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The Industrial Age of the Church Is Over

My friend Seth Godin endorsed my book The Last TV Evangelist. Today, he wrote a terrific post on the recession and pointed out that it’s made up of two things: 1. The financial recession, which is cyclical and will bounce back, and 2. the Recession of the Industrial Age, which will continue forever. Here’s some of what he said:

“The other one, I fear, is here forever. This is the recession of the industrial age, the receding wave of bounty that workers and businesses got as a result of rising productivity but imperfect market communication. In short: if you’re local, we need to buy from you. If you work in town, we need to hire you. If you can do a craft, we can’t replace you with a machine. No longer. The lowest price for any good worth pricing is now available to anyone, anywhere. Which makes the market for boring stuff a lot more perfect than it used to be.”

Seth’s right, and it made me think of “industrial age churches and ministries.” In the Christian world, far too many organizations that experienced great success 5, 10, or 20 years ago don’t realize that age is over.

I’ve sat in marketing meetings where the leaders are baffled at why they can’t re-create their success from 2005, 2000, 1995, or earlier. Hey – if it worked then, why won’t it work today? But they don’t realize that era is over. Audiences change. Donors change. Cultures change. The world has changed.

As Seth says:

“Protectionism isn’t going to fix this problem. Neither is stimulus of old factories or yelling in frustration and anger. No, the only useful response is to view this as an opportunity. To poorly paraphrase Clay Shirky, every revolution destroys the last thing before it turns a profit on a new thing.”

Jesus chastised the religious leaders of his day because they couldn’t read the signs of the times. I’m here today shouting the same message. The world is changing and yet far too many churches, ministries, and non-profits keep on looking back, doing business as usual, and keep on failing.

Seth realizes that propping up the old method only keeps you from realizing real success. Stop reaching for yesterday. Stop being upset at your team because they can’t replicate past success. Look around you. Those days are over.

It’s time to recognize the future.