Church(es). The Big Church Syndrome and Evangelism as Product Placement

  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.


5 thoughts on “Church(es). The Big Church Syndrome and Evangelism as Product Placement”

  1. three ideas just came to me through the air waves out of Washington–Welcomeness, Basketball and Collard Greens…come on let’s get with it and eat!

  2. Rick,
    I believe you are on to something. A good book on this subject is “Celtic Evangelism” by Hunter. It tells the story of St. Patrick reaching Ireland when it was pagan to the core.
    Our field has changed, but our methods are for another day. The traditional pastor of today must learn to live in two world. He speaks week in and week out to many living in a world that only exists in their minds, and he seeks to lead his people to reach a people living in a “real” world few of his workers knows exists.
    I am leaning to the two-tract system of embracing this world. Keep the current system on life support if for no other reason to keep the money flowing and the conflict at a minimum. Then create new streams of life and run with those who run.
    I believe Texas Hope 2010 is a call to do something. Granted CD’s and software Bible will reach only the desperate minority grasping for life, but the outward movement is key. We must turn the face of the BGCT outward and stop the negative inward trend of judging each other and drawing lines in the sand.
    David Lowrie

  3. David,
    you said
    ‘Granted CD’s and software Bible will reach only the desperate minority grasping for life,’
    ‘The desparate minority’ must also, in the ‘7 degrees of separation theory’, have access to someone who knows someone who has access to someone who cares about someone who knows someone who has a friend who can access a computer.
    But at least the effort acknowledges the paradigm changes in personal technology.
    Now, to turn the BGCT people into walking talking examples as is Dr Davis who by ensampling(and with a temendous amount of nu-tech savvy, I might add!) inspires the rest of us to do the same, we need mentors.

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