15 Quotes and the Handout from my WFX Keynote on Technology and the Future of the Church

This is the second in a three part series highlighting my recent talks for WFX Expo in Dallas.

In my post list on 15 quotes for creativity, there are a ton of links, because I’ve been processing those ideas on this blog for years.

These ideas are a lot newer, so there aren’t as many links here. This is the front end – the less polished end – of my thinking, which is on the relationship of creativity, technology, and kingdom and culture building, and the role of us as the church in changing hearts, lives and communities. You can tell by this bad sentence that I don’t have it down yet! Anyway, I’d love to hear your thoughts on these thoughts, which reflect the readings and conversations I’m having as part of my doctoral studies with Leonard Sweet at Portland Seminary.

Click here to download the Keynote Handout.


Here are some quotes and concepts from the session

  1. “For most of my ministry I’ve been focused on doing the work of the church in the digital age. But we’ve just been babies. Now the real digital age is emerging.” – I talked about this in response to a big year of technological news, from human microchip implants to the rise of AI.
  2. “We will be assimilated.” – When it comes to technology, our society will adapt to technological advancement. We always do, even though we fear each new technology is the end of civilization.
  3. “The change happens when we’re not looking.” – After saying this, I quoted Roy Amara at the beginning of my book Wired Church 2.0, who said in Wired magazine that we vastly overestimate the impact of a technology in the short run and underestimate the impact of a technology in the long run.
  4. “As the anxiety dissipates, the technology assimilates.” – The hype runs ahead of the development, so whenever a new technology emerges, dystopian images emerge first. But as our fears subside, new innovations diffuses throughout an organization, a sector, a society.
  5. “Historically, the church is at the end of the Rogers diffusion chart. Usually, we fight it until we’re the last ones left.” – We in the church almost always consider new innovations evil. This is because innovations start down and out, on the fringes. It’s only when they work their way up and in the power structures of society that they become acceptable. For example, the Catholic Church finally sanctioned non-Latin mass, 500 years after the Gutenberg press encouraged adapting it to the local vernacular. (This is ironic considering that the church spends so much energy trying to legitimize the experience of those that are down and out. You can still Google a Homiletics magazine interview of me on screens in worship from over a decade ago, where the interviewer implies that screen use is “bourgeois.” This was a year after I got heckled at the Festival of Homiletics for suggesting preachers learn to use the screen.)
  6. “Is technology part of the kingdom of God?” – The root of the word, tek-, means to conceive or bring forth. Mary ‘tekked’ when she brought forth Jesus. It’s a word for creating, of conceiving. What we call ‘technology’ is merely the artifacts of the creative process. Technology literally means the study of crafting new things.
  7. “When God promised the future to the Israelites in Numbers 13, most rejected it, saying it was too hard to get there. The problem in the church is that we adopt the dystopian visions, driven by fear. We don’t have a vision for the future. We have a creativity crisis.” – God has a place for us already set aside in the future, but we reject it because it appears to be occupied by giants. Of the 12 leaders who scoped out the land of the Canaanites, 10 reacted out of fear. Only two, Joshua and Caleb, said, let’s go! When you look at the future, what do you see?
  8. “Technology is part of God’s creation.” – If your theology tells you this land is evil and belongs to evil, and we’re going to escape it someday, then technology as an artifact of an evil world must also be evil.  But if your theology tells you that God is on mission to redeem our broken world, and that someday there will be both a new heaven and a new earth, and that God is sending us forth in spite of the giants ahead, then that changes everything.
  9. “Most of the time, we fight new technology. I have a hilarious list of fear and suspicion of new technology on my site, going back thousands of years.”Here’s the list. It’s fear, plain and simple.
  10. “The key to to claiming the future God promises isn’t the artifacts of technology. It’s what leads us to it – the creative process that conceives and produces.” – At the opposite end of the Chicken Littlers, who point to every new technological advancement as further proof of the end of the world, live people like Ray Kurzweil, who believe that technological advancement is our salvation. But neither are true. Jesus is our salvation, and Jesus alone. When we follow Jesus, we start on a journey of rediscovering our creativity. As we grow into the fullness of life in Christ, we create as we were meant to create, and the result is new, redeemed culture, designed by God.
  11. “While one generation rages against the machine, the next learns to harness it for good.” – The phrase Luddite refers to a man named Ned Ludd, and his advocate Lord Byron, who fought the rise of mechanical technology in England in the early 1800s. 80% of the jobs that existed 200 years ago are gone today. Similarly, most jobs today won’t exist by the end of this century. Are we Christians Luddite? Most of the people at the WFX Conference seek to connect technology and ministry. But even that group has its limits. We say we don’t want to distract. A lot of us put white type on black backgrounds in worship. But are we missing something with such low visions? Here’s the funny thing. Lord Byron had a daughter, named Lady Lovelace. She became a patron saint of computing. Are we raging against the machines, or harnessing them for good?
  12. “The reason change is hard is we compare the new unknown with the prior thing in its final polish, not the prior thing when it was new.”
  13. “The secret to change isn’t to focus on what’s wrong. It’s to make something new.” – You want to change your environment? Something you don’t like, in your church or in your world? When I was younger I fought the old. That doesn’t work, and it dishonors people. Instead, create. This is the key.
  14. “We’re the innovators. We are – us communicators – the best equipped group in the church to deal with the coming cultural changes and their impact on the gospel.” – Church communicators love Jesus, know the church, know the culture, know the tools of our human interaction. We enjoy new technology, and we tell the stories, we find the metaphors. We’re the future.
  15. “My number one message and my challenge to you today is … think bigger.” – Don’t be satisfied with mastering Facebook post patterns. We are uniquely equipped to be the deliverers of the Jesus message today. We have church, story and tactical communications skills. But we’re not thinking big enough. If your ministry in communications doesn’t have the potential to last beyond your lifetime you’re not thinking big enough.

This summarizes most of the first half of the keynote, without the bad jokes and good stories.

The second half, as you can see in the handout, talks about 5 core ways to think bigger.

If you’re interested in learning more or inquiring about having me speak at your next event, click here.


About the Author

Len Wilson

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Christ follower. Storyteller. Strategist. Writer. Creative Director at St Andrew. Tickle monster. Author, Think Like a Five Year Old (Abingdon).