The Pew Report on Podcasting
David Posthuma @ Jul 8, 2005 10:17 AM
The Pew Internet and American Life study has released a report on the progress of Podcasting...the practice of broadcasting MP3 audio files via RSS-capable blogs and websites that may be downloaded to personal computer's and MP3 portable players. Select the link below to view the full report in pdf format...
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The Pew Report on Blogging
David Posthuma @ Jul 8, 2005 10:14 AM
The Pew Interent and American Life Study released a report on the status of blogging. This year alone, blogging readership increased 58%. Select the link below to view the full report in pdf format...
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Whatever Happened to Harry and Mary?
David Posthuma @ Jul 8, 2005 09:46 AM
I first heard about Unchurched Harry and Mary way back in the late 80’s when I was attending seminary in
Lee Strobel helped the American church learn how to be more seeker-sensitive. The Willow-inspired practice of that day was to survey your community door-to-door so that your church leadership could learn first hand what were truly the community’s spiritual needs and roadblocks. Armed with this data, the challenge was then to design church services accordingly.
In reality, the principle of Unchurched Harry and Mary was nothing more than Marketing 101…the American church needed to learn how to market its self more effectively. The result was that many churches indeed became more culturally relevant…at least to the culture of the 1990’s.
Something happened over the last twenty years. I don’t know how, I don’t know when, but somewhere along the timeline of the past two decades, many of our churches seem to have stopped asking Harry and Mary about their lifestyle, needs and spiritual hang-ups. The church culture has become one of model-chasing…always looking for the next latest-and-greatest techniques for “doing church”. Our
Since 1991, the adult population in the
Clearly, The way we are “doing church” is not working.
What’s Your Marketing Niche?
Years ago I was on a business trip when I drove past a failed hamburger restaurant. I couldn’t help but notice the burger-joint’s big sign along the road. It consisted of a large golden crown. Below the crown was the name of the restaurant: “Burger Queen”. This is an example of poor niche marketing. Yet, across
The basic premise behind the principle of Unchurched Harry and Mary was that through the use of surveys, unique community distinctives would be discovered. The result would be that how one church designed its ministry in one community would likely be very different from how another church, in another community, designed its ministry. In marketing terms, you must first know your market, and then devise a market niche. Your church’s niche is what makes your ministry very different and uniquely attractive from all the other ministries in your community.
In theological and spiritual terms, pastoral leaders should seek from God His will regarding the ministry calling of any particular congregation. I doubt He calls every church to “do church” in virtually the same way, using the same popular techniques. One of Christ’s greatest attributes is His ability to be creative…through Him all things were created. So if we are the body of Christ, His representatives within this world, don’t you think that some of that creativity should have rubbed off by now?
What Would the Survey Look Like Today?
If your ministry conducted the Harry and Mary survey today, I think you would find that the survey results have changed significantly from the results that were typical twenty years ago. Among the differences that churches must now seriously consider, is the cultural impact of the internet. Twenty years ago, the Harry and Mary surveys could not consider internet influences…because the internet did not exist. Today, there is no greater cultural influence in
Relationships Evolve Differently
For all the talk that comes out of many of our churches today, telling us that relationships are central to our spiritual development, this “value” is not typically modeled by the leadership through their highly programmed and performed Sunday services. In fact, there is nothing relational at all about the way we “do church” today. Twenty years ago, we learned that Unchurched Harry and Mary did not like being noticed….visitor anonymity was considered a positive value. Today, in 2005, Unchurched Harry and Mary will not likely step foot inside your church walls until a relationship of trust has already been established. The evolution of relationships today often begins online, and moves to face-to-face interactions once relational trust has been nurtured. The idea of attracting unchurched people into your service is now culturally obsolete. The front door to your ministry is no longer the Seeker-Sensitive service. The front door to your ministry is your personal computer. Meet and greet people online. Build relationships online. Allow people to get to know you…the real you…not your institutional organization with its many programs. Build an online community where Seekers and Christians can interact and relate. After all, the internet today is all about relationships.
