers and maximise the opportunities to grow positively through it all.
Now that church has moved online, will she stay there? In time we’ll be able to gather together in numbers to celebrate God’s living presence, purpose & power, but the new world of internet connectivity is a cultural sea change we must make the most of. Like the Roman Roads of St Paul’s Missionary Day & Printing Press of Luther’s Reformation Day the internet allows news (glorious, good, bad & ugly) to spread at a viral rate.
During the industrial revolution in the second half of the 19th century The Methodist Church surpassed other churches in wearing the robust flexible ‘Good News Shoes’ of God’s spiritual armour. Roman armies were renowned for the speed & surprise with which they could flank their enemy, covering miles of difficult terrain with their footwear, a cross between a studded rugby boot & malleable sandal. Like the Methodists of old, today it is refreshing to see churches at the forefront of foodbanks, social care & social justice again, surprising with humble generosity. The Good News of Jesus Love for us must be grounded in down-to-earth ways.
Through our online services it’s encouraging to be making contact with many people who wouldn’t normally attend church services, people we hope to continue journeying with. Trends in online dating suggests that the way many people will come into churches (& other groups) is changing. Research by dating platform eharmony & Imperial College Business School found that 32% of relationships started between 2015 and 2019 began online, compared to 19% between 2005 and 2014. By 2037 it projects that the majority of babies in the UK will be born to parents who met by internet and by 2035 more than 50% of relationships will begin online.
So, people meet online, continue in an online relationship, things go well, they meet up & begin an ‘offline’ relationship, etc. “Stop the world, I want to get off!” I hear some of you cry. But if this is how more and more people will start significant relationships & enter interest groups (of course church is more than an interest group) then it’s critical that we be at the forefront of this digital revolution, while never losing Christ’s DNA of sacrificial love, care & concern.
Ok, there are definitely some dangerous ‘Klingons on the starboard bow’ to be shaken off, but “this Kirk-Life, not as we’ve known it!” is here to stay and full of surprising opportunity!