Do you remember the rubber stamp? Those wooden-handled utensils with a rubber pad affixed to its underside. Etched on the rubber, backwards, were words or symbols. This stamp was then thumped onto an ink pad and the inked stamp was then pressed onto a document or package. I remember using these. I also remember when they introduced the pre-inked stamp. This was big time. No ink pad…the ink was magically pre-fixed on the stamp. No back and forth from item to be stamped and ink pad...it was self-contained. Talk about modern marvels!
When the PC was introduced many thought the rubber stamp, pre-inked or not, would be doomed. If the production of such archaic items was your livelihood you would need to find something else to do. It was over. Or was it?
It seems the concern over the death of the rubber stamp was pre-mature. The manufacturing and use of the rubber stamp continues strong. There are “…about 1700 stamp shops nationwide” (USA Today, 1.26.09, 8A). Who would have thought it? In an age of hyper-technology how in the world can the simplistic, basic rubber stamp continue to find a place? I think the church can gain some interesting insights from this dynamic. The church that many believe is archaic, church that many believe no longer has a place and church that many believe will not survive the shift in culture…could it be its demise might be pre-mature.
A USA Today article, Rubber Stamps Continue to Leave Mark in Computer Age
(1.26.09, by Barry M. Horstman), provides potential insights to how the church can continue to thrive. I refer to this as the “Rubber Stamp Effect.” It is the ability to keep the core of tradition while embracing the continuation of transition.
Connect old tradition with new technology. Rubber stamps are still produced, but not in the same way. “Virtually all of our members (International Marking and Identification Association) operate with lasers and computer software.” They actual enhance what they do with the use of new techniques. The church often views new technology as SATAN! This is why we are late adopters. The problem is not in the technology, but for what and how it is used. Any technology that can enhance the mission should be used. “Where the old things are good, we should keep them going. And, alongside the old, let’s develop something new. In this way, tradition can lead us into the future” (Jonny Baker, Leadership Journal, Something Old, Something New, winter 2009).
Clarify how what we have meets needs. The paperless society may be nearer, but it is here not yet. “People and businesses need confirmation of things and hard copies on file.” The rubber stamp helps with this confirmation. Clarifying this keeps the rubber stamp as a needed resource. What we have does indeed meet the needs of people. It is our job to clarify this, not expect others to figure it out.
Core needs. People are drawn to stability. “Some people just like the feel of that old-time stamp.” It is not, necessarily, they want to return to what once was, but there is a sense to live out what once was in a new way. Spirituality is desired. It is critical that the church help folks apply the foundations of the scripture to their deep-seeded sense of spirituality.
Change will happen. What works today, may not work tomorrow. This is reality. The idea is to change intelligently. “Long-term, there may be a high-tech solution…, but for the foreseeable future, the stamps do exactly what we need.” Current ministry and programs may be what is needed, but this will change. Change with it. Adjust to keep the gospel as the essential.
The rubber stamp is an old reliable tool for present effectiveness. The church does not have to be outdated. We have a message that transcends cultures, philosophies and change. Let’s boldly adjust it to the needs of today to better communicate it.