Look at the results of this Pew Internet & American Life Study and notice what the #1 purpose for using the internet is today: (view full report)
These results are already four years old. All available information suggests that if the study were conducted today, Relationships would score at least ten points higher. The internet of 2005 and beyond is predominately a venue for relational bridge-building. Interpersonal relationships now exist in reality and virtually at the same time. If your ministry is at all serious about reaching out to your greater community relationally for Christ, you had better come to grips with the fact that 65-75% of young adults today build relationships online…often long before they are willing to meet one-another face-to-face. Does your ministry have an online relationship strategy? I have no doubt what-so-ever that if the Apostle Paul were ministering today, he would have an incredible online ministry program.
The Church Must Be a Family, Not Target Families
Over the past two decades, the typical church has focused heavily upon being family-friendly. While this is not inherently bad, the Unchurched Harry and Mary of 2005/2006 is more likely to be statistical singles, without children, than was true of the Unchurched in 1990 and before. The 2000 census, the Barna Report and the Pew Internet and American Life studies clearly demonstrate that young adults are staying single longer. George Barna demonstrated that singles make up a disproportionate percentage of the unchurched population.
Corresponding to their younger age, the survey also found that unchurched people are more likely than other to be single and to never have been married. Whereas one-quarter of American adults (26%) are single-never-married, nearly two-fifths of the unchurched fit that definition (37%).
Complicating the matter further, many of our ministries today either have no ministry or social programs for singles, or relegate single’s ministry to the lowest level of ministerial importance, signified by limited budgets and staff. According to Kris Swiatocho of The Singles Network, literally 50% of our nation’s population is currently single, yet most churches continue to neglect today’s Unchurched Harry and Mary. (view video)
Today’s Unchurched single Harry and single Mary are more distant and allusive than ever. They do not want to participate in church programs:
Barna noted that to unchurched people embracing church life is both counter-cultural and counter-intuitive. Reaching out to unchurched people is difficult for born again Christians because the two groups have such different viewpoints and lifestyles. Born again adults are more excited about a church’s strengths and more forgiving of its weaknesses, more disposed to spiritual growth, and less skeptical of theological and biblical claims. They neither see nor understand the obstacles that impede the unchurched. Addressing the reticence of the unchurched takes more than prayer and hard work: it requires a lot of deep reflection to see the world and the local church from a completely different angle….The rapidly swelling numbers of unchurched people may be forcing existing churches to reinvent their core spiritual practices while holding tightly to their core spiritual beliefs. It will take radically new settings and experiences to effectively introduce unchurched individuals to biblical principles and practices.
One “radical new setting and experience” that I continually stress to churches, yet most churches choose to ignore, is an effective internet ministry that is relationally-based. If the majority of unchurched world will resist coming to your church, then don’t you think it’s time that your church goes to them?
Presentation is Passé
In the 1980’s and 1990’s, the cultural surveys stressed the importance of “quality” and “presentation” within the church service. Image was everything to the Boomer generation. Today, however, presentation holds very little spiritual value to the Unchurched Harry and Mary of 2005, particularly if there is even a hint of performance or if the service lacks a sense of human authenticity. Today’s Unchurched Harry and Mary are media savvy. To them, “presentation” feels like spiritual fakery. They know marketing and packaging when they see it. They expect such spam on television. But just as they will not abide spam on the internet…spiritual spam is totally unacceptable. While quality presentation may be important in a sales meeting…a church is not about sales, but salvation. If you must present anything to the congregation, present Christ through the authentic spiritual lives of your people, displayed through their dynamic worship, and expressed through their personal stories and missional ministry. What the Christian community does in the name of Christ…love in action…is a much more effective communication tool to the Unchurched Harry and Mary of 2005, than what the church “presents”.
