I learned two things that I did not know last week.  Well, I probably learned more than that, but two in particular that are relevant to this blog post.

1) In 1975, Kodak develop a prototype of the first digital camera, AND

2) On January 19, 2012, Kodak applied for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.

Kodak acknowledge that it owes roughly $6.75 billion (BILLION… with a B! Let that soak in for a second!) to over 100,000 creditors.  This is a far cry from the company that was a leader in the photography/film industry many years ago.  What happened?  What in the world could cause a company to go from pioneer and leader in the field to a bankrupted competitor on the verge of falling off the map entirely?  Lack of vision and drive.

In 1975, Steven Sasson created an “8-pound, toaster-sized contraption, which captured a black-and-white image on a digital cassette tape at a resolution of .01 megapixels.” (You can read the AP article from 2005 here.)  It was revolutionary at the time.  Nobody else was doing anything even remotely similar to this.

However, Kodak was so busy making money and pioneering celluoid photography for the masses that they never did a whole lot of development with this new idea.  They were stuck in their current model, so much so that they could not see the future of photography.

It was this inability to look further into the future that would eventually cause Kodak’s demise.  Kodak struggled to get into the digital photography game, and now, we are talking about a company that has fallen from the S&P 500 (which is supposed to represent the top 500 companies in today’s business world) and the Dow Jones.  By refusing to pursue the possibilities of the future, Kodak has become a thing of the past.

Now, how does this relate to the Church?  Churches have a tendency to gravitate towards the comfortable.  Looking to the horizon and dreaming of things to come is not something that happens in a lot of churches these days.  Consequently, there are a lot of stagnant and declining churches in today’s world.  When we try to live in the past, we end up becoming part of the past.

This isn’t to say that the past doesn’t have good things for us; however, we have to be able to bring those things into the present in relevant ways, or else they fall by the wayside.

A church that is not actively seeking ways to reach the next generation is a church that will soon find itself obsolete.  Churches that were once pillars in their community find themselves distant from their surrounding neighborhoods primarily because they lack the vision to press on into the future.

The simple truth is that the world around us is changing.  The next big thing in the church is not going to come from today’s generation.  It is going to come from tomorrow’s generation.  That is why it is so important for us to invest in the younger generations.

Kodak spent so much time staring at its increasing wallet in the ’70’s and ’80’s that it neglected to see what was going to happen in the ’90’s and beyond.  In today’s world, things move rapidly, especially change and the need to adapt.  If the only change in your church in the last 30 years has been the dwindling attendance numbers, then maybe it’s time to start looking for a way to drive forward into the future.