DMINLGP

DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The end of the world or a path to follow?

Written by: on November 29, 2018

It all sounds so ominous. The transformation of Western society at the hands of four of the most powerful and influential businesses ever. The development of the digital age, the ubiquitous influence of the computer and the internet have collectively opened up the door for the rise of what Scott Galloway calls ‘The Four Horsemen’ to infiltrate our lives nearly completely. They have managed to capture the market in four distinct areas – communication (Apple), retail sales (Amazon), information (Google), and social connection (Facebook).[1] In so doing they have gobbled up the competition, subtly convinced us that we cannot live without them, and managed to gain the support of the federal government, often bypassing laws meant to protect competition.

Before we get too carried away with behemoth bashing, does the growth of these entities sound familiar at all? A few nerdy people get together in an out of the way place and come up with some revolutionary ideas. They develop a strategy to promote their ideas and utilize existing resources in a radical way to spread the word. The ideas catch on, slowly at first and not without significant opposition at times, but eventually they are endorsed by the government and permitted to influence policy and conduct in a manner previously unimaginable. Eventually they become so big and influential that entire cultures are altered by their very existence. Over time the ideas are institutionalized to the point that people can no longer imagine life in their absence. Eventually though the institution becomes increasingly inflexible and out of touch with the surrounding culture, it grows out of favor and is maintained and utilized by only a few devoted followers. We could be talking about the Sears Roebuck Company and their famous catalogue (the booster seats of my childhood) but, the scenario might also describe the rag-tag group of Jesus followers, the world conquering ideas they spread and the institution they ultimately founded.

While it may be prudent to spend some time contemplating the power and influence ‘The Four’ will have over our futures should they continue unabated in their quests, it may also behoove us to consider how they have capitalized on current cultural forces, particularly in regard to the main demographic that appears to be abandoning the Church, that is the emerging generations. Galloway’s own purpose for writing this book is so that; “the reader can gain insight and a competitive edge”, [2] something that the Church seems to have lost. How has the Church, once the most powerful of cultural institutions, become a shadow of its former self, competing with Sears for fastest door shuttering? Maybe it became comfortable, believing that it was ‘too big to fail’. Perhaps it lost the ability to remain nimble, failing to keep up with the changing cultural climate. For churches, it clearly requires more than simply using trendy contemporary music (if your community is one that uses music at all) or presenting topical and eye-catching messages. Like Sears obtaining some star endorsed clothing brands on the racks, these and other similar remedies may temporarily stem the tide but represent little more than dressing up a dinosaur.

The fastest Christian growth is occurring in the global South, where the institutional church is less established and small, organic cells are regenerating themselves, reminiscent of the spread of the Gospel in the first few centuries.[3] These Christian cells have many similarities to the provisions of ‘The Four’. They are community focused (Facebook), adept at addressing felt needs (Amazon), able to provide pertinent answers to specific and personal questions (Google), and are recognized as being established by an iconic founder, also providing opportunity for transcendent worship experiences (Apple).[4] Whether they were intentional or not these Christian communities in the global South have tapped into several of the very desires that ‘The Four’ are attempting to satiate sans spirituality. Meanwhile, the Western institutional Church seems to carry on as though nothing has changed in the last 50 years and continues to “answer questions that the world is no longer asking.”[5] While there does appear to be growth in some realms of Western Christianity, there are signs that much of this is nothing more than consolidation, the movement by emerging generations from older and more traditional worship centers to younger and more contemporary ones.[6] Like people who have stopped shopping at Sears now frequenting Kohls instead. It’s a little more hip (maybe), a little less lethargic (possibly), provides a little more contemporary style (arguably), but is still ripe for destruction by Amazon.

We could utilize this book as it seems the author intended to be aware of the trends and thus “provide economic security for [readers] and their families”.[7] We could also see it as a warning and use it to bolster opposition to the monstrosities that are ‘The Four’. Or we have the opportunity, as lovers of the universal Church and members of this course, to use the text for our own purposes and find within it nuggets of wisdom applicable to revitalizing the Church in a manner not unlike what is occurring in the global South, permitting it to once again to meet the innate desires of people everywhere in a way that has far more eternal value than anything ‘The Four’ has to offer.

[1]Galloway, Scott. The Four: The Hidden DNA of the Tech Giants. New York: Portfolio/Penguin Pub Group, 2017.

[2]Ibid P. 12

[3]Several websites and articles confirm this from both the Protestant and Catholic perspective.

a. “LatestNumbers Confirm Global South as New Catholic Center of Gravity.” Crux. October 22, 2017. Accessed November 28, 2018. https://cruxnow.com/global-church/2017/10/22/latest-numbers-confirm-global-south-new-catholic-center-gravity/.

b. Colson, Charles. “The Rise of Christianity in the Global South.” CBN.com – The Christian Broadcasting Network. March 03, 2015. Accessed November 28, 2018. http://www1.cbn.com/spirituallife/the-rise-of-christianity-in-the-global-south.

[4]Galloway, Scott. The Four: The Hidden DNA of the Tech Giants. New York: Portfolio/Penguin Pub Group, 2017.

[5]Spong, Dr. John. “The Future of Christianity.” Lecture, Wellington, New Zealand, June 17, 1998.

[6]Fields, Jenn. “Here’s What’s Bringing Millennials Back to Churches.” The Denver Post. June 06, 2016. Accessed November 28, 2018. https://www.denverpost.com/2015/11/28/heres-whats-bringing-millennials-back-to-churches/.

[7]Galloway, Scott. The Four: The Hidden DNA of the Tech Giants. New York: Portfolio/Penguin Pub Group, 2017. p. 12

 

About the Author

mm

Dan Kreiss

Former director of the Youth Ministry program at King University in Bristol, TN and Dean of the School of Missions. I have worked in youth ministry my entire life most of that time in New Zealand before becoming faculty at King. I love helping people recognize themselves as children of God and helping them engage with the world in all its diversity. I am particularly passionate about encouraging the church to reflect the diversity found in their surrounding community in regard to age, gender, ethnicity, education, economic status, etc. I am a husband, father of 4, graduate of Emmanuel Christian Seminary, an avid cyclist and fly-fisherman still trying to figure out what I want to be when I grow up.

3 responses to “The end of the world or a path to follow?”

  1. Great post!

    You challenge the church to gain that competitive edge and utilize what’s in front of them; however, sadly, it’s easier said than done. You pose the question, “How has the Church, once the most powerful of cultural institutions, become a shadow of its former self, competing with Sears for fastest door shuttering?” These questions need to be asked. Salvation is eternal; however, for such a long time, the church has believed that it’s presence and influence would have the same eternality. Galloway revealed that, “Instagram is the world’s most powerful platform, as it has 800 millions users, a third of Facebook’s, but garners fifteen times the level of engagement” (Galloway 2018, 101). The 20th century required churches to hire charismatic and engaging pastors that connected with people within the church; however, the 21st century calls for something different – it calls of leaders who understand the power of SEO and Google Analytics.

  2. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Dan!

    I remember Sears! In fact, I think I still have some jeans from them (they never wear out). Add to that catalog sales at JC Penney, and my parents thought the world was ending. Catalog sales? It was supposed to close every store in America, except you can’t keep me out of Cabela’s and they are the king of catalogs (grin).

    Your closing paragraph was the Christmas bow on the whole package. “Revitalizing” the church by leveraging the four–wonderful. Keep those nuggets coming my Brother!

  3. Chris Pritchett says:

    I appreciate how you broaden the scope of what this book can help us see, even beyond its own awareness. You gave a much more fair critique of the book than I did and offered some helpful insights to broad my perspective.

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