Feb 21, 2011

What the Church Should Learn from Blockbuster's Demise

     I was recently in a comic book store with some teens from my youth group, when I found an audio cassette tape from Return of the Jedi. I announced my find. One of the girls said "Whats that?" I responded, "You have never heard of Return of the Jedi?" But to my shock she was talking about the cassette tape. When did I get so old?

     We will soon be able to add video rental stores to the list of things we know about that make us sound old. If Movie Gallery liquidating its assets wasn't enough, Blockbuster is also calling it quits. Ouch! I remember how cool they used to be. You could find anything there. They even outlasted the great switch from VHS to DVD, while smaller chains went under while trying to resist.

     The digital revolution, however, has dealt Blockbuster a knockout blow. Netflix and Redbox have all but put a stamp of irrelevance on the former movie giant's forehead. Their jump to on demand viewing and express kiosks came too little too late. You will still see their name on the Blockbuster Express kiosks since their partner, NCR, has unlimited rights to use the name of the soon to be nonexistent company.

    This trend is oddly reminiscent of the church. I sometimes feel old when I see a church that once was vibrant and alive dwindling away into obscurity. But a church is not dead when it closes its doors forever. No, it happens long before that.

     It starts when we become irrelevant to the culture of a generation that needs Christ just as bad as the last one did. The mindset that killed Blockbuster is one embraced by many churches. "It worked once, then it may work again" becomes the mantra of a church on its way out. We need to constantly evaluate what we are doing and how we present the gospel to the world. We would study a foreign culture before going to the mission field (as Paul did in Athens); it is time we studied ours.

     Is Blockbuster's fall tragic, or is it positive? After all, we can still rent movies (easier in fact). The barriers are being removed. In the same way, the closing of outdated (often legalistic) churches remove barriers that prevent this generation from even darkening the door. Our God is still being praised, and that will never change.

     It's time to decide if we will remain relevant and make the necessary changes--even if they are uncomfortable--to affect this culture for Him.


Christa said...

I agree, to a degree, Nate. Two things we should keep in mind are that 1) God never changes, nor does the Gospel, and 2) the church is supposed to be missional, and even though technology changes, I don't see the needs of the downtrodden changing all that much. They're still cold, hungry, thirsty, lonely, and in prison. And still need clothes, food, water, friendship, and someone to visit. And I'm not sure you need anything high-tech to do that!
The churches that are embracing the trends can also tend to be the ones that embrace the watered-down, politically correct gospel of today. That may fill mega-churches and look flashy, but it's not going to serve the least of these.
There have also been recent studies that have shown a trend among young adults to want to return to tradition. There's something very secure about walking into a church where the message is simple and the people are loving.

marcusclarkus said...

Those that don't learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. God doesn't change, but that doesn't mean what people need from a Church remains constant.

Inside Nate's Head said...

I am talking about methods not doctrine. Change for the sake of change is not always helpful. There is a trend in younger people to move to the ancient and experiential not traditional. Candles, communion from a common cup and Christian symbolism such as Celtic crosses are what those studies are about. They are hardly linked to hymns, preachers yelling and stomping around like they are mad at everyone, formal attire, and old English Bibles.

What I am talking about is simply methods. Those methods do include reaching out to the hurting in love. I don't know how much experience you have with mega churches other than the ones on TV, but a lot of them are a welcome beacon of light in their cities. Small does not necessarily mean Godly. Their are great small, medium, and large sized churches. But there are no irrevent churches reaching their communities.