Wednesday, September 14, 2011

What Google, Facebook and Twitter Can teach the Church....and Apple

People are searching for answers.
People want to be connected.
People want to be heard.
I Want and Need Answers
Three of the most successful companies over the past tens years have addressed those wants and needs.
When Google came along there were other search engines.  The creators of Google did not like the way those search engines "page ranked" things.  So they designed a new way to rank pages.  It was intuitive.  It made sense.  It worked.  So when searching for answers to your questions, you would find them in the top ten hits.  Not only that, they have continued to improve upon their early success by making Google better.  Right now we have more knowledge available to us than ever before in the history of the world.  The most famous library you might have never heard of was the library in Alexandria.  It contained what was reported to be "all of the world's knowledge".  Sadly, it was sacked and burned.  Knowledge lost.  Today, you don't need to go to a library.  The answers to your questions are available online.  Just search enough and you will find it!  When people are searching for answers, most of them turn to Google.  I know I do.
I Want to Be Connected
Facebook is a revolutionary way to connect with your friends, acquaintances and family.  Originally offered to students, now the whole world can join in.  Over 700 million people are now on Facebook.  Wow.  Lots of people are now connected through Facebook.  Remember how difficulty it used to be to know how your high school friends were doing?  I do.  I had lost touch with a few of my friends, and I'm 37.  It's nice to see how highschool, college and seminary friends are doing.  I may not personally communicate with them for months, but I can check their status and see how they are doing and what they are up too.  Very cool stuff.  Most people are on Facebook in the U.S.  They are connecting.  And as Facebook adds new features, soon we will be connecting not just through chat, but through video as well.
I Want To Be Heard
I was not a big fan of Twitter until a few months ago.  I didn't want to Tweet or be a Twit.  I didn't want to be a follower either.  Twitter is basically a newsfeed of 140 characters or less of people sharing information, blogs, ideas, quotes, conversations, pics and a bunch of other stuff with people that "follow" them.  The more people you follow, the faster your news feeds goes.  It amazing how quickly good and bad information can be shared.  Many people follow celebrities or news organizations.  Imagine the front page of Yahoo, the Huffington post or the Wall Street Journal reposting links to their articles.  You are just a few clicks away from  information you are interested in.  The real genius of Twitter is posting to followers.  People follow you and when you post something whatever you said or shared is placed in their newsfeed.  Hundred, thousands or millions of people will see what you said in an instant!
I had two conversations that changed my mind about Twitter.  First, a mom of a high school student said that I needed to be on Twitter.  I'm a pastor and I like to stay connected to our congregation, and in my opinion, very few were on Twitter so what was the point?  Well, the high school students were all using Twitter.  They next conversation was with two friends who were using Twitter to follow live events that were not being broadcast.  After going back and forth for a while, I decided to make the leap.  I jumped on Twitter and currently follow 1000+ people and have 600+ followers.  So I am listening to others, and some are listening to me.

Fifty years ago the church filled all three of those roles.  People who were looking for answers could find them (or at least be pointed in the right direction) in church.  People looking for connection and relationship could find them in the church.  People wanting to be heard could be heard in the church.
Our world has changed.  Has the church?  Do we still have a chance to fulfill those vital needs?  Has our season in the United States gone?
Those questions will not be answered by me here.  I'm not sure if there is answer.  And if there is, many of us might not like it.
The "Death Tsunami" that is approaching the Mainline denominations quickly.  Many are in decline.  Less and less "attend" church.  Some churches are doing well, and by some I mean a handful in each city or state.
I love the church.  No, I don't love a building, but the body of Christ.  As a pastor I need to love God and love neighbor.  A few pastors I know don't really enjoy their jobs.  In fact, one was reported to say, "I don't like these people."  If you don't like people and you don't find joy in laboring for the Lord, what in the world are you doing trying to lead a church?

What role can we fill?  Who are we called to be in the next twenty years?  Shall we just hold on to what we have, take care of our own and just die gracefully?

I pray not.  If the "church" is to survive and thrive, we need to do a few things.
1- Help people find answers to their deepest spiritual questions- not tell them the answer, but help them find a path to the One who has the answers.  The Bible is a wonderful guidebook!
2. Help people connect- not just in a church building, but with each other outside the walls, maybe, dare a I say, in a completely different model of church known as house churches.
3. Let people be heard.  Listening is something that some of us don't do well.  Listen to God and listen to your neighbor.

It's time the church moved beyond just sharing the love of God with their neighbors who attend church on Sunday.  There is a vast ocean of people who never encountered a "Christian" that helped them find God.  The soul moving experience of Jesus Christ in your life should inspire us to share His message and help those in need.

Oh yeah, the Apple thing.  Apple is an innovative, visionary company that does most everything (except apple tv) with excellence.  Do your best at reaching God and neighbor.  Don't say it's good enough.  Do everything you can to make a positive difference for Christ wherever you are and wherever you go.
Dont' be like the world, be a light in the darkness for the world.

Go in peace and go with God.