The pendulum of values swings from generation to generation. While some established values may carry over to succeeding generations, as a general rule, the emerging generation always discover aspects of the previous generation’s value-set that they will reject. And, let’s be honest, they may have good reason to reject those established values.
In this article, I have been able to touch on only a few pendulum-swings. If we recognize, as Barna has demonstrated, and as today’s generation innately knows, that the current ways of “doing church” are a miserable failure that have resulted in a 92% increase in Unchurched Harry’s and Mary’s, then we must agree that letting the pendulum swing in the direction of postmodern ministry methodology can only be an improvement. As the old saying goes: “If you keep doing what you’ve always done you will get what you’ve always got”. It’s time that the church begins to learn how to build relationships in an internet culture. It’s time that the church started being a family, rather than targeting families. And it is time that the church stopped putting on a show, and started putting on the full armor of Christ.
Bye Bye Boomers
David Posthuma @ Jul 8, 2005 09:40 AM
Wayne Jacobsen, in his book entitled “The Naked Church”, has an interesting critique of the Boomer-driven church-growth ministry model. Using the writing genre of CS Lewis and the Screwtape Letters, he describes our growth-driven churches from the perspective of one of Satan’s henchmen….
"Trying to keep it small hasn't worked - let's make it big!"
All the other devils gasped, thinking that old Screwtape had finally bolted his sanity.
"Make it big? What do you think we've been working so hard to prevent?"
"Hear me out, colleagues: We can kill it with its own success. What would happen if the church suddenly became acceptable?"
"But what would all those people do to it?" Screwtape replied with a smirk, then, sat back as he watched their minds churn.
One-by-one the others began to see the brilliance of his scheme.
"Many would come just for social reasons. They would quickly dilute those who are really in God's clutches."
"And imagine all the programs and activities they would have to plan to keep those people happy. Nothing chokes out intimacy as well as busyness."
"A crowd like that would have opinions so diverse and disruptive that the power of the gospel would be compromised in just a few short years."
"The church would eventually become a machine, chewing up individuals instead of loving them. Programs would take over where personal ministries now flourish. And everyone knows how easy it is to kill a program."
"Hear! Hear!" they all yelled.
They couldn't possibly teach all the followers to walk with God personally, so they would soon substitute rules and guidelines for his ever-present voice."
"The machine would have to be run by professionals. The others would become nothing more than spectators and bill-payers."
"And that leadership would waste most of its time tied up in administration, which we know benefits almost no one."
"Who would have time for individuals? They would have to try to disciple people by regulations, and the cracks in that are so wide we could go on vacation."
"And best of all," Screwtape spoke up again, "they wouldn't even know what had happened to them. They would think themselves successful beyond their wildest dreams.
They would be pillars in the community and stand before huge crowds. We would let them keep all their Christian terms, but we would substitute our own meanings. It's foolproof!"
"But size alone won't do that, Screwtape," Satan himself finally said. "They could still teach all those people what it really means to follow God and they could still love people one-by-one no matter how big it got."
"True, O Wicked One," Screwtape waggled his index finger, "but do you think they would?" Do you think they would risk losing all those people or would resist the corruption that such power and influence would give them?"
Satan smiled in whatever ecstasy hell allows…"Of course not!" He slammed his fist on the table, "Let's do it!"
I have to admit, that when I read such words, my spirit responds with an emotional mix of sadness and exhilaration.
I feel sadness, not because these words hurt me in any particular way, but rather because everything described by
However, I also feel exhilaration because before an unhealthy problem can be cured, the illness must first be diagnosed. Once the illness is diagnosed, steps can be taken to improve the health of the body…in this case, Christ’s Body, the Church. So there is hope…and we know that there is always hope for the Body of Christ because Christ is the head of His Church, not any particular institutional pastor.
