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