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What we congregations need is a new OS

What we congregations need is a new OS

It's been difficult to post blogs over the last few days. In order to explain I have to speak a bit of geek.

My office desktop computer has some age on it. It was there when I arrived four years ago. More significantly it runs Windows XP. Microsoft has released the Windows 7 and Windows 8 OSs since XP came out.

Internet Explorer 8 (hereinafter IE8) is the latest version of Explorer that will run on XP. But since IE9 and IE10 are now available, Blogger, the site I use to write this and my other blogs, has stopped supporting IE8. After all, IE9 and IE10 are now available. So this week, when Blogger stopped working on IE8, I and several others were left out in the lurch. I worked around it by installing and using Google Chrome, a move I've been avoiding making. It does work. Eventually the church will have to replace XP, and possibly the physical computer as well. After all, it's about five years old.

I got to thinking about my thirty or so years' experience at pastoring churches, and it occurred to me: many of our churches are still trying to do the equivalent of running IE8 on XP. It worked for us, right? But then we're dismayed when our operating system is no longer supported by the teenagers and the young and middle adults we'd love to have active with us.

The folks at Blogger made a reasonable decision to support only the newer systems. For one thing, nobody has the resources to support every browser that's ever been written. The new Web page resources that are available require new browser coding. Supporting old browser would keep them from writing effective new versions of their own code. It just makes sense for them to leave older systems behind.

Church congregations sometimes are not so wise. They keep trying to reboot IE8 (or IE1954) to try to make it keep working. Meanwhile our younger folks are going where there's an operating system that will support what they want or need.

What we congregations need is a new OS. A new public statement of the Gospel and what it means for us and for all the world. A worship paradigm that is not merely exciting, but actually brings the worshippers into the presence of the living God. A church culture that is more interested in reaching people and their real-world needs than it is in keeping the church buildings up and the coffers adequately filled. An administrative structure that can respond quickly to opportunity instead of being slow as Christmas. A sense of joy instead of a mere sense of duty.

Installing a new OS is not easy. The old code is resistant to replacement, and can spike the new code we try to install. And, of course, the old code is familiar. Has anyone tried to move from Windows 7 to Windows 8? Yeah, like that.

But eventually, there will be no support at all for IE8. Then what? 

Rev. Ron McCreary is pastor of Gray Memorial UMC in Tallahassee.  The opinions in this commentary are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position or policies of the Florida Conference of The United Methodist Church.