I believe the Boomer generation, born following 1946, has been greatly used by God to impact this world for the sake of Christ. However, I believe that the Boomer generation has left us not only a great inheritance…but also a great dysfunction. The task before Christ’s emergent Church is to now strip away the dysfunction that has evolved over the past decades, and to value the healthy inheritance the Boomer generation has left for us.
A Healthy Inheritance
2006 will mark the 60th birthday of the true Boomer. As our Boomer leaders prepare for retirement, it is only appropriate to thank them for their faithful service and to remember what positive influences they have had upon us and Christ’s Church. Our positive inheritance includes, but is not limited to:
The Jesus Movement of the late 1960’s and 1970’s was inherently anti-establishment and anti-institutionalism. It was not so much about “rebellion” as so typifies that generation, but about a desire by many to have a real and vital relationship with God through Jesus Christ, and to exist in authentic Christ-centered community. The Jesus Movement was a spiritual revival. It was a grassroots spiritual movement that was not orchestrated by any organization, but rather by the Holy Spirit. Many postmodern ministry leaders today see parallels between the values and goals of emergent postmodern ministry, and the values and goals of the Jesus Movement decades ago. This parallel, I believe, is not merely “70’s-retro” spirituality, but a call by God’s Spirit to return to the place where Christ’s Church was once healthier.
It is interesting to me that it is often the Boomers, whom themselves participated in the Jesus Movement, that today are the ones criticizing the emergent postmodern Church for seeking to lay claim to the spiritual values and goals they once espoused.
The Charismatic movement was a direct outgrowth of the Jesus Movement. The Church had finally re-discovered that God was real and active within His creation, and within the life of the Christ Follower. God was not dead institutionalism. God could not be contained in a human “plan” or a “routine” program as typified by so many church services then and now. God had His own purposes, and it was an amazing honor that He would be willing to move in and through His people, to accomplish His good work. The Church of that day learned that the supernatural should be expected…it should be the norm…after all, our God is supernatural. God cannot be constrained or put into a box.
The Charismatic movement crossed denominational boundaries. People were Charismatic, not churches. Yes, there were Pentecostal churches, but the Charismatic movement applied primarily to a spiritual revival among people within non-Pentecostal mainline Churches. This influence led to renewed sensitivity to the work of the Holy Spirit within the life of the local mainline congregation.
Yet, today, many of our churches put God into a one-hour highly programmed and performed box, designed right down to 15 second increments. We have often programmed the spiritual passion right out of God’s people and simultaneously quenched the Holy Spirit. What the
The Charismatic Movement made the Church aware of Biblical teachings regarding spiritual giftedness. In addition, the Biblical scholars working on the NIV Bible in the early and mid 1970’s discovered that Ephesians 4:12 had often been mistranslated. They now realized that it was the job of Pastors, Teachers and Evangelists to equip the laity so that the laity could do the works of service. Everyone’s spiritual job description was now being re-written. The spiritual job of the leaders was to “equip”. The spiritual job of the people was to “do works of service” according to their God ordained giftedness. Suddenly Spiritual Gift Surveys began to proliferate within the Church. Finding one’s gift or gifts was considered essential to spiritual maturity. This movement was not birthed in an effort to fill holes within exotic church programs. This was a movement in which ministry service was often devoid of programs and structures.
Only later did church leaders deviate from the God ordained role of “equipping” and begin to “administrate” programs that artificially utilized people’s giftedness. Rather than permitting God ordained giftedness to define the ministry, today we have programs that require particularly gifted people, and exclude people who are not gifted according to the needs of our programs. Furthermore, our churches have often established artificial and subjective standards of “professionalism”. People who cannot meet these standards are often discarded by today’s church. Even if it can be argued that professionalism is a legitimate value, the church must come to terms with the reality that very little “equipping” ever occurs to help the lay person become more “professional”…let alone more become effective and obedient to the call of Christ within their life.
