The times are a changing my friend, or so seemed to be the suggestion of Paul Mason in his article about the forthcoming series – The Apprentice. Writing about the BBC reality show for the Guardian, Mason was less than complimentary, instead exposing its deep inadequacies in preparing the youthful entrepreneurs for life in the brave new world. Now I like Mr Sugar and so was a little perturbed to hear this criticism but the more I read the more it clicked – Mason has a point, and a valid one at that – the world is a changing and we all better wake up to the fact.
‘If you choose to operate in the analogue of the business world,’ writes Mason, ‘where costs are squeezed and where the sharp suit and confident manner matter more than problem solving, that’s fine. We need plumbers, nail salon owners and indeed, blonde divas of all genders from across lower management to learn how to work in teams… But that’s not the world that is emerging.’
He goes on…
‘If I could get my hands on the apprentices, I would first teach them to write code. Next to attend a hacker convention, where their suits and abrasive manner would be ridiculed. Next to a hedge fund, where they would be asked to design an algorithm for arbitraging various commodities markets. Next, to a customer-centred charity, where they would learn that sounding like a prat is the opposite of what drives market share.’
Mr Mason, I feel speaks what he sees and feels.
But wait. Is it time for us all to wake up and smell the coffee – Fairtrade of course; it’s the future you know. For the aroma that wafts down the passage of time to catch our attention reminds us that there is the smell of change in the air – a whiff that the old order of being and doing is quickly passing away. And this is not simply true for industry and commerce – it’s true for the whole of life.
What created the old systems of governance and order and for those of us in the West – the Judaic Christian Values upon which modern life was constructed are quickly being eroded by a form of post modernism which has much greater fluidity at its core than its forebears could have ever seen. And because life is much more fluid it makes for living it much messier – it’s the fluidity you see, it gets everywhere.
What we defined as normal three decades back is no longer. The foundation upon which life, family, and society at large was constructed are today bastions to a world consigned only to sentiment. We cannot live the future in reverse. Pandora’s Box is not only well and truly open but a new form of living is being assembled from its various pieces which points to a future which will need new skills and ancient wisdom to navigate well. This of course is all well and good if you are an atheist – less so if monotheism is in the roots of your thinking.
For here we are taking the ancient text as the basis to navigate the ever evolving future – and we’ve not always done evolution well in the church, but we will need to lest it make monkeys of us all. New thinking will accompany new ways of being. We have only just begun the greatest revolution to hit our world since the industrial one and the scope of change is either frightening, exciting – or if so inclined, both.
As Mason notes, we may choose to live in the world of analogue but digital has arrived and it’s big – real big. This is not just about using Apple Pay to purchase my coffee – it’s about a fundamental change in the way we live – how we receive and process information.
As Mal Fletcher recently tweeted: ‘Amidst an overload of content, people look to leaders to provide context, the big picture narrative.’
Today’s spiritual leaders need to do exactly that – frame life in the context of the story we are created to live. This is the Pastor’s role to tell a story that carries such meaning. We need to be less prescriptive and more poetic – we are not pharmacists but poets –forming the language through which a generation can write a song they will love to sing. Creating digital downloads of love and grace that can bring change to the world. We must take our orthodoxy and give it wings that it might freely liberate those for whom they feel the story of their life has closed its final chapter.
But in setting her free we may find ourselves taken to terrain less familiar to those of our past. Here we will discover a new generation of seekers and sojourners who are looking for signposts beyond what can be offered in the latest LED lights, but we ought not to expect them to carry the interests of our past.
They will not come to prop up our churches, bailout our denominations or populate our programmes ad infinitum. The analogue rhythms of a bygone year have little appeal to a digital generation whose hunger is for justice and equity – for an holistic embrace of a global community that is working for peace and harmony and for movements of change that prioritize ecology over eschatology.
This brave new world will not be boxed in by their religion – but they will search out spirituality and the challenge we will face is not whether our programmes are varied enough but whether our spirituality is deep enough to meet their needs. Our quest is not to get hip but to make whole – empowering disciples of the digital age who understand the future belongs to those with sufficient sight to be able to navigate it.