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CLUB 444: Beyond Blockbuster

October 13, 2022

Pastor Lura Groen says —-

The institutional church resembles nothing so much as Blockbuster video, circa 2008*.
*Quibble about this year all you want, this is a thread about the church not Blockbuster.

In the early 2000’s, the way we were renting movies changed drastically. Some of us still loved the Friday night ritual of driving to the store, browsing the aisles, and coming home with a few movies and an armful of junk food. But others of us were beginning to like picking our movies ahead of time, and having them mailed to our house. (yes, children, mailed!) And Blockbuster didn’t notice. And that led to their bankruptcy in 2010.

Humans will always love sharing stories about each other. It seems to be one of our universal characteristics, and it doesn’t seem to be any less important than when we told stories around a fire in a cave.
I believe humans will always want to hear about God’s unconditional love for us, and gather in spiritual communities to experience it together. But there will always be cultural shifts in what that looks like, what kind of models those communities follow.

There was a time, recently, when we dominated the field, and our members remember that. But that success is already gone. The world is changing, in deep and fundamental ways, that are already making our current models of “business” obsolete.

We notice that our own, individual store (congregation) is struggling. And we’d like to blame our own managers (pastors.) We stand in our own Blockbusters, complaining.

We have such fond memories of Blockbuster. We took our kids there, and they squealed with joy, and we felt like a family. Or maybe we had our first dates with our partners there, and remember the heady romance of picking a movie together. Blockbuster felt like love.

And the kids don’t want to do that anymore! They must hate families and romance! This current generation no longer cares about the universal human drive for stories! How dare they let our Blockbusters go out of business!

Hey, that Blockbuster store over there seems to be doing a little better than us! Let’s figure out what they are doing. They have Thursday night specials on candy- maybe we can get some of their customers if we have a sale on candy AND popcorn!

But friends, we can blame the next generation all we want, or steal all the ideas of the better manager across town, but Blockbuster is still going out of business. So will our congregations, if we don’t notice the culture shift, and stop blaming everyone else.

BUT- if Blockbuster had changed its business model, it could have been thriving today. We can too. How are people experiencing God’s love in new ways? What do their communities look like now? What are they doing already that is maybe even better than what we are doing? We can thrive too, if we celebrate and get on board with what God is already doing in the world.

If not, people will still gather around God’s story, and they’ll probably even invite us to join in. But it won’t be our institutions anymore, it will be theirs.

Maybe that will be better anyway.

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