Discipleship

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.

Leadership

The Good Ambassador

by Jeff Crawford

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

I recently had the opportunity to preach from 2 Corinthians 5 as part of a teaching series we called My Mission. One phrase from one verse has had a lasting personal impact upon me and how I view my role as a minister of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. That one verse is verse 20 and that one phrase is:

“We are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us.”

As followers of Jesus, our standing affords to us many privileges as citizens of the Kingdom of God, not the least of which is that we are joint heirs to that Kingdom with all the benefits of adoption into the Royal Family. But there are also responsibilities, namely the responsibility to serve as ambassadors for God’s Kingdom.

The role of ambassador carries with it a certain understanding, or at least it should. And that’s really the point of this post. 

Thinking about it all from a worldly geo-political point of view, let’s say that I was the United States Ambassador to Spain. That would mean that while I am a citizen of the United States, I would live in Spain.  I would also shop in Spain, drive the streets of Spain, eat the food in Spain, and I would probably even learn Spanish. But most importantly, I would build real relationships with real people in Spain.  All for a single purpose: to represent my country, the United States of America. You see, an ambassador doesn’t represent himself or herself. If I were the ambassador to Spain, it would never be about me; it would be about the United States, about the current president who appointed me, and about the government that sent me. I would be there to represent them. 

I would also be about the business of something else, something very important. In fact, the primary role of any ambassador is to deliver a message. In the same way that an ambassador represents the one who sent him or her, an ambassador also speaks for the one who does the sending. This is critical; vital, even, to the life of the mission. 

Back to our example:  if I were the ambassador to Spain, I would be very, very careful with my words. I would have a crystal-clear message from the president of the United States and it would be my job to keep that message pure. I would have talking points and I would, as they say, “stay on message.”  This means that I would not be on Twitter blowing off steam about how I felt about some restaurant in Spain that gave me poor service. To do such a thing would make the one who sent me look bad. It would also risk cutting off important relationships with Spaniards who love that restaurant. What I’m saying is that as an ambassador to Spain, it doesn’t really matter what I think about some particular topic. It doesn’t matter my viewpoint on the politics of Spain. It’s not about me. Let me say that again:  IT’S NOT ABOUT ME. It’s only about the one who sent me and about what he thinks and about what he wants me to say. I am only a mouthpiece. A messenger. My conduct and my words must be designed to reflect, in the best way possible, the one who sent me.

By now you surely know where all this is headed. Pastor, you are an ambassador of the Kingdom. You have been sent by the King to live in “Spain.” Your words and conduct out of the pulpit are actually, at times, more meaningful than what you do or say in the pulpit. I am continually shocked and disturbed by what my fellow ambassadors feel free to say in the world of Social Media. It’s as if the mantle of ambassadorship is taken off hung on the coat rack when logged on to Facebook, or Twitter, or Instagram. My fellow laborers, I appeal to you, be very careful what you say when roaming the streets of “Spain.” This is a divided world we live in.  I think it may be more divided than in anyone’s lifetime. EVERYTHING is political. It doesn’t really matter what you personally think about guns, or walls, or this president, or climate change, or you name it. Once you lay down a personal position on any of these topics and more, you have surely alienated as much as 50% of your audience before you even begin to deliver the message of the King. A good ambassador would never want to do such a thing. The message of the cross is offensive enough by itself. It doesn’t need help from you turning people off before they have a chance to hear it. Remember, it’s not about what you like or you think or you believe about this or that. It’s only about the King and the Kingdom. God is making his appeal through you. 

Live this. Preach this. Social media this. And lead your congregation to be excellent ambassadors alongside you.

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 and two teenagers living at home, with their first grandson arriving in December.