There’s a TED talk about the teddy bear, which argues that Teddy Roosevelt’s famous friend changed the way we understand the natural world. (Check it out here: http://tinyurl.com/nq5rur8.) Teddy, the prez, changed a scary bear into something cute.
I buy it, because I think it makes sense.
Now, apply that thinking to church.
Local churches need something like the Teddy Bear to survive.
In the background, another bit of marketing , this from the town of Leominster, Mass. Leominster is a central Massachusetts town, which I’ve driven through a couple times. I briefly lived in neighboring Gardner, which has lately fallen on some hard economic times.
Back in 1939, some film makers came to Leominster and shot a short video, which was sort of an early recruitment video for the then thriving industrial town. For our purposes, this little video, showed many “houses of worship” and all the people that were flocking to them.
Tucked into the back of some of those shots: the iconic church sign complete with white letters, worship times, and witty topic. Not obviously this sign, a little risqué for 1939, but still very much recognizable.
Now, I ask you, dear reader, what else has stayed largely the same since that video was shot?
Not the factories. Those have mostly closed.
Not the stores. Big boxes, hyper abundance, and internet shopping still had a ways to go.
Not even the people. Families, neighborhoods, and nations are all changing.
I’d take the TED talk speaker’s argument one step forward and say that the local church as a cultural institution is now heading towards extinction, at least in my little corner of the Northeast United States. Now, the Church, big C, will survive this little cultural moment as it has for the past 2,000 years, by adapting, shifting locations, and finding the Jesus people where they are.
I’m talking about the local church, the neighborhood outpost of the established church in America, those might be fast fading away.
I say: we need a symbol to help save this institution.
Any thoughts on what that might be?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below.