It was the Boomer generation who first taught the Church that worship was not about forms or liturgy. Worship could be real, heart-felt and authentic. Gone was the pipe organ. Enter the culturally-relevant Hammond B3 organ, Fender Rhodes, guitars and drums. Worship songs by the thousands were written and distributed, all without a commercial music distribution market in place. The songs were simple, but they helped turn the hearts of people to their God. Worship services often went on for hours. It was not about performance. Even the band members were typically more concerned with worshiping God than getting everything down perfectly. The simplicity of the music may have freed the musicians to focus less on themselves and their instrument, and more upon God. Boomer worship in the early days was like a flowing and unstoppable river…a great movement of God’s Spirit within His Church, calling the hearts of each worshipper to His heart. It gave birth to theological applications such as “Worship Evangelism” by Sally Morgenthaler.
But this does not describe what today woefully passes for “worship” within many churches. Our bands typically seem more interested in performing…gigg’n, rather than worshipping. Our services have become so programmed, that it is now possible to go from church to church (and many people do) and know exactly what is going to take place without ever looking at a service program. Week after week, service after service, the process is spiritually stifling in its redundancy and routine.
In the early 1980’s, the North American church began to leave its disorganized roots founded in the movements previously listed. Some may rightfully claim that all these diverse movements were only perspectives of one great movement of God’s Spirit. The very thing that the Jesus Movement Boomer earlier reviled, institutionalism, now began to be the driving force for the North American Church. Some of the responsibility for this shift in values should rightfully go to Willow Creek, who so aptly taught American churches how to institutionalize like a corporation and program like a Broadway production. Now, I must be clear that I am not anti-Willow Creek. God has used Willow Creek in many positive ways. But as the historic Israelites traded leadership by God for a human leader with human structures, so too has the Boomer church traded surrender to God’s Spirit and direction for human institutional church-growth models. For a while, the church-growth models seemed to justify the trade by their apparent effectiveness. Churches began to grow in greater numbers than ever before. The mega-church movement was born. However, the trade came at a great price. The mega-church soon learned that it paid a serious price in relational intimacy…even to the point that leaders did not know enough people to mobilize and run their huge institutional programs.
In seeking a solution, mega-churches turned to the small group models originating out of
Today, there are many healthy small groups, but far fewer healthy small group ministry programs. It is common to find small group programs that do not equip the small group leaders at all, or provide minimal equipping at best. Most small groups exist as isolated spiritual islands in a vast sea of institutional programming.
It’s Time to Strip Away the Dysfunction
As I have described the five ministry movements above, each movement began in simplicity and authenticity, and became corrupted over time by man’s desire to program and institutionalize the good things that God had set in motion. Now, it is time to strip away the dysfunction and, following the lead of the prophet Nehemiah, re-construct the true spiritual walls of Christ’s Church that have been broken down.
How can we continue to follow dysfunctional church leaders who can no longer separate the work of the Holy Spirit from the institutional life of their organizations? A case in point is Wayne Jacobsen’s response to Tim Stafford. Tim asserted in a Christianity Today article:
“There is no healthy relationship with Jesus without a relationship to the church.”
What many of us have found on the outside offers more connection, more transformation, more opportunities for ministry than we ever found inside. Does it ever bother you that if Jesus wanted us to be part of these institutions with morning services, he did nothing in the Gospels to prepare his disciples for it? On the contrary his example and words were far more de-centralized than that. Love each other as you’ve been loved. Where two or three of you get together I’ll be there with you. He didn’t envision church as a building, an institution or a service. He viewed it as a company of people following him, sharing his life with each other and serving the world with compassion and humility. For the first 300 years in the life of the church believers met in homes and would never have conceived of the Lord’s Supper being served any where other than the family table?
I know our Christian institutions are fading and the last thing they want anyone to believe is that we can flourish in the life of Jesus and in real connections with other believers outside its influence. But I’m afraid the tide has turned. People are beginning to awaken to a reality of God’s life together that cannot be contained by any institution. Those who claim otherwise sound like bankers in the 1920s trying to assure people their money was safe inside so they won’t all try to withdraw it and find out otherwise.
