The author of “How Google Works” was interviewed on the radio yesterday. The book tells about how Google stays on top of the market by constantly reinventing itself. He gave several examples (only one can I remember – sorry!) of businesses and institutions that failed to be innovative and suffered because of it. The one I remember is the post office. Had they be been innovative and adaptive, according to the person who wrote the book, they would have realized that parcels are still unable to be sent person to person over the internet and would have switched from letters to focusing on packages along the lines of UPS and would have fared much better.
This seems like a perfectly reasonable assumption and there are truths about it. We might even look back and think, “Of course! Had they only . . .” But it is one thing to look back and think, “If they’d only changed this one thing” as opposed to being on the other end, “What is the thing we have to change to deal with this unknown future?”
The Church suffers from the same thing. It seems to have a general sense that it constantly needs to change in order to stay relevant in people’s lives, but it suffers from knowing exactly WHAT to change. So we have tried all kinds of things. Change the music, change the seating, change the words of the Mass, add dancing, change the teaching, change the preaching, change . . . well, you get the point.
I would contend that we have far too often changed the wrong thing. The post office still needs to deliver things. If it suddenly decided to start raising horses like it did during the pony express, it might be a really great gimmick, make all the press, even call us out of our homes to watch a parade of them go by, but it wouldn’t really help the bottom line of the post office. The right thing has to be changed.
It is not necessarily the music or the vestments or the perfect seating arrangements that will make things better in the Church (though they can help) and it won’t even be changing our teachings. Rather, it will be emphasizing those teaching that speak to people’s hearts in a particular age. In what areas do our youth’s hearts ache today? There is an angle of our beliefs already in our books and in our hearts that can speak to that. You won’t speak to it simply by playing music louder and the priest wearing jeans at Mass. But after showing them how the faith speaks to their hearts, you can then open the rest of the world to them.