By Eugene Wilson
THE ENLIGHTENMENT (1650-1800) WAS a period in which changes in mathematics, physics, philosophy, science, and communication resulted in great societal changes. Many believe we are experiencing a New Enlightenment. Due to enormous increases in knowledge and technology, great societal changes are occurring.
Consider the impact of connectivity.
Text messaging, cell phone calls, FaceTime, as well as numerous social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, Instagram, Pinterest, and so on are making our world smaller. You can’t go anywhere without seeing people talking, texting, or surfing the Internet on their cell phones. Even in a country like Haiti, where more than eighty percent of the population lives below the poverty line, nearly everyone has a cell phone. We have, in just a short period of time, become connected in the most extraordinary ways.
Globalization, defined as the “widening, deepening and speeding up of worldwide interconnectedness in all aspects of contemporary social life,” has united the world. For instance, no longer are Japanese companies simply Japanese companies. Neither are most American companies strictly American. Japanese auto manufacturers have plants in the United States while United States auto manufacturers have plants in Mexico. This is one example among many.
A paradox of gigantic proportions, however, is how that even though we have become increasingly connected we have also become increasingly fragmented. Consider Facebook. The ability to connect with others is the same platform on which to be at odds with others. This person against that person. This person judging that person. That person attempting to govern this person. This person in that person’s business. This person blocking that person. It is ironic, isn’t it, that Facebook, a platform with which we connect with others, has also become a mechanism for fragmentation.
Fragmentation is impacting our nation. David Brooks, in “The Fragmented Society”-an article appearing in The New York Times-maintains we have become a less politically, economically, and demographically cohesive nation. And on an even larger scale, despite great gains made by globalization, ancient divisions of ethnicity and religion continue to negatively impact modern civility.
Some would like to blame technology for our fragmentation. Is this accurate? Is it really technology’s fault? While technology may showcase our tendencies towards fragmentation, or even help further us on the journey towards fragmentation, it does not cause it. Mary Aiken, author of The Cyber Effect and one of the world’s leading experts in forensic cyberpsychology, states, “Whenever technology comes in contact with an underlying predisposition, or tendency for a certain behavior, it can result in behavior amplification or escalation.” Thus our tendency towards fragmentation is not caused by technology. It is an inward issue that is enhanced or showcased through such things as Facebook.
CITY ON A HILL
It is within this environment-a world filled with fragmentation, fighting, hostility, frustration, and anger-that God has positioned the church, the light unto the world, a city on a hill that cannot be hid.
Although much of our world is conflicted, fragmenting, fighting, murdering, and destroying one another, there is hope. Our world has been given a church, a people through whom God now reveals Himself to the world, just as He once revealed Himself through Jesus Christ to the world. Hence, our purpose is more important than all the governments and universities of the world combined. Nothing compares with the church. And nothing can take the place of the church.
We reveal God to a fragmented world.
When our world looks at the church, what does it see? Are we presenting a parceled-out God? The apostle Paul accused the Corinthian church of this very thing. In addressing the divisiveness within the church, Paul asked, “Is Christ divided?” (I Corinthians 1: 13). The answer is obvious. Of course not. The implication was that neither should the church be divided.
Jesus prayed for His disciples that they would be one as He and the Father are one. “That they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me” (John 17:21, NKJV).
Our answering His prayer, being one with Him as well as with one another, has great ramifications in our effectiveness in impacting our fragmented world. Our lack of connection impedes our evangelistic efforts. Our togetherness enhances our efforts.
Our world is looking for something different. It has enough fragmentation. It needs a unified church. May we answer the prayer of Jesus and be one.
Executive Pastor The Pentecostals of Texas