Tag: church wants to be free

Let’s add value to the Kingdom, rather than milking it for all we can get

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?

Church wants to be free

free1.jpg An interesting article by Kevin Kelly got me thinking about church. Church, I believe, wants to be free. Not free, like “Free Willy.” I’m not talking about an imprisoned behemoth that wants to leap the channel net into freedom, although that might be another post in the future. I’m talking about free as in “no cost” free. Economically free. Free as in “no charge.”

A good example of the new free is music. The internet has completely revolutionized how we (“we”= kids) gain access to music. Mostly for free. Radiohead made news by giving away their latest album for free when it was first released. We are getting used to free, and we like it. Church related items aren’t exempt from this move to free. Several years ago I subscribed to an online sermon illustration service and a sermon preparation magazine. Two years ago I cancelled both subscriptions. Why? Because now comparable material is available for free on the internet.

With the move to free, here’s what I would like to see in the church world:

  • More peer-to-peer sharing. Kids revolutionized music distribution through file-sharing and downloads. Okay, much of it was illegal, but now that’s been cleaned up and artists are actually joining the free music revolution. Some musicians give away their music via downloads. Pastors and church leaders ought to create networks for sharing information, sermons, programs, music, art, ideas, and concepts. Why do we wait for denominations or mega-churches to sponsor seminars? Why don’t we get together as church leaders and craft our own seminars, where we are the content creators?
  • Less consumer-culture. The church world is just as captive as the rest of society to the consumer culture. We have come to believe that the best ideas are the ones we buy. That is simply not true. The best ideas are the ones that fit our context and can be done for little or no money. The iMonk has a great post on the religious- industrial complex.
  • More done for love, and not for money. Kevin Kelly also contends that the internet runs on love — millions of people work for free to put up good material on the internet just because they love creating and contributing. How have we let popular culture steal the principle by which the kingdom of God should operate? If someone has a better outreach program, shouldn’t they give it away? If someone knows a better way to present the gospel to others, shouldn’t they make that available for free? If we really believe what we say about the Christian life, shouldn’t all of us who call ourselves Christian work passionately to make sure that all the best ideas, programs, concepts, and methodologies are free?
  • Less slick and more real. We don’t need the Madison Avenue look — slick and expensive — to communicate in today’s world. We need authenticity. We need real. Plus, we’re amateurs when it comes to slick advertising anyway. What do we have that’s real? Community, love, help, care, relationships, people, and God. Beats Madison Avenue every time.
  • Smaller budgets and more creativity. We have bought the myth that small churches have small budgets and, therefore, can’t do much. But, creativity and collaboration rise to the top when funds are limited.
  • Smaller churches. Small churches have an economy of scale that large churches do not. And, that’s why small churches outnumber big ones, and survive longer than large churches.

So, that’s my riff on free church. That’s also why I blog, to create a forum where we can help each other for free. What do you think? How can we start the free church revolution? Or am I the only person who believes church wants to be free? I’d like your thoughts. — Chuck