Over at Harvard Business’s online blog, Umair Haque launches a blistering attack on Wonga, a UK payday lender that charges 2,689% annual interest! In other words, a $100 loan paid back a year later will cost the borrower $2,689. Incredibly, Haque points out that three venture capital firms have invested in Wonga because they think they’ll get a great return. Haque disagrees, and contends that Wonga is part of what got us into this financial crisis in the first place — greed.
Haque says that Wonga has the worst business plan in the world because it is based on extracting value from others rather than creating value for others. Creating value is the new business model, Haque argues. Which brings me to the spate of requests, solicitations, and “check out my site” invitations that I get every day. From Facebook to Twitter to email to snail mail, I am bombarded everyday with Christian ministries trying to sell me something. Half my “friends” on Facebook and more than half my followers on Twitter are pushing something they want me to buy — trying to extract value from me rather than create value for me.
I have often thought that if you have a better way to win people to Jesus, or a better way to do church, or a tried-and-true method of discipleship, shouldn’t you give it away? Shouldn’t we all be trying to add value to the Kingdom, rather than extract all we can from it?
And, if we all did that — pooled our collective gifts, talents, and abilities — wouldn’t we all be better off? Wouldn’t the Kingdom cause advance more quickly and effectively? Instead, we’re all trying to sell stuff to each other.
The whole “Christian-industrial complex” reminds me of an well-known multi-level marketing event I went to several years ago. Turns out the speakers made more money from selling how-to tapes, books, CDs, and trinkets than they did actually running their businesses. The same thing is true of those real estate infomercials, or other pitches offering you the tried-and-proven secrets to making a million dollars. But first they have to sell you their system for $299 or $29 or whatever.
Of course, I want to write books, too. I want to speak at conferences, too. But, first I want to create some value for you and others like you who pastor small churches like I do. I try to do that, and I try to give away the best that I do — sermons, ideas, methods, outreach programs, links to articles — so you can get value from them.
I realize that goods and services cost real dollars to produce. But it seems like we have more folks trying to extract value from us, rather than add value to us. Soong Chan Rah, in his new book The Next Evangelicalism, laments the fact that while there are only about 150 “emerging” churches in the US, over 50 books have been published about the “emerging church.” Where, he asks, are books about minority pastors who drive a taxi during the day, attend seminary at night, and pastor their churches on the weekend?
Les Puryear at Joining God In His Work has had little success trying to get a book about small church ministry published. Why? Book agents say publishers see it as a small niche market — in other words, they can’t make any money.
But, what if we in small churches created our own network of individuals, ideas, books, resources, and encouragement. And what if we gave it all away for free because we are the ones creating it? An “unconference” of small church leaders could develop its own agenda, collaborate to produce its own content, and present it to any and all who wanted it for free. Same for resources, videos, outreach methods, sermons, Bible studies, mission projects, and so on.
What do you think? Am I just crazy, or are you tired of all the promotion and hucksterism today? Let’s do something about it. Let’s start our own small church resource conversation and figure out how we can add value to the Kingdom. Let me know what you think. Our church is available as a host site, we can cook our own meals, plan our own agenda, and I’ll find homes to stay in for anyone who’s interested. Any takers?