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Mastering the Iron of the Culture

November 6, 2014 0 Comments

Recently, while listening to a Christian radio station, I could tell that the pastor speaking prided himself, and his church, as being well grounded in study of the scripture. I know this because of the following sentence I heard him say, which, to the best of my memory, went like this:

  • “It is especially hard for a church like ours, where we pride ourselves on the preaching and studying of the Word, to go out and DO what the Word says. Sometimes, it’s better to know a little and do a lot than to know a lot and do nothing with it.”

WOW! I don’t know about you, but that statement hit me between the eyeballs. It begs the question of me – it begs the question of you – what am I doing with the knowledge I have about God’s word to spread it to others? In a day and age when the church in America is calling this a “post-Christian” nation, I think the answer is clear:

Not enough.

Consider how churches use the Internet. Some church leaders might be tempted to say that “We’re doing all we can with what we’re doing with our web ministry.” Others might say: “We know we need to do more, but quite frankly, it would mean making some changes that we’re not comfortable doing – at least, not at this time.”

The technology divide that confronts the old vs. the young is not new. During the reign of King Saul, Israel faced a similar technological hurdle. Saul either couldn’t or wouldn’t do anything about it. Then David came along, and things started to change.

Iron of the Culture

When the Iron Age first began, the nation of Israel was at the losing end of the learning curve. We know that their enemies, the Philistines, had a monopoly on the technology needed to produce Iron. For example, we read in I Samuel 13:19-20:

Now no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Otherwise, the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” So all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshares, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe.

Sometime during the reign of King David, the Israelites acquired the technology to produce iron. Some have speculated that David acquired this technology during the time he hid from Saul by living among the Philistines (see, for example, I Samuel 27:7). Whatever the exact chronology of events, we know the Israelites did in fact have iron during the reign of King David. In I Chronicles 22:3, the Bible records this about David’s preparation for Solomon to build the temple:

  • David prepared large quantities of iron to make the nails for the doors of the gates and for the clamps, and more bronze than could be weighed.

I believe that the Internet represents a modern equivalent to “the iron of the culture.” As in David’s day, the culture around us has been much more adept at using and applying this new technological tool. Many in the church are only now just beginning to come to grips with how to use it. Like iron, the Internet is a technology that can be used for good – and for evil

Lessons in Learning to Use the Iron of the Culture

In David’s day, the use of iron was becoming an increasing fact of every-day life. The same is true of the Internet in our time. I would like to present 3 lessons on using the Internet to do ministry based on what we can learn from these verses of scripture.

Lesson 1: Acquire the Technology.

Early on in the emergence of the Internet, the church was slow to adopt this tool and use it. Unlike the technology of iron, there were no Philistines trying to keep their monopoly and withhold the secrets of its use. Rather, church leaders faced a different challenge, born of demographics: They are typically older people, and older people are not “early adapters” in the use of technology. Young people are much more likely to use the Internet to learn about spiritual truths, and as researchers like George Barna (Grow Your Church from the Outside In) have demonstrated, are much more likely to do so than people over the age of 35. But, younger people do not typically run their congregations. Older people do.

The issue of whether or not to make use of the Internet has been resolved with a resounding “YES”. Just like the Israelites under King Saul, we have learned to work with “the iron of the culture.” We are, however, very much still in the stage of going to the Philistines to work on our tools because they have all the blacksmiths (i.e., technology gurus and webmasters).

Lesson 2: Have a Godly plan to use the Internet

As students of the Bible know, David wanted to build a temple to the Lord, but God told him that he wasn’t the one to do it. Because he’d been a man of war, God told him that it would be left to his son, Solomon, to build the temple. As David speaks of his preparations so that his son could build the temple after his death, we read these words addressed to his son in I Chronicles 22:11-12:

  • Now, my son, the Lord be with you that you may be successful, and build the house of the Lord your God just as He has spoken concerning you. Only the Lord give you discretion and understanding, and give you charge over Israel, so that you may keep the law of the Lord your God.

Certainly, David could have built a temple. That wasn’t the issue. The issue was that God wanted the temple to be built in the right way with the right motives in order to achieve the right results. It is true that many churches have built websites, but it is also true that many churches sense that they have missed the mark in building their sites. As we have seen, a church needs to have goals. These goals must form the foundation for how the website is planned and designed. Without such forethought and planning – which must come from the spiritual leadership – you may have a fancy website, but it may be just as useful as a fancy church building. Both are useless tools unless the church – which is God’s people – are actively engaged by them.

Lesson 3: The Iron of the Culture is to be Used by All of God’s People

Before David came along, the only iron weapons the Israelites had were the swords used by Saul and Jonathan. In I Chronicles 13:20 (which we’ve already seen) and 22, we read:

  • Now no blacksmith could be found in all the land of Israel, for the Philistines said, “Otherwise, the Hebrews will make swords or spears.” So all Israel went down to the Philistines, each to sharpen his plowshares, his mattock, his axe, and his hoe. … So it came about on the day of battle that neither sword nor spear was found in the hands of any of the people who were with Saul and Jonathan, but they were found with Saul and Jonathan.

Notice the Israelites did have some iron. However, their use of iron was very controlled. In large part, this was due to the fact that their Philistine enemies had a monopoly over knowledge about how to make it. Israel’s king aided this monopoly, for Saul and Jonathan were the only ones who had iron swords. Now, if David could gain the technology to make iron, why couldn’t Saul have done the same? After all, the people already possessed at least some iron farming tools.

Perhaps Saul just saw the task of acquiring the technology to produce iron just too difficult. After all, he was busy doing what he was already doing, and didn’t have the time, resources, energy or vision to try to do anything else other than what he was already doing. Or perhaps – and I want to stress this is only conjecture on my part – perhaps King Saul didn’t want his people to have iron weapons because if they did, he would no longer possess a monopoly over the control of such weapons among the Israelites. Therefore, he took no action to gain the technology because to take action meant the ultimate loss of his personal power.

Conclusion

One of the courses I teach as an adjunct college instructor is ecommerce. Now, I am not an IT technical person. My experience in working with church ministries is that they decline to do any website/social media planning based on the excuse that it is “too technical.” In reality, I believe they are simply unwilling to take the time to learn about something they feel is too complicated for them.

When I ask my students what they learned most from my class, the number one answer is that they are amazed at all the research and planning that goes into creating a successful strategy to do business on the Internet. They learn that it’s not just about creating a web page and putting it on the Internet – it’s about organizing people, planning budgets, thinking about how to market, who to market to, and many other factors.

The important thing to note is that the number one reason for failure – not just in creating a strategy to do ministry online, but in any endeavor – isn’t coming up with the wrong plan. The number one reason for failure is to not execute the plan you come up with. Vision without execution just gets peoples’ hopes up and makes it that much harder to accomplish anything the next time someone comes along and says “Let’s GO!”

In acquiring and using the Iron of the Culture, Saul did not understand this. David did. What about you and your ministry/business?

About the Author:

David Lantz is a self-published author, adjunct college professor and leadership consultant. Visit my online courses at https://generationselfemployed.zenler.com/ and like my facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/wisejargon and

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