Engaging Culture

The Church is Going Backwards – And It’s a Good Thing

There are two issues that I’ve been thinking a lot about recently, that in my opinion are moving the church backwards – in a positive way.  First – what I’m calling “The Open Media Revolution.” I just turned in a new book manuscript on the subject, and there are two things worth thinking about.  First – technology has given us the ability to interact with each other, and have a two way conversation – think Instant Messaging,  email, PDA’s, Twitter, texts, and more.

I grew up with media being one-way as in network television.  Whatever they showed, we watched – no questions asked.  Today, it’s different.  Second, this method of conversation happens to be the language and lifestyle of the millennial generation.  This is the first generation that was born into computers, and they understand them in a way no other generation before them has.  They also grew up knowing they could pick the next American Idol by texting on their cell phone.

So they want a voice.   The intersection of these two issues are about to change everything we know about communicating.  It will change the way we do media, business, education, and even worship.  Pastors – it’s not a one way conversation anymore.  Figure out a way for your congregation to interact – to talk back – and to let their voice be heard.

I bring it up because the two way model is the model of the early church.  While teaching has always been an important element of church life, the early church wasn’t as “preacher-centric” as it is today.  Today, a church lives and dies by the personality and gifts of it’s pastor.  But the early church knew better.  During a typical worship experience many voices were heard from, and the services focused on being a dialogue, not a monologue.  But since that time, the worship service has been “farmed out” to the professionals.  Fortunately, technology and a new generation are setting the stage to take us back to that two way experience, and I think the church will be better for it.

The other issue is the Multi-Site phenomenon. At first, I wasn’t much of a fan until I started thinking about the cathedral model in the Middle Ages.  The major cathedrals throughout Europe had services, but their main purpose was to be the “mothership” to all the local churches in their region.  The cathedral trained pastors, had music education programs, were the center of doctrinal teaching, and provided the resources, leadership, and often financial help to all the smaller churches in the area.  And today, the multi-site model does the same thing.  A large mega-church in a major city, now is sending out many other campuses.  But the main campus is the center for training, teaching, finances, and other types of resourcing.

In my opinion, it’s the second wave of the mega-church phenomenon – it’s taking the church back to smaller, local congregations, but this time with the help and support of a much larger “cathedral” if you will.

What are your thoughts on those two ideas?

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  1. Phil, I think these are two great observations. In the church setting, I find a better response from people, during the teaching/preaching experience when they are given the opportunity to talk back. They take away more, in many cases, because of their own involvement. The Multi-Site phenomenon is interesting. I really like the local models verses solely a Mega Church atmosphere – less likelyhood of getting “lost” in the crowd. The integration makes sense. In the back of my mind, even with all of the technological advances, the thought has remained that what still makes the most impact in a person’s life is face to face conversation and interaction. (Very similar to how ‘word of mouth’ is still the best form of advertising.) Figuring out a way to employ technology to aid in this personable experience will be key.

    Allen Paul Weaver III
    Author, Transition: Breaking Through the Barriers

  2. I like both of your ideas.  Unfortunately, the first statement "these two issues are about to change everything" was already outdated before you wrote it. 😉  The phenomenon is almost exactly like the current wall street crash.  Just as the law makers try to step in and clean it up, (reactionary-ism) Pastors are now forced to step in and find ways to make the connections as you well put it.  I agree, but I hope you haven't given the pastors an out.  It is not a "should" at this point.  It is a "must".  Name one person that wants to sit through a minimum 35 minute lecture on Theology (which is our current paradigm) given by one person who gives 3 points in 5 minutes and then repeats himself for the other 30 minutes plus.  A blog would me much more affective (as yours is).  The current paradigm is tragedy.

     Great concept with the cathedrals as well.  I have never thought of it that way.

     Phil.  Just by the way, I am the guy you met a couple of months ago in the Rockies.  I mentioned my boss, Jac Redford, a famous composer TV and Film composer.  I wasn't able to get to you through email, so I am writing here.  I believe you now have my name and email.


  3. Phil,

    Amen, amen and amen!  This two-way communication means those ministries who hold seminars, for example on God's Message in the Wall Street Turmoil, without perspective, for example, not mentioning one's own ministry  and all invited speakers' ministries have opaque financesl.  Right?  

    The trend will be towards maturity, for example transparent finances, and away from immaturity, opaque finances.  This two-way communication means no more dictating conditions from the broadcast pulpit to one's own ministry advantage.  Hallelujah! 

  4. Good call on the first one.  I think it was C.S. Lewis who said we read to know we are not alone.  I for one absolutley buy in to that idea, the idea that that we look for ourselves in everything, including our faith. While ever the communication is one way, it only partially scratches the surface of our thoughts. When we have the opportunity to respond it can go much deeper down and effect change in our values and attitudes.

    I don't have any thoughts on the second idea.

  5. Interesting that I found you through twitter.  I have always been fascinated with technology, running a church sound system for half my life, but I have fallen behind in recent years.  I have never sent a text message by phone.  I have lost touch with those on the edge of technology, but I see it as a powerful tool to be used for good or for bad.  I am glad some are using it for good.  I now find myself looking for a new church home.  It seems most churches are at one extreme of technology or the other.  It is hard to find a balance.  Likewise it is hard to find a church that understands the concept of community and not a clergy/laity concept.  Using technology to meet people on twitter has really opened my eyes to see how many people are out there who really do "get it".  It is encouraging.

  6. Our group went all the way back. We are a home church with no designated clergy. We are deep into the Hebraic roots of our faith which most mainstream churches ignore. We are finding things in our careful study of the Scriptures as a Jewish book (and in view of Jewish culture of the time) that theologians caught up in their denominational mindsets totally miss. Also, since we have no fiscal plant to maintain. nor any paid staff, all our tithes and giving goes directly to supported missions.

  7. I agree with your comments. However, there is an element missing in this stream of current belief that people will connect only if they can interact. I can't tell you how many times I've heard it said, in both church and academic contexts, that "the model of 'the sage on the stage' is dead." I think such a statement is foolish. Many, many receive from that sage on the stage, particularly if he/she HAS SOMETHING OF VALUE TO SAY. I prefer this model of learning. It is how I best retain. To paint every person, even all those of the current youngest generation, as requiring technology and interactive learning and the like is just as misguided as labeling all Boomers as "hippies" and influenced by The Grateful Dead. Enormous numbers of Boomers did not identify with hippies and couldn't name one band member of The Dead–actually hate the whole early rock scene. We cannot paint with such a broad brush; we simply need to be thoughtful in our approaches and aware of our audiences. I daresay that if Paul or Barnabus or even John Chrysostom walked into one of our meeting places, we'd be honored and excited to listen to their sage-ness on the stage. How disappointing it would be to us if they said, "You don't really want to hear from me. Find four other people and discuss these three concepts." That might come after, but first we'd like to sit at the feet and listen.     http://www.SetFreeLifeSeminars.com

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