What was begun by God within the Boomer generation was awesome in its vitality, scope and impact. But that same generation’s desire to package God’s work into something manageable and reproducible…and then enshrine the package within a giant building campaign…has resulted in corruptions that will impact the
The Church has Paid the Price, Now Who Will Pay the Mortgage?The Boomer and Builder generations (born from 1920 to1940 and 1946 to 1963 respectively) both value building campaigns associated with institutional ministry. Due to the inflated population numbers in these two generations, the values and pocketbooks of the builders and Boomers have re-shaped the landscape of the
Within the next ten years, most of the Builder generation will die, and the Boomer generation will move into fixed incomes. Obviously, these are the not the generations that will build the future of the church. Although the current financial base of most churches is likely the Boomer generation, even this fact will change drastically within the next ten years as the Boomer generation enters retirement and fixed income living. Retirement will take its financial toll on our inflated budgets…inflated due to expensive buildings, expensive programming and expensive staff. Within the next ten years, churches must either come to depend upon the Echo-Boomer generation, or they will die.
But wait a minute: do we realize that most of our churches have very few Echo-Boomers in attendance, let alone in key leadership roles? The young adult between 17 and 35 makes up approximately 35% of our population nationally, but within our churches, most are lucky if they average 10%. This is not a foundation upon which to build the future of our ministries! Echo-Boomers are abandoning the institutional churches they were raised within. Barna tells us the mass exodus is as high as 65% by age 29. We also know from every study and focus group that the unchurched Echo-Boomer abhors and greatly distrusts organized institutions. So while the Echo-Boomer’s interest in spirituality is at an all-time high (spirituality is the #1 search category on the internet according to 2004 Pew Internet and American Life Studies) what the Boomer generation is passing down to the next generation as a spiritual inheritance is likely to be rejected.
Institutional Churches should expect their membership demographic to significantly age and decline over the next ten years. Disproportionately, church budgets will also need to decline. Churches that do not pay off their mortgages within the next ten years are at serious risk for bankruptcy. Even those institutional mega-churches that do find a way to financially survive, will struggle with ever-shrinking attendance within their cavernous walls.
Is There Hope?
There is always hope for Christ’s Church, because Christ is its head. However, hope for man-made institutions is a whole other matter. If churches are willing to stop their model chasing, stop their service programming and stop their performance…and return to the simpler and more authentic values God displayed when He gave birth to the Jesus Movement, the Charismatic movement, the Laity Reformation, the Worship Reformation, and seek to truly deconstruct the institutional church into small relationally authentic expressions of Christ’s Body…then there may be hope. But to do this takes real faith…faith in God, not faith in ministry models. It requires that we step out boldly in faith and humbly in spirit. It requires that our leadership humbly admit to God, to themselves and to their congregation that they have been leading the church down an unhealthy path. It requires that we re-think how we “do church” entirely.
It’s time to say goodbye to the Boomer-driven church. We thank you for the positive inheritance you have given us. However, we also recognize that much of what God initiated within your generation as positive has degenerated as you tried to package and replicate the work of the Holy Spirit. Our goal now is to return to the core spiritual values that God initiated early in your generation, while looking forward to the new work the Spirit of Christ has in store for this next generation. I pray that God would protect the emerging generations from repeating the mistakes committed by our forefathers.
An Easy and Effective Way to Survey Your Ministry Base
David Posthuma @ Jul 2, 2005 09:59 AM
Just this past week I spoke with a person who is on staff with the Communication department of a major Christian college. The Communication department evidently had developed a survey, seeking input for the future direction and offerings of the department. Their survey had been developed in a traditional paper format for mass-mailing. Although I do not know the the specifics of this project, let's do a little cost-accounting analysis using approximate expenditures:
Total Cost: $5,000
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