The Analog Revolution

by Jeff Crawford

Lead Pastor of Ministries, Teaching Pastor, Cross Church (Springdale, AR)

A curious thing is happening with the next generation. Digital is out and Analog is in. I see it with my own teenagers and their friends. Not long ago my daughter had a friend over and when they showed up at my house, they had, of all things, a turn-table with them and a set of….get this…vinyl records! For Christmas, one of my kids ordered a vinyl album from Amazon for a friend of theirs. 

Analog is popping up in other areas too. I recently heard a news story while driving in the car that spoke of the revival in the popularity of board games. Kids are (re)discovering the joy of playing a game that has real pieces and cards, and boards that you can touch and feel. So for all the attention that video games still garner in our culture, analog is alive and thriving.

For some of us, analog has never quite gone out of style. Yes, in my office I have a “record player” and sometimes will play my own vinyl albums while I work. It’s true that I have a virtual scholar’s library on my computer through Logos, but my office is also loaded with good ol’ fashioned print books that you can touch and feel. So while I read like crazy on my Kindle, I will admit there is nothing like the feel and smell of a real book. Even at my own house, we have a slew of board games to go with our Nintendo Wii and X-Box One. Monopoly, Life, Risk, Uno, etc. But our favorite family game is Settlers of Catan

Yes, the digital world is here to stay, but the analog world provides a depth of experience that digital cannot reproduce. Which is why, I believe, we are seeing a re-discovery of this too quickly buried medium. And of course this has exciting implications for the church.

The Analog Church – In a world dominated by social media and Facebook “friends,” the return of analog is good news for the church. Nothing can replace the tactile experience of driving to a location where God’s people physically meet. Where you shake someone’s hand, and worship to LIVE praise music. Where the Lord’s Supper is taken, engaging the senses of taste and smell. Where you literally hear and taste and see that the Lord is good. The church is not perfect, but it is real…just like life.

The Analog Bible – I have the Bible on my iPhone, tablet, and computer. I’ve never been one to have a problem with people who use their devices to access God’s Word. In fact, I think anything that helps to perpetuate the spread and the digestion of God’s Word is a good thing. But I also think that the virtual Bible is inferior to the analog Bible. By analog, I mean a standard, paper and ink, print Bible – preferably bound in cowhide (okay, the part about the binding is just meJ.) You cannot duplicate the feeling of carrying an “old friend” around with you. There is a familiarity with the Book that is non-existent with digital copies of the Bible. Notes and highlights are better retained. “Scrolling” is actually quicker in a print Bible than on a device once you know your way around the Bible. And that’s an important point – using a print Bible actually facilitates knowledge of how the Bible is organized and fits together. In short, an analog Bible provides for a more intimate encounter with the Word of God.

Analog Jesus – One of the ancient heresies in the early centuries following Christ’s ascension was the belief that he did not physically rise from the dead. But he did. Jesus even went out of his way to highlight the analog nature of his resurrection. He challenged Thomas to touch his wounds from the crucifixion. He asked the disciples to give him some food so he could eat it in front of them (Luke 24) thus demonstrating his physical, post-resurrection nature. Jesus was born in the flesh. He lived in the flesh. He died in the flesh. He was resurrected in the flesh. And he ascended in the flesh. This is critical because Jesus promised he would return in the flesh. We do not worship a God only of spirit but one who took on a flesh and bone body. This separates our God from all others.

The Analog Resurrection – And all this leads to our own promised resurrection. I agree with N.T. Wright that we too often don’t get it quite right in the way we talk about what happens after we die. Yes, we are more than flesh. We are also a spirit. And our spirit indeed goes to heaven when we die. But that is not the sum of it. When we talk about dying and going to heaven, we have told only half the story. The “digital” half. The best half is yet to come. The analog half. The part about how we will one day be resurrected just as Jesus was resurrected – in the flesh! Our eternal promise is not one of a perpetual disembodied experience of floating on clouds and playing harps. Can anyone really get excited about that? The eternal promise is that we will come back to life – in all our analog/fleshly glory. Better than before. Perfected. And our new analog bodies will reside on a physical and very analog New Earth, all set to enjoy God’s good creation forever and ever. 

Can I get an analog “Amen”?

Jeff Crawford, Ed.D., is the lead pastor of ministries and teaching pastor at Cross Church in Northwest Arkansas, a multi-site megachurch and one of the nation’s fastest growing churches according to Outreach magazine. Dr. Crawford is a graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and the author of three books, the most recent of which is his debut novel, Finding Eden. He and his wife Julie (also of OBU) have two married adult children, two teenagers living at home, and one grandson.

Matthew Emerson
Dr. Matthew Y. Emerson, Dickinson Associate Professor of Religion, earned a bachelor’s degree from Auburn University and an M.Div. and Ph.D. in from Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary. Emerson joined the OBU faculty in 2015. He previously taught at California Baptist University, where he served as Chair of the Arts and Sciences Department in the OPS Division. Emerson has authored or co-authored over 20 publications. His research interests include the Old Testament’s use in the New Testament, early Christian interpretation, and theological method. He serves as co-Executive Director of the Center for Baptist Renewal, co-editor of the Journal of Baptist Studies, steering committee member of the Scripture and Hermeneutics Seminar, and Senior Fellow for the Center of Ancient Christian Studies. He is also a member of a number of scholarly societies. Emerson grew up in Huntsville, AL, where he met his future wife, Alicia. Married in 2006, they have five daughters. He and his wife are both members at Frontline Church in Shawnee.