In recent years, I've been an avid user of the library. In graduate school it was my best friend when it came to research as well as finding a quiet place to study the ever complex Greek language. In recent days, the public library in Grand Rapids has likewise been a great friend in offering me plenty of locations as well as a vast array of books, music, and even DVD's. What I can't get at one location, I'm able to order and have delivered to the location of my preference for pickup.
As I think about the library, I'm amazed about how much has changed over the years. As a kid, when I visited the library, it was the card catalog that enabled you to find the books. Nowadays, through the beauty of technology, it's the ever expanding online catalog that enables me to find the book of my choice from the comfort of my very own home. Pretty cool and a time-saver to say the least.
Much like today, libraries carried music, although it wasn't in the form it is now. I can remember checking out vinyl records and carefully taking them home to listen to them on my record player. I remember how frustrating this was, though, as much of the vinyl was scratched and thereby less than pleasant to listen to. Today, as best I can tell, Cd's are the means of obtaining music from your local library. I wonder how long it will be before even this will change -becoming Mp3s instead-downloaded straight to your computer.
I mention all of this as I think about the church of today. Much like the library needs to be willing to embrace change, our churches need to understand that change is not necessarily a bad thing. I don't miss the vinyl record and I certainly don't miss the old card catalog system. If a library still used these old archaic forms, I'm convinced that less and less people would be willing to hang out in them and to use their means of distribution. As it is, the library is a popular destination with computers, internet access and even a place to get a cup of hot coffee or another beverage of your choice. My local library even serves hot dogs!
In my view, the library has thoroughly embraced change while many of our churches in North America have not. They live and are even willing to die by traditions - many of which have absolutely no biblical mandate to follow. So, whether the church likes it or not, things are not the same as they used to be. Times they are a changing. The question is whether or not the church will change or merely become less and less relevant in a culture looking for something that matters.