Right Now, Hulu, Netflix and My Schedule: A Charge to Church Leaders

When you stop to take a look back at the early church, you know the one mentioned in Acts 2:42 and following, you might notice that believers did things a little differently than believers do now here in the States. The text says believers devoted themselves to the apostle’s teaching, to fellowship and sharing meals daily, and to prayer. They spent a lot of time together. Nowadays the average believer here in the U.S. reads the Bible and gathers together with other believers for 1-2 hours a week to sing, pray, share communion and hear a lesson. Believers, like the rest of the culture, find themselves pressed for time and looking for value, the best for the least cost. More and more believers are turning to the Internet and streaming services to listen to their favorite preacher or to study a biblical course for free. They are opting to skip the Sunday sermon and Bible class for many reasons but are finding their information and education online. How believers seek education and ultimately transformation has changed a lot. But why? Here are a few reasons and what they should communicate to church leaders.

1. How people get information and entertainment in our culture has shifted.

Back when I was a kid there were 6 channels on TV and all of them had static. I can remember when we brought home our first VCR and I discovered that we could record a show and watch it later. It was around 1984 and this invention, still in its infancy, was starting to change how people interacted and consumed movies and shows. In 1999, TiVo hit homes that further lead to change in how people consumed Television. In 2007, with the culmination of smart phones and high-speed Internet becoming ubiquitous, Hulu and Apple released streaming media services that allowed subscribers to watch TV shows, movies, and new content day or night anytime almost anywhere. Not only did they change the visual media game, they lifted the restriction of content available on-demand from a few hours on DVD or VHS tapes to tens of thousands of hours overnight freeing their users to “cut the cord.” Within a short time period, culture shifted again bringing us to 2015 where new phrases have come into existence like binge watching, cord cutting, and hyper-connected further evidencing the shift.

2. People are busy and sermons and classes are abundant and of high quality online 24/7.

For thousands of years religious leaders have been one of the primary sources of information and education. People would travel, sacrifice and pay to be able to sit and listen to great, well-known religious leaders at the convenience of the leader hoping to be transformed. From the invention of the Gutenberg press to streaming online services, gone are the days where people needed to be present at the time of the lecture, sermon, or class to learn a new lesson. Believers can get content information almost anywhere. What people need is transformation. People need quality time with you and other believers (something they can’t get online).

3. Education systems have changed and are changing.

When you read the Bible it seems obvious that the primary tool of education was apprenticing. Students learned from following a teacher around and doing what the teacher did intermixed with more formal teaching at points. As time went on and education became more complicated and generalized, more and more educational systems opted for more efficiency to educate the masses in general principles through the use of content transmission. Now you can stream courses from the experts in almost any field and be inundated with content on any subject on your own time.

Well, church leaders what does this mean for churches today?

This depends on your perceived mission. If people perceive you primary focus is to give them interesting information about the Bible at your buildings at certain times during the week then potentially you are going the way of the VCR, newspaper, and cable TV. People will eventually stop paying with their money or time for something they don’t feel they need.

But, if like the first century church, you are on mission and communicating purpose through words AND action, spending time devoted to fellowship, sharing meals and prayers daily, you will lead your people towards transformation. You will bring believers the true message of the Kingdom of God throughout an information rich, community poor, mission lacking culture.

What say you?

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McKinney at Cardinal

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