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July 31, 2007

What Will They Think of, Next?

Why is it that the release of a movie, a book, or a video game system can spark such a cultural phenomenon? If James Emery White is correct, it is not the allure of the "new" that is so intriguing, but the thrill of the "next."

Turn on the TV and you’ll find “America’s Next Top Model” on CW and “Next” on MTV.

There are even stores specializing in the “next” through “fast fashion,” such as H & M and Zara, which replace their entire line of clothing every few weeks.

Our preoccupation with “next” has replaced our earlier fascination with “new.” The difference? New is what something is; next suggests a special insight.

Christians can be captivated by “next” as much as anyone.

Just think church. Pastors often joke about a “migratory flow pattern” among Christians in their community who are constantly church-hopping to the “next” thing in church life. They move from one church to another, looking for the next hot singles group, the next hot church plant, the next hot speaker, the next hot youth group. Many times they end up full circle where they began, because their original church suddenly became “next.”

This is, perhaps, the reason that going to see a movie entails 15 minutes of trailers, which are often more exciting than the feature presentation. There is something innately alluring about the "next" -- it allows our imaginations to roam through a utopia wherein lies the best scripted movie, the most amazing gadget, the perfect church.

We are a fickle bunch, though, as White points out. And when "next" becomes reality, our expectations don't tend to hold up. Thus a perpetual casting aside of one trend for another, and an ongoing parade of instant celebrities who become instant has-beens.

Such a mindset is not surprising for a restless and easily bored society, but it seems to be in contrast to the God who changes not and is the same yesterday, today, and forever. While Christians are called to anticipate a "blessed hope," that too is a hope that remains wonderfully static. Nothing that truly matters loses its grandeur like a passing fad. Praise God for that.

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