‘What we’re entering is a world in which we can’t even tell our students what they should know 5 years from now. Because in fact we’re entering a world where the average half-life of a skill is moving from about 30 years to 5 years.’
This is from a recent speech delivered at Singapore Management University by Professor John Seely Brown. It was one of many startling things he said, speaking about the unprecedented trends he and other academics have begun to note in industry, health and education, trends now being referred to collectively as "The Big Shift".
His view? The world, married as it is to the vast information highway of the internet, is moving so quickly it’s barely allowing time for those in it to catch up, whilst bodies of all kinds – whether businesses, charities or schools – as well as culture itself, drags along like a road-buffeted tin can tied to the bumper of the newlyweds’ car.
Exciting and scary in equal measure, and, strangely, the kind of thing I found myself thinking about as I walked along the streets of York, where I visited this past weekend.
York is one of the oldest cities in the UK. And so walking along its streets the thing that strikes you most is, of course, the architecture. The way the city’s history weaves in and out of the more common markers for post-modernism you’d expect to come across in any 21st century urban setting.
Like: There’s McDonald’s, there’s the 24 hour supermarket, oh, and there’s a 1000 year old barbican.
It got me thinking.
Old things – technology, values, even people – are often thought of as obsolete; considered no more than an inconvenient barrier to the forward march of progress.
The message, unspoken yet often repeated is; old means redundant, no longer ‘relevant’ – a word, I think, we use a lot as Christians these days.
But as I look around York, a city in which past and present stand alongside one another as part of a strange yet beautiful whole, I can’t help but be reminded of Jesus’ words - about being filled with things both old and new (Matthew 13:52).
Maybe that’s what being relevant is truly about, not discarding old things in favour of new ones, but, like York, finding a way to join them together, whether customs, practices or people.
But what do you think? What does it mean for church and Christianity to be relevant today?