It seems that God’s means of turning a person around and redirecting the course of their life to live out a new mission (aka technology) has evolved over the… millennia.
At some point, there was a garden, perhaps, then a burning bush, then an ark of the covenant, then an actual temple, then, like, house churches with a side of persecution, then sanctuaries, robes, and stained glass, and now contemplative practices that make you want to, just, chill out, dude.
But, as we make our way through the Coronavirus Age, we rightfully find ourselves deeper in the digital-first era where we are conflicted about what is now God’s main technology for making things better.
Show me the magic
Arthur C. Clarke, a scientist and the author of the short story 2001: A Space Odyssey, famously coined three laws, the third of which stated that, “Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic.”
In other words, most people are fine with not really understanding how something super advanced (and therefore, awe-inspiring, wonder-inducing, ecstasy entrancing) actually works, they end up labeling it “magic,” and they simply let it affect their lives in some positive manner.
It makes a lot of sense because, let us face it: the burning bush, contemplative practices, or even communion do a lot of Godly good, yet most Christian people simply do not require nor demand a clear explanation or proof (beyond a theological exposition) of how it operates, scientifically or otherwise.
They are fine with leaving it a mystery, so long as it continues to do for them (and have an effect on them) whatever it is that they desire that it would do.
“Sanctuary pastoring,” is about providing an ecosystem of faith/spirituality apart from their everyday life. Along with the building (with stained glass), the rituals, education, and theology are all a part of a religious environment with particular characteristics that magically centers a people’s lives in faith, on the condition that they recognize a need to participate in such communal (aka institutional) activities.
But, in “field pastoring,” the ecosystem of faith/spirituality is the person’s life, not something in addition to it, apart from it. And, the experience of God is possible through the appropriation of technology that already exists. Religious leadership, in this paradigm, is about the redemption of what is seemingly everyday into what is magical.
As we lead our ministries in the digital-first era, it is important to see social media, then, as spiritual media. That is, it is not just a marketing tool to bring people into in-person activities or membership institutionally; it is itself another version of church – another kind of sanctuary within which pictures help people experience God as magically as a burning bush.
James from PASTORIA
Founder and Chief Guidance Officer