Living in a Time of Great Change

Many movie fans consider director Steven Spielberg a visionary – but his most recent vision is one of doom for the movie industry. During remarks at the University of Southern California on Wednesday, June 12, 2013, Spielberg predicted the “implosion” of the film industry, according to The Hollywood Reporter. Things could get so bad, according to Spielberg, that “you’re gonna have to pay $25 for the next ‘Iron Man,’ but you’re probably only going to have to pay $7 to see ‘Lincoln.’ ”

He said the changes could come after several high-budget, high-profile film flops force the industry to be altered. “That’s the big danger, and there’s eventually going to be an implosion — or a big meltdown,” Spielberg said. “There’s going to be an implosion where three or four or maybe even a half-dozen megabudget movies are going to go crashing into the ground, and that’s going to change the paradigm.”

Spielberg was not alone in his estimation. Fellow filmmaker George Lucas, on the panel with Spielberg, agreed with his assessment and said cable television is now “much more adventurous” than the movie industry. The pair both warned students that they are living in a time of great change for films and those who make them. “The pathway to get into theaters is really getting smaller and smaller,” Lucas said.
What is interesting to me is that people have lavished all kinds of praise and respect on Spielberg and Lucas for their amazingly successful films and for the innovations they have brought to the screen in recent years, and yet when they make comments like these, hardly anyone seems to pay attention. These comments make people uncomfortable. We don’t know what to do with them. We don’t have the imagination or the mental categories to process them and understand what they mean, so we just keep doing what we’ve been doing. We laud them for being visionaries, but we don’t listen to what they are saying.

I see the same thing going on in the Christian church in North America. Spielberg’s and Lucas’ description of the movie industry could be written about the church. I believe that our ‘industry’ is being altered. I believe we are in the midst of an implosion – a meltdown. We are going to see more of our attempts come crashing to the ground. The paradigm is changing. But, rather than trying to get out in front of the paradigm change, and attempt to figure it out before it severely alters what we do even more, we continue to stay busy with our daily routines and hope against hope that our house of cards will continue standing long enough for us to retire.

We are in a time of great change. The pathway to our churches is getting smaller and smaller. So, what do we do? Instead of trying to figure it out, we ignore our visionaries or attack them, try to silence them, and make them go away. The church is in the midst of a crisis of faith and imagination. As our history and theology remind, we must always be about discerning what Christ is up to, joining in the mission of God that the Holy Spirit has already begun around us, forming communities of worship and witness, leading people to Christ, helping people become more like Him, and being the mission agency that constantly sends people out into the world to seek the welfare of the communities where God is sending us.

We must be open to new ways of doing ministry, but often we are not. The more our congregations and our denominational systems decline, the less flexibility and creativity we see. The more we lose our influence in society, the more we turn on each other and attack and blame each other. We focus on internal squabblings rather than on God’s big mission to the world. We live in a dysfunctional system that makes ministry harder when we ought to be giving people more freedom to innovate and discover what God is up to. We have internal systems that are broken. Instead of making it easier to do ministry, they make it harder. And some of the very people who can help us imagine a new future are leaving for other environments that are more open to God’s change than we are.

If the film industry won’t listen to Spielberg and Lucas, and figure out the paradigm change they need to make, who will they listen to? Will the church be more open-minded than the film industry? Can we figure out the paradigm change we need to make? Instead of rigidity, we need more flexibility. Instead of more judgment, we need more grace. Instead of asking God’s mission to serve our polity, we need to ask our polity to serve God’s mission. If God is leading the church to function differently to witness to a different world, will we be open enough to see that, and will we choose to do something about it?

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One Response to “Living in a Time of Great Change”

  1. A great question for the church | Nomadic Christian Says:

    […] https://clarkcowden.wordpress.com/2013/06/17/living-in-a-time-of-great-change/ […]

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