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I just now read something that blew my mind. You remember America Online? The company that was so 1990s? Remember their commercials? Well, as it turns out, they are still around and very profitable. According to Church Mag, they brought in $176 million last quarter. I’ll take a moment and let that sink in. Go on, think about it. I’ll go grab some more coffee.
OK, I’m back. Can you believe that? $176 million? One would think, with the advent of high speed internet, that dial-up would be a thing of the past. But not only is dial-up the only internet option in some rural communities, but some people still insist on paying for AOL when simple dial-up could be had for much cheaper.
We as human beings have a tendency to ditch a program or project or service if a lot of people aren’t interested. Since I work for churches, let me share an illustration from church world: Gospel Meetings/Church Revivals. Over the last decades, these relics of the past have been quietly scratched from the church calendar in favor of other events. I’m well aware of the reasons: “too expensive, not enough people came, no one had been converted in years,” etc.
But some people DID come. A few? Yes. But they did come. And I personally would like to state here and now that scratching Gospel Meetings might have been a bad idea. Have they lost their evangelistic effectiveness? Perhaps. Face it, not a lot of people in your community will beat a path to the door when you announce there will be a Gospel Meeting. But this does not mean that they should not be repurposed in the life of the church.
One reason why gospel meetings can be so effective is that I believe EVERY congregation can benefit from having an outside preacher come in and speak on issues that are simply too controversial for the local preacher to tackle. This has nothing to do with whether the preacher is brave enough to do so, but whether it is prudent for him to do so. In every church, there are those who will simply not heed the local preacher’s warning(s) because their heart has hardened towards him for whatever reason. They will, however, listen to a visiting preacher whose reputation they know and respect. Even if the issue isn’t controversial, some will not listen to the local preacher if they believe him unqualified to speak on the subject (because he’s single, has no kids, hasn’t lived long enough-----people always come up with silly reasons).
If America Online can still pull in $176 million a quarter in the year 2013, the church can also find a way to repurpose those programs and events that were once a blessing but have suffered from a decline in numbers. Instead of abandoning something all together, step back, ask critical questions, and then repurpose it.
Just don’t expect $176 million to appear in your offering plate.
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