Televisions flit from one topic to another. Marriages dissolve into confusion. Children separate from their parents during the best part of the day. Churches split. People move to a different state. Employers issue layoffs. Our world has become a fractured mess.
Previous generations lived in a state of continuity with their culture, family, and their faith. Today, however, rather than seeing a clear view of anything, our society looks at itself through a broken mirror. We are disharmonious pieces of everything but solidly made of nothing. Airbrushed and polyester-stuffed, we want to look whole but lack the substance to be so.
How things fell apart
With the invention of the printing press, society became extremely monotone. Reading became the main source of knowledge and began to replace social interaction. Multiple generations of linear thinkers developed. The concept of thinking like the written text developed “civilized” nations who assumed they had perfected knowledge and communication.
Unfortunately, a person cannot fully enjoy his or her creative ability through just the medium of reading and writing. Eventually this wheel of society began to wobble and is now spinning out of control as society seeks a more stable form of transportation. “Primitive” people in our ancestry and in other cultures have an advantage over our traditional, modernistic, linear patterns. They encountered life in a multi-sensory approach, not just through one narrow sense of vision (reading).
Post-world-war-II children began to see a large discontinuity with the family. By now, societal structures were in place, the industrial revolution had taken the fathers out of the home in the previous century and the war crisis had taken mothers out only recently. The fragmented homes created fragmented thinking put together in a hodge-podge of ideologies. The hippy movement quilted these patchwork mindsets together. Many effects of this “experiential” era still blanket our behavior and thinking.
What society seeks
I do not blame society for their search for a more meaningful interaction with the world. The problem lies in what they have to encounter. Multi-sensory learning styles are to be commended and encouraged. However, what we learn determines how we live. What we study determines our worldview and our spirituality.
Rather than linear contact with society, the church needs to bring multisensory communication to our culture. The days of “here’s a Bible, read it” methods of outreach are over. The linear preacher who marches through three points to a conclusion is now an antique. Yes, some will still listen, but he is not captivating his culture. They have virtual reality and multisensory experiences awaiting them at the mall, theme park, school, and theater. Why would they want to ride a unicycle when they can cruise on a quad?
How the church meets today’s culture
We have exactly what our fragmented world is looking for. They want to find meaning and we have it in God’s Word. No, they will not find it on their own and they were never meant to. The purpose of God’s Word is to change lives through the vehicle of preaching. That does not mean just talking, but expounding. A person who tells a friend about what God did for them last week is preaching—putting all five senses into action regarding the truth of God’s Word.
Although written, the Scriptures do more than appeal to one of our senses. We can hear God speak as we look at the written text. The experience of worship involves the vehicle of our own speech assimilating His truth in song, shouts of praise, handclapping, and moving. Powerful preaching engages the audience so that non-linear people can respond. Unlike the last generation that lacked sound systems and everyone had to remain deathly silent so the preacher could be heard, we live in a world where loud is okay, audiences are encouraged to respond, and interactive discussions are healthy.
Jesus was not a one-dimensional person. He told stories. He passed out food. He touched diseased people. He wept openly. Nothing about Him hinted at a monologue. People were amazed at His style because he was not like the one-dimensional, shallow teachers they had endured. He was alive, funny, and powerful. How much more multisensory can you get than healing the sick and raising the dead?
How we can bring wholeness
Churches have trended toward fragmentalism lately. Fundamentalists are no longer in vogue although they might still be if the culture could hear them. In an attempt to be heard, even the most traditional denominations are now going to extremes of dysfunction trying to reach our ADHD culture. Swallowing goldfish and bobbing for bull testicles in pickle juice will not meet this culture’s needs, even though it catches their attention.
We cannot heal fragmentation with fragmentation. We can reach a fragmented society with our living and powerful faith. We can present the gospel with hands-on methods. A media-rich environment will fill the cravings of their palate; the depth of experience with the Spirit of God will fill the longing of their souls.
Our fellow citizens are puzzled. Rather than seeing them as a fragmented and meaningless, we believers should see them as pieces of a puzzle. With God’s help, we can help them find where they fit in this grand design of God’s world. Fragmented homes come together in a God-honoring church. Misguided lives and purposeless existences can suddenly “click” when they see who they are in the rich dimensions of relationship with Christ. The discontinuity of the TV culture finds healing in the deliberate study of God’s Word.
Rather than mirror brokenness or throw more rocks at an already shattered world, let us be agents to help restore and rebuild. Baptism in Jesus name and the experience of receiving the Holy Spirit are so multisensory, so media rich, so eternally impacting, we are criminals to not share the good news.