I just now gmailed my first Sunday morning message to the worship leader at my new church, where I start Sunday. I got a little thrill sending it, such as I have not felt in awhile and so this posting may seem a bit giddy.
Such is life. New beginnings.
Today: Churches, the BCS and Evangelism as Product Placement
There is one way to totally protect your church from the Big Church Syndrome (BCS). I can put it in one word.
Do not do your messenger job. Fail to do your job, fail to be the Church and your church will probably not have to worry about spiritual or numerical growth.
Yes, you can try hard, work diligently, do all you are supposed to do and still fail to grow much either way, but failure to grow is not failure, for there are far too many factors mitigating against growth in churches today.
On the other hand, if all our conversations begin at the basest level, we predetermine our failure and this is failure, of the lowest order. We ought not to draw so many lines ourselves our failure is predetermined.
I wrote before, the thriving churches of the 21st century will be those who teach Christians how to connect and form community. I will hold to that ideal consistently, so get used to it.
I write it because while we are just now at a place where three large generational metaphors converge (usually on the pastor's head), that will not be case forever of for long. The Traditional generational metaphor of conformity is passing rapidly from the scene. I am sorry if this hurts but trying to get people to conform even to our old schedules is virtually impossible.
Yes, I am a relic, but I do remember when Little League games were not played, nor practices held, on Wednesday or Sunday in my little town. Now? Oh, please. If you get Sunday mornings at 11am three times a month from young couples with small children you are hitting a home run. Forget conformity.
People may attend a church for years, off and on, without ever performing the great act of conformity; joining the church. We predetermine the difficulty of assimilation by asking millenials to do what they simply cannot do because these things conform to our historical approaches, which things themselves are more historical aberrations than Biblical norms.
Which brings me, quickly, for I have much to do today, to a sad lament about evangelism as product placement. Evangelism as product placement fulfills two generational metaphors. These are the Traditional-Conformity image and the Modern-Controls image. We give everyone the same thing (conformity) and do so in a way that can be quantified (controls).
So, we come up with a great idea. We will produce videos or computer Bible software and ship them to every address in Texas or somewhere. We will need a lot of out of budget money for this project, so we enlist whomever we can to find money and hands for us.
We fail. We fail quite because this is a traditionalist/modern image approach to a millenial quandary with millenial technology. We feel cool trying but we fail because the medium, while it may somewhat fit the message, does not contact the masses.
What does? Well, the church that thrives in the 21st century will be that one which features connection and community, teaches and practices (real) prayer and addresses the loneliness (desperation) of this unparented age.
How? Sooner or later we have to answer the how question.
You will find my answers to the how question unpalatable. You will also find them starting tomorrow.