Baby Carrots, The Pope & Our Rapidly Changing Culture
This article is an excerpt of a talk about our "Remarkable Culture." This talk was given six times in Fort Lauderdale, Florida several months ago to a gathering of pastors who lead Willow Creek Global Summit partner churches.
Some of my very earliest memories have to do with carrots. I can remember clearly coming home from elementary school and my mom would be peeling carrots for my snack or to put in a pot pie that night for dinner. I can remember how pungent they smelled when she pealed them and the sound of the garbage disposal working hard to chop up the peels as they went down the sink.
I grew up with these carrots as a huge part of my life.
My kids have not.
In fact, the increasing majority of people that we work with and lead in our churches have never seen one of these full size carrots. Yet they eat more of these carrots than any generation before them! How did that happen?
About 25 years ago there was a farmer in central California, and he was upset that he had to toss out tons of carrots because of imperfections. They were too thick or twisted to be sold as full size carrots. So he took some of these hideous full size carrots and put them in a potato cutter and shaved then down to about 2 inches. And BAM – the baby carrot was born.
In the 1980’s farmers would sell about $150 million carrots. Today farmers will sell nearly a half billion dollars in baby carrots.
Today you could be offered baby carrots on airplanes, movie theaters, Disneyland or McDonalds kids meals.
The realization is that people still love carrots, but the way they consume carrots has changed.
In the same way, I would suggest that people still love the Bible, but the way they consume the Bible has changed.
Our culture is also changing how they consume and metabolize religion and the Pope!
Take a look at this photo of people waiting to see the Pope at St. Peter’s Square during the announcement of Pope Benedict in 2005. And then look at the same location with people waiting for Pope Francis in 2013.
It speaks volumes about the changes our culture and its people are experiencing today.
Our world and culture are changing dramatically how they consume almost every experience.
Here is what author Peter Drucker says …
“Every few hundred years in Western history there occurs a sharp transformation. Within a few short decades, society rearranges itself – its worldview; its basic values; its social and political structure; its arts, its key institutions. Fifty years later, there is a new world. And the people born then cannot even imagine the world in which their grandparents lived and into which their own parents were born. We are currently living through just such a transformation.”
So, here are three takeaways for today’s churches and leaders.
1. The message of Jesus does not change, but our methods concerning how we deliver the message must be re-freshed, re-imagined and re-packaged to reach this generation. This is not easy to do. It requires energy, insight and great skill to re-package the message of Jesus without losing or diluting the message of Jesus in the process.[Tweet “We must be contemporary to our culture without compromising the message of the Bible.”]
2. Technology and social media are a-moral. They can be used for good or bad. We are living at a very curious hinge point in history. It is up to leaders today to successfully navigate the journey from print to pixels without villanizing either medium.
3. Christians have always been the early adopters of new forms of media. The first “book” or codex was quickly adopted by Christians because it made the scriptures easier to carry around and search. We are now seeing leather bound bibles traded in for cell phones and tablets because, in the same way, they are easier to carry around and search. If I ask my kids to go get their Bible – they go get their phone. That is where they read and digest the Bible. The leather bound Bible I have in my bag, and the smartphone with the Bible APP I have in my pocket carry the very same scriptures.
The main thing for the future of the church is not how a person locates a verse –
it’s what they do with that verse once they locate it!
Live curious friends.