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The buzzword in marketing now is “conversation.”  The Cluetrain Manifesto popularized that idea with its statement that “markets are conversations.”  The authors describe a dialogue between marketer and consumer, not just the old one-way deal — we make it, you buy it, that settles it.

Now consumers want to interact with their brands.  If you want proof of this among 20-somethings, read Ruby Pseudo Wants a Word, a blog by a young woman who interviews young people in the UK about fashion and brands.  Or read threebillion, a blog by a guy who is tracking the under-25 culture.

Which brings me to church.  If people are passionate about something as mundane as shoes, and become “fans” on Facebook of their favorite brand, wear them, talk them up, Twitter about them, text their friends about their shoes, and generally go crazy over a brand, shouldn’t churches learn something?

Like what, you ask? Like let’s create conversations where we might learn something.  Rather than trying to figure out how to get people to do what we want them to do — attend, give, care, serve, study, and so on — why don’t we talk to people about what they need from God?  What they expect from a community of faith?  What they hope their faith will enable them to be?

Which, of course, brings me to Jesus.   He actually did all of that.  Not that he needed to learn, but he used those conversations to engage the woman at the well, Zacchaeus, blind Bartimaeus, his own disciples, his friends, his family, and his followers.  How did we lose the simple idea of one person talking to another about things that matter?  How can we move the community of faith back into conversations with each other and the world?  That’s the challenge we face.  That’s the future of church.