Letter to Church Leadership
CHURCH IS NOT A SMART PHONE! OR IS IT? CHA-CHING!
By Michael Bianchi, March 7, 2020
Every year approximately 78 million Americans upgrade their smart phones, which means the figure is probably at least double that world-wide. That’s a lot of upgrades! Cha-ching! Do you know who makes buckets of money off these upgrades? The peripheral companies that supply hardware, chips, and software to the phone manufacturers always make money in the ‘background’ so to speak. They are constantly developing the latest “upgrades” to cell phone technology that are marketed to us consumers enticing us to “upgrade” our phones. They HAVE to do this to stay in business. The competition is intense. Cha-ching!
What does this have to do with church? Think about it. Who are the peripheral companies marketing their services to churches, directly or indirectly? There are literally thousands of church consultants who specialize in a multitude of topics. Add to that people who make a living writing about churches online and in print. There is even a Society for Church Consulting … and probably more associations and groups that I don’t know about. Let us not forget church surveying companies. What do they HAVE to do to stay in business? Think about it. Do they not have to continually be marketing something new to churches in order to distinguish their consulting practice or media from all the others? Cha-ching! Who pays these people and companies? Churches do, congregational organizations do, and media outlets do. It’s big business. Cha-ching! Of course, we all know how Jesus felt about making His church into a big business (John 2:13-16). Have we not turned God's House into a marketplace?
What is my point with all this? My point is that church is not a smart phone, or is it? Perhaps a better way to phrase this is, "Church should not be like a smart phone, but it sure looks like it!" Why do I say this? Look around. Churches have become all about the latest and popular trends. If your church isn't "trending" then it is out of touch. I was at a church conference recently and the presenter (a consultant promoting and profiting on separation of church members by age) stated that if a church's music is more than 2 years old, it is out of touch. Yes, that's right ... if your church ever sings Amazing Grace, then it is out of touch! If a church's "stage" is not of very recent design, then the church is out of touch. Yes indeed, church is sure looking like a smart phone. WAKE UP CHURCH LEADERS! The Words of Jesus are TWO-THOUSAND years old! Are they out of touch? That's the next step isn't it? If the age of God's message renders it irrelevant, then you as church leaders, are irrelevant! I'm not going to apologize by saying that, if God's message depends on secular trends, then it is no different than hollywood or the secular music industry. Cha-ching!
Church consultants and media and survey companies are pushing agendas on the churches based on age and ethnicity. Why are they doing this? Because it gives them something new to profit from. Cha-ching! Wake up church leaders! This is SEGREGATION and the church has bought into it; hook, line, and sinker! Churches separate their membership by age and ethnicity except now they call it generational differences and cultural diversity. Folks this is basic segregation and do you really believe that is what God wants in His church? Our churches don't seem to remember the riots around our country over segregation in the 1960's, but now are willing participants.
Jesus didn't create His church to conform to society, He was incarnated, suffered, died, and rose from the dead so that His church would be DIFFERENT from society. As church leaders you all know Romans 12:2, "Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect." Yet that is EXACLTY what is happening in our churches today. We are trying to reach people by copying the behavior and customs of this world.
Often youth groups have an atmosphere more along the lines of professional wrestling than they do of Worshipping our Savior. Often they are loud with bright moving lights and smoke. And then youth group leaders complain that they don't have the support of the rest of the congregation. I can just visualize Jesus walking into such an event and becoming angry just as when He overturned the tables in the temple. I can hear Him telling the leaders, "I am the Word, I am the Light, and I am the Fire. You do not need this 'show' to create followers amongst the youth. What they need is genuine truth and love and mentoring with My Word."
Don't get me wrong, I do believe in introducing new songs, new ideas, and upgrading facilities as needed and when making financial sense. However, I don't believe it is good stewardship of God's resources to go chasing after the latest cultural trends every year or two. Nor do I believe it is an effective strategy for winning souls and creating disciples long term. So much is made of the millennial generation and how it is so 'different' from the other generations. Entire companies have been formed to explain the differences between millennials and boomers and X and Y and whatever. Cha-ching! Leaders, this is hogwash! It has been this way ever since generations have been born. People in different age groups just think differently, it has always been that way and always will. What happens 5 years from now when half of the millennials 'graduate' to another age group and their thinking is then coming from a different perspective on life? If your church has invested millions of dollars in catering to this group and now they think differently, where does that leave you? And what if the new group entering the millennial age group thinks differently than the old millennial age group? (Ecclesiastes 1:4-11)
God's Word and principles are eternal ... they are not trendy. This is confirmed in 1 Peter 1:24-25, "As the Scriptures say, “People are like grass; their beauty is like a flower in the field. The grass withers and the flower fades. But the word of the Lord remains forever.” And that word is the Good News that was preached to you."
So what are churches supposed to do when faced with decreasing attendance and loss of significance in the world? The first thing is do not compromise. The second thing is to improvise. What you ask? I just wrote this entire letter basically about too much improvisation and now I'm saying you need to improvise? Yes, that is correct. Please consider the following improvisations for your church:
1 Stop the segregation. Do not separate your congregation based on ethnicity or age. All ages (above elementary school) and ethnicities are capable of learning together, sharing with each other, and Fellowshipping together. In fact, by separating our congregations, we are promoting division within churches and division within families. Families and ethnicities should be growing in Christ together, not separately.
2 Do have a kid’s program through the 5th grade. After that, bring the children together with their parents and older siblings to learn and grow together as a family. Families are not spending enough time studying God’s Word together outside of church, so let’s be proactive and help them grow together in church.
3 Parents who have children in the kids program should be asked to attend their kid’s classes with them on a regular basis and why not include older siblings, too. Let’s promote family togetherness and growth within the church instead of segregating it. Do have special events for kids of each age group, such as camps, movies, bowling, etc.
4 Do not have small groups segregated by age or ethnicity or social status. We all can learn from other age groups and ethnicities. Further, it is important for older folks to mentor younger adults and kids.
5 Consider a change to the accepted normal church service consisting of entertain & lecture. There is a way to get church attendees more involved in the church service with Discipleship and Fellowship without lessening the importance of the pastor and music in Worship. It is my belief that the now traditional entertain and lecture service promotes passive Christianity.
6 Many churches talk about Discipleship, but when examined closely, it is more lip service than substance. Create a structured and intentional process (as opposed to program) to take Christians from newly born again to maturity in Christ so they can Disciple others and do Ministry and Missions effectively.
Leaders, thank you for your time and your service. I pray that you will find wisdom and God’s will in these matters and may He bless each of you, your families, and your ministries in an abundant manner!