Sunday, July 12, 2009

welcome to first baptist church of facebook inc.

facebook church There is much talk about Gary Hamel's article concerning the facebook generation's impact on the corporate world.  I want to discuss what some of the implications might look like for the church.  {The bold points are Hamel's original points, my reflection is in brackets}
1. All ideas compete on an equal footing.
On the Web, every idea has the chance to gain a following—or not, and no one has the power to kill off a subversive idea or squelch an embarrassing debate. Ideas gain traction based on their perceived merits, rather than on the political power of their sponsors.
{Theologically, I am not sure that this would be such a great idea.  But what about strategy, methodology, and atmosphere?  I went to a church function today which designed to attract the local community.  It was a complete flop.  Barely anyone showed up, including church members.  This isn't such a problem since we have all had ideas go down the tubes.  However, I found out that this is an annual event. Essentially, this is the way they had always done it whether it worked or not.  Success/outreach was not the issue; activity was.  It seems that it would be positive to bring in new ideas to the design and strategy team at least to examine the "way we have always done it" crowd.  Considering Hamel's point concerning subversion, it would provide a cathartic dose of honesty to expose, address, and repair problems rather than just shoving them under the rug.  Ever been to one of those churches where there was civil war brewing under the surface but everyone on stage provided such a sterile environment?}
2. Contribution counts for more than credentials.
When you post a video to YouTube, no one asks you if you went to film school. When you write a blog, no one cares whether you have a journalism degree. Position, title, and academic degrees—none of the usual status differentiators carry much weight online. On the Web, what counts is not your resume, but what you can contribute.
{The church's insistence on "professional" leadership is the very thing stultifying growth.  The problem is not so much that we DO have highly trained leaders, but that we DO NOT have people who assume a role in the movement due to a lack of professional training.  Translation: laity sits in pews because they think you have to have an Mdiv to serve God.  But what if they were like cyber folk?  We would have churches full of people who were part of a movement being sent out and trained by seminary trained staff.  The current model explains why so few are coming to faith: we show up to support the staff, hear what they have to say, and send the few to the masses.  The lay churchplanter is a vital need to the church of the next generation.}
3. Hierarchies are natural, not prescribed.
In any Web forum there are some individuals who command more respect and attention than others—and have more influence as a consequence. Critically, though, these individuals haven’t been appointed by some superior authority. Instead, their clout reflects the freely given approbation of their peers. On the Web, authority trickles up, not down.
{Whether or not we realize it, this is the way the world works.  This is the reason why in many small churches it is someone other than the pastor, elders, deacons or other leadership actually pulling the strings.  Sadly, this leader is rarely constructive and often selfish.  More generically, this is exactly what a "person of peace" is.  From the negative side, few believers make their way up the unspoken hierarchy within or without the church-see my post on being a follower.  At the strategic level, we need to look for those unspoken persons of leadership and influence.}
4. Leaders serve rather than preside.
On the Web, every leader is a servant leader; no one has the power to command or sanction. Credible arguments, demonstrated expertise and selfless behavior are the only levers for getting things done through other people. Forget this online, and your followers will soon abandon you.
{If only the church's march forward were based on "credible arguments, demonstrated expertise, and selfless behavior!"  Instead, we move forward only when the right people approve, it looks safe enough for the key-holders to enjoy, and when it looks close enough to how we have always done it.}
5. Tasks are chosen, not assigned.
The Web is an opt-in economy. Whether contributing to a blog, working on an open source project, or sharing advice in a forum, people choose to work on the things that interest them. Everyone is an independent contractor, and everyone scratches their own itch.
{Ever been to a church which automatically assigned everyone to a job and you have to request your name be taken off if you don't want to do it?  Many churches uses these manipulative means for acquiring participation.  It is as if we think that in order to follow Jesus we must be miserable at what we do.  Think about how most people describe their calling to Christian service.  They wanted to do plan A, and said they would never do plan B but God wanted them to do plan B.  They "surrendered."  What if God gave us passions and gifts specifically for the purpose of ministry; sound familiar?}
6. Groups are self-defining and -organizing.
On the Web, you get to choose your compatriots. In any online community, you have the freedom to link up with some individuals and ignore the rest, to share deeply with some folks and not at all with others. Just as no one can assign you a boring task, no can force you to work with dim-witted colleagues.
{One of the strangest things I have found in church, after leaving the church I grew up in, was how artificial the grouping at church was.  Often it is a group of people who have nothing in common, can't get along, and, barring Sunday, never associate with each other in any other capacity.  Is it any wonder why all the programs in the world are not bringing the world to church?  In our church planting strategy, we need to look for those natural groups-something we do overseas but fail to do here.}
7. Resources get attracted, not allocated.
In large organizations, resources get allocated top-down, in a politicized, Soviet-style budget wrangle. On the Web, human effort flows towards ideas and projects that are attractive (and fun), and away from those that aren’t. In this sense, the Web is a market economy where millions of individuals get to decide, moment by moment, how to spend the precious currency of their time and attention.
