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Plugged Back In…and Thinking

Hey…nice to catch up with you on the blog.  Thanks for the comments you posted while I was so far from a wireless signal it felt like 1981.  After 8 days unplugged with my family, I thought a bit about how life has changed in the last through years because of technology.

Three trends that got me thinking about church and being a wired Jesus-follower in 2008:

  • Has the iPod killed commercial radio?  I’m not one of those guys who hates new music (I love a lot of it), but I am flipping through stations quicker than ever and longing to get back to my playlists. And I’m a former radio guy and still have friends in the industry!  What, if anything, will keep me tuned? 
    • Unique content I can’t or wouldn’t normally download.
    • Great personalities (DJs) I like who have something interesting I want to hear.
  • Specialty channels continue to erode the market-share of the major tv networks.  Two trends in that one:
    • Broadcasting is giving way to narrow-casting.  We like what we like.
    • Eclectic is becoming mainstream.
  • People have been quick to pronounce newspapers dead – and circulation is dropping quickly. But last week, I picked up a couple of Globe and Mails for the first time in ages, and I think I fell in love again.  People don’t really read newspapers for news anymore, but the Globe has shifted to honestly intelligent, thoughtful interest stories you just wouldn’t find elsewhere and you likely wouldn’t search for on line (their print version is better at this than their online version).  Smart.

What’s the common trend?  People have been turning away from traditional media in droves over the last 20 years, insisting that get what they want when they want it.

So how does this impact Christ-followers?  I think we went through a period in the 80s and 90s where pretty much
all we were about were the preaching and the music, and this decade has
made it a lot harder to compete.  Why not just play your favourite worship music in your iPod and download the best preaching podcasts your can find, and call that church?  I used to feel threatened by that thought a few years ago. But now it excites me. Bring it on.  I doubt that will kill the local church.  It might make us more literate and sharper.

But what will keep followers and non-followers of Jesus meeting together as a the church (in person) into the future?  Some thoughts on what keeps me coming back and might keep others:

  • Real community.  Human interaction. Dialogue. Conversation. Touch. Genuine caring for each other.  Can’t download that…yet.  Sure, we can do that on-line to an extent, but something happens when Jesus-followers and people who don’t yet follow meet eyeball to eyeball that is powerful.  It happens in groups and in just about any setting in which people gather.
  • A person.  I think we used to think we were introducing people to an Idea (God, Truth), but the heart of the Christian faith is a relationship with a person (Jesus).  Somehow facilitating a personal relationship is easier and more effective in person.
  • An experience.  There are times when I’m listening to iTunes when I feel close to God, but being together in community brings a presence that transcends solo experiences of God.
  • Surprise.  God is way more creative and interesting that we admit.  In hosting services, preaching, worship and in different environments we host, there is something about a live experience that is creative and engaging that can help people experience Christ in fresh ways that a download can’t bring. And then there are the moments you can’t script, where God just moves.  Wow.
  • Love.  Can you love people fully without being present? Is love complete without presence?

What do you think the "unique" marks of the Christ-followers gathering in person will be in these next few years together?  What keeps you coming back, or what has driven you away?  I’d love to hear from you!


  1. Carey Nieuwhof on July 15, 2008 at 11:11 am

    Hey Rich…True stuff. The viral aspects of the net intrigue me too, and it's an all new and much more level playing field. The average 14 year old with zero dollars can get attention.

    Heidi…Wow, I am so sorry to hear of your situation. I'm praying for you, and hoping you can find God's scandalous grace in all this. What I mean by that is how scandalous it is that his love extends both to you and to everyone who failed you. That's the amazing part of it all. I think you already know this, but we are as flawed an organization and I am as flawed a leader as you will find anywhere…but God's grace continues to pour down daily. Glad the little things we do help you. Wish you were nearer by too!

  2. Heidi on July 14, 2008 at 5:22 pm

    What drove me away? Well, Carey, I followed what you were doing at Trinity for about 2 years before I joined a Pentecostal church in Hamilton. I really enjoyed the praise and worship, I mean REALLY enjoyed it. Really felt connected and felt that things were going right. Five years into belonging to that church, someone alerted me that in one of the small groups, a young girl was getting mis-information about an incestual/abusive situation, don't really know the precise nature of her experience. So, I went to the group to see for myself. Good data, good group material being presented, but some really harmful approaches to this type of injury. I know this both from a personal and professional standpoint. I tried to lend the benefit of my experience in both venues, and I was ignored, minimized, ostracized etc. etc. How dare I (a woman) try to 1. tell the male leadership anything 2. Critisize a woman who had risen to a leadership role within this male dominated arena. Yes, I tried to do what I did with dignity, with expertise in the field, with a professionalism that spoke to the behaviours and not the personnas, but most of all and first in line, my focus was on this young injured girl… she was being told to forgive and move on, she was being encouraged to visit with the perpetrator, she was a 13 year old in the middle of an over 30 group of women – all kinds of no-no's going on with Christianity being used as the reason to substantiate all the expectations held of her.
    I have examined very carefully what happened and my response to it. I don't believe I would do too much differently. And yes, I prayed.. fervently. That's what drove me away. Maybe it shouldn't have, but it did. No matter what I tried, I couldn't reach anyone willing to listen in the entire leadership of the church and I was treated as though I was a leper.
    In everything you write and speak about, Carey, you are the opposite- you actually follow Jesus. We seem to be lacking leaders like you and the impact on church membership has to feel the effects of that. I wish I was in Barrie or Orillia. Can't say I would be as active as I have been in the past , but I certainly would be participating. Church membership rules don't follow Christ when issues like this arise, and this is a serious issue. I couldn't stay and watch them destroy this girl any further. It's been a year now, and I tried some other churches, but the praise and worship isn't happening, and I felt like something was seriously lacking. Probably my own sense of loss, but nonetheless, I stopped going and only listen to you Sunday morning. Wish it wasn't this way, but it is. Thank God you are there doing His work.

  3. Rich Birch on July 14, 2008 at 9:39 am

    i love that online content (for the most part) is democratic. that stuff that people love they pass along to other people and the audience grows. i think that provides a fascinating benchmark. in the past – those people with the right connections and $$ could get the airtime to push their content and develop an audience. that approach has been tried online but it doesn't work near as a effectively . . .
    Example: AtheneWins on Youtube. Have you seen this guy? His crazy, hard to follow clips about World of Warcraft get millions of views. Like this one over 5mil views (warning: negative content, language, etc.) then after these guys build a huge audience they release the "ipower" clips discussing topics from their perspective – like this one on religion: (again – it's been flagged – but has had over 600,000 views!)

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