Qwikster vs iPad

I got a very personal email from Reed Hastings (of Netflix fame) tonight. He seems really sorry for how he hurt my feelings and all. I really appreci…what? You got it, too? Oh, I hate it when my bubble bursts like that!
Well, it brings up a point about change. The world changed so fast twice recently. Analog to digital. Then prosperous to lean times. Bam-bam! It’s enough to make an entrepreneur jumpy! Or a church consultant paranoid. Many have thought that we just need to stay ahead of the curve. Change now BEFORE we need to. Change the church culture every 18 months. Make it seem fresh. That’s one way. But a certain number of people (more so in church than other places) fall into a pattern and like the rhythm. So they don’t like change for change’s sake. It creates problems. On the other hand some of these same folks could decide that the same has become stale and they don’t like it anymore. So you can’t just stay the same, either.
But pleasing people isn’t the way to please people in the long run. In the church we have an unchanging mission. Our methods need to be flexible but solid. Not surprisingly I turn to Apple as an example here. Over 20 of the last 30 years they’ve given people the very best products they didn’t know they needed yet. They’ve managed to be out in front of the culture, exploring what’s possible with current technology without compromising their mission. They’ve found the solid ground and started building on it so they were ready when the culture caught up. They’ve managed to hold onto what’s best about tradition while keeping the experience fresh. It never seems like change for change’s sake. In the worst economy they are just about the only profitable company. More cash on hand than the U.S. Treasury. And the mission is safe.
So is there a lesson in the Netflix-Apple soup? I don’t think Reed came clean. They just sold the streaming way too cheap by originally convincing the studios it was an experiment. When it took off the deal was DOA. Now we have Qwikster! Seriously? 2 websites? Ugh! Maybe change just to shake things up is a little reckless. And maybe sometimes in the church we need to offer people something they don’t understand they need yet. But part of our calling is to help them see it. So what are some of the ways we can get out in front of culture? What is now possible that seemed impossible a few years ago? What element of our mission can be enhanced by possible changes? Then what are the solid methods and tools we can build for people to help them go to the next level of missional living? What’s the iPad of the Christian experience? It’s gonna look different in almost every local church. It’s whatever takes people from wherever they are to more closely in step with Jesus. Last time I checked, it can’t come too soon for many of our churches. I think we’ve done the iChurch, MYchurch thing to death. But a church that truly exists for its non-members? A church that’s about sacrificing all to glorify God and serve the world? If we have a solid enough foundation. If we make it clear. If we’re fiercely committed to the mission. That’s a church just about anyone would like to serve in. Some of them just don’t know it yet… How can we help them see?


Posted on September 19, 2011, in Spiritual Formation and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. How hard do we have it–to be in a culture inundated with slick marketing, spending millions and millions of dollars to convince us that we are consumers–and most Christians get about an hour (maybe two or three if they’re super committed) to hear a counter-cultural message of Christ’s gospel that we are something more than consumers. I’m not wanting to sound defeated, nor am I wanting to capitulate to a, if-we-can’t-beat-’em-join-’em attitude. I think that the thought that those who “get it” regarding the counter-cultural flow will nearly always be small percentage of those in our congregations who don’t get it. @RealJohnWesley tweeted this morning, “It is absurd to offer a physician to them that are whole or that imagine themselves so to be. First convince them that they are sick.” –a sort of tangential but connected thought/question: In thinking of The Matrix, is that sort of a look at what Morpheus was doing with Neo by offering him the pills?

    I think the church can create culture. It has in the past — in the Constantinian world. I don’t think that this culture that the church creates needs to be seen as a competitor to the surrounding culture. If so, we lose. To be clear the church culture in many places does set itself up in opposition to the encompassing culture. Sorry, my thought is getting messy.

    • Good points, Michael, thanks! You’re right we aren’t competing directly, at least not on culture’s terms. But maybe in terms of building something new that has enough real power to eventually transform the culture.
      And I agree with Wesley’s point about demonstrating the need. With all the high-powered tools at culture’s command, the conscience is still rather potent. (The problem here is so many tv shows seem designed to soothe our conscience without resolving anything. I’m glad we don’t have cable, but network tv is just as bad.)
      Conscience/prayer, Community, Scripture, and Serving are powerful enough to do it. Finding the best combo to get traction where we live is make or break.

  2. I also got said email and just laughed. This is a disaster for Netflix. The two websites is a deal breaker. They are going to lose a ton of business over this. They are right in trying to get in front of the changes by going to the streaming as their main bread winner but the Qwikster part is a disaster.

    Taking this to church thoughts I am debating what Apple has to teach us. Their redemption story, from needing Microsoft to bail them out to being the most valuable company in the world is amazing. It is a story built around an organizational philosophy that valued stability, style, and ease of use over complexity and price point. Apple decided they would make what they make, make it the best they can, and make it as desirous as possible.

    There are valuable assets there for us to consider as the church. I keep thinking of Apple as the “we are the coolest church in town” megachurch though. Many people buy Apple for style and name brand as much as computing power. Take the iPad for example. It is an awesome toy. I am probably going to get one for my birthday. But when it comes to real computing the iPad leaves a tremendous amount to be desired. It is severely and intentionally limited. That feels like the church to me. We have created wonderful and fun places to come and play at being Christians, but they are intentionally designed to create consumers instead of disciples. Often times we aren’t offering people what they don’t know they need, we are intentionally creating churches that are specifically designed to give them exactly what they think they need instead of what they really need.

    I completely agree with your ideas about what the church should be, but do we have the fortitude necessary to make the changes our people need? Now that is a question each one of us must answer not with a response, but instead with our lives.

    • Amen! But your comment does reveal one thing. You do not yet own an iPad! If you want it to be a computer, MacBook Air is there. But you don’t! You want it to be exactly what it is once you fully realize what it is. But its not a toy and it’s a different kind of computing power i call proximity…But I digress from your main point.
      We certainly need to give people more than a gadget. Culture says we’re one purchase away from happiness. We have a whole different way of being in the world to offer them. But even that offer needs to adapt when culture shifts radically. It’s Apple’s pioneer spirit that is deeply committed to giving people the best and freshest experience possible that we might consider emulating. Can we create culture instead of trailing it? The most amazing thing is how the first 120 did it. A new community thrilled to be sharing the greatest experience they could imagine, but staying rooted to the tradition. But, of course, God did it. And he’s our source and guide now. What a wild frontier, though!
      Happy Qwikstering!

      • I am with you on the pioneering spirit. Apple has succeeded because it hasn’t been afraid to be unique, to offer an alternative to what everyone else is doing. That counter cultural spirit been so successful that they are now the norm instead of the alternative. That is a beautiful picture for life as the church.

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