{The church emulates the corporation here.  I have been at churches where various ministries of the church were notorious for making a last ditch effort to spend the rest of their budget so their budget wouldn't be reduced the next year.  There is a need to plan the money strategically, but we need more spontaneity.  All too often we plan and budget non priority items early on and have no money for great ideas that happen later in the year.  Do we really need to plan ahead to have dedicated flowers every Sunday?  It would be better to focus the spending around reaching the goals set forth in the great commission vision.}
8. Power comes from sharing information, not hoarding it.
The Web is also a gift economy. To gain influence and status, you have to give away your expertise and content. And you must do it quickly; if you don’t, someone else will beat you to the punch—and garner the credit that might have been yours. Online, there are a lot of incentives to share, and few incentives to hoard.
{I don't think this will be too big of a change for stateside churches.  This tends to be an attribute of American culture.  In other parts of the globe, however, knowledge is power, and this includes gospel knowledge.  This particularly happens in male dominated cultures, which happens to be most of the 10/40 window.  This is particularly true in Muslim circles.  Often the men, who are literate, receive the gospel first and fail to transfer it to their wives, who are non-literate.}
9. Opinions compound and decisions are peer-reviewed.
On the Internet, truly smart ideas rapidly gain a following no matter how disruptive they may be. The Web is a near-perfect medium for aggregating the wisdom of the crowd—whether in formally organized opinion markets or in casual discussion groups. And once aggregated, the voice of the masses can be used as a battering ram to challenge the entrenched interests of institutions in the offline world.
{Again, there is some semblance of this in many churches so the change may not that revolutionary.  But the truth behind this point is that any kind of real movement must be grassroots.  A change or revival at the top is meaningless unless the grass catches fire as well.}
10. Users can veto most policy decisions.
As many Internet moguls have learned to their sorrow, online users are opinionated and vociferous—and will quickly attack any decision or policy change that seems contrary to the community’s interests. The only way to keep users loyal is to give them a substantial say in key decisions. You may have built the community, but the users really own it.
{True also of church.  In a secular society, people can walk away from the church at any moment for any reason.  Most churches, both contemporary and traditional, have forgotten this fact.  Many churches are top down in every area of church life.  They are run by trained professionals.  They are designed for people to come to and enjoy and grow.  Churches which often grow fast and large do so based on the personality running the show.  When he leaves/retires/dies, the movement dies.  We must begin to get back to utilizing the lay force.  We need to rewrite our vocabulary so that no one hears that they need to leave it to "the professionals."  The sooner we build consensus and really sell our vision to the rank and file, the sooner we will see a movement with historic impact.  If we fail to do this, the church in the west will be all but gone within a few generations.}
11. Intrinsic rewards matter most.
The web is a testament to the power of intrinsic rewards. Think of all the articles contributed to Wikipedia, all the open source software created, all the advice freely given—add up the hours of volunteer time and it’s obvious that human beings will give generously of themselves when they’re given the chance to contribute to something they actually care about. Money’s great, but so is recognition and the joy of accomplishment.
{Again, what if we didn't sell following God as the mortification of joy?  The way the church is most powerful-the way God designed it to be-is when the members are using their actual talents for God's glory.  God has given people burdens and passions for a reason.  We would do better to utilize the ways in which it is obvious that the should serve God than to insist that serving God must be a drudgery.}
12. Hackers are heroes.
Large organizations tend to make life uncomfortable for activists and rabble-rousers—however constructive they may be. In contrast, online communities frequently embrace those with strong anti-authoritarian views. On the Web, muckraking malcontents are frequently celebrated as champions of the Internet’s democratic values—particularly if they’ve managed to hack a piece of code that has been interfering with what others regard as their inalienable digital rights.
{In church circles, heretics are the hackers.  I am not talking about actual heretics, ones who would deny the divinity of Christ or the resurrection.  Rather these are people who try to move the body, when the body only wants the status quo.  Look at Luther [The reformer, or the king-take your choice].  The only reason he goes down in history affirmatively is because he won the fight.  Had he lost, he would have been a hacker. 
So that was "hacking" on the positive side.  On the negative side, there are many people who are critical of anything and use their, sometimes, brilliant critiques to advance themselves.  These are the people we are to be on guard against.  It is always easy to make something look bad and irrelevant.  It is a soft target to go after the SBC.  Anyone who has been paying attention can do that job.  But how many could actually fix it if they were given the chance?  The ability to "diagnose" does not necessarily imply the ability to repair, restore, and reform.  Many bloggers were able to win a recent SBC election.  At the end of the day, their guy was a decent candidate.  But their agenda had more to do with self advancement with a "because we can."  Again, it is easy to win based on how bad the other party is.  It is much harder to win based on personal merit.}
Conclusion
By and large, the impact that the facebook generation will have on the church will be a positive one.  The key will be the establishment becoming flexible to this kind of change.  Even better would be if the establishment pursued this kind of change since it is unclear whether or not generation F will be willing to force their change on the establishment or just walk away and do their own thing.

1 comment:

Grady Bauer said...

The interesting thing will be to see how an organization like the IMB will be able to adapt to this...if they can or want to adapt to this.