In the beginning… Do you remember the first time you heard those words? Some readers may roll their eyes with a sense of cliché, while others will roll the words over and over again in their mind like a repeating round of “Row, Row Your Boat.” But either way, I bet it got your attention.
Those words ring with power. We immediately wonder, is this the start of an Oscar notable movie, a gripping New York Times best seller, a historical account, or the greatest story ever told? Whichever it is, we want to know more. We want to know what follows the words because no matter where or when we were born, or where or when we will die, we are certain of one thing - every life on earth has a beginning and every life on earth has an end - with a whole lot of excitement and drama in between. Human beings just can’t resist a great story.
Throughout history, stories are how human beings have related, learned and developed. Storytellers have been our leaders, and the leaders that created the best stories have made for the most famous and infamous historical figures. Stories inspire us to greatness and sometimes lead us to doom. That is the power of a great story.
But even as our love of sharing stories has stayed the same, the way we tell stories and the tools we use to tell them, have changed drastically. From the very beginning, God-based storytellers have been a mighty force in moving story telling techniques along. Six out of the ten oldest known surviving books in the world, were created in the name of God. It is pretty clear that religious institutions have historically been the primary pushers and proponents of storytelling innovations. Yet in this new age of continually emerging storytelling technologies, our churches have fallen woefully behind. Fear of technology and innovation procrastination have pulled too many of our religious institutions to the back of the “online storytelling” line. It is a shame that those who have historically been fearless when it came to doing whatever it took to get the word out, now resist technology in fear of online persecution.
But the light is shining on a brand-new day. More and more churches, small and large, are getting their innovative groove back, as well they should. According to the 2017 and 2015 Churchgoer study by Vanco Payment Solutions, young adults are some of the most active church members and givers of tithes and offerings, as well as being the driving force for digital engagement and evolution. Yet Millennials are not alone in their desire to give and receive digitally, the study actually showed that 62 percent of churchgoers overall prefer giving online electronically.
Technology is changing the way we give, interact, and tell stories. Historically, religions have lead the charge in using innovative techniques to spread the word in support of their beliefs. Thousands of years ago, spiritual leaders knew that they had to be the first to put words onto paper so the world could hear their stories.
Religious writers were the millennials of the 1st millennium.
Books were the smartphones of the Iron Age.
Churches should embrace digital innovation like they embraced the first book ever written.