The Dark Ages Part 5- When the Body of Christ becomes a business Part 1
Dear Friends, I was recently in Illinois and was introduced to a unique new church format---video church. There is no lead or senior pastor, only teaching tapes that are shown on large screens for their church services. The church that is forging this new way of doing church is Heartland Community church in Rockford, Ill. Their website is: http://www.heartland.cc/ They have grown so fast they recently bought an entire shopping mall in the downtown area and are converting it for their church site. I dropped by during the week and took some photos which are attached. Also included is this article I found on the net. For all the church research I've done---I've never heard of this type of church format.
Be a berean!
I have seen the future!
(Wanna help create it?)
I have seen the future.
I attended church today at a church that. . .
Had over 2000 in attendance
Is less than five years old
Will start its fifth weekend service next weekend
Does not have a preaching pastor, and has no plans to get one
Uses Bill Hybels and John Ortberg (Willowcreek) videos for their teaching
Has a live band
Is an independent, autonomous church with local church pastors, small groups, a building and so forth.
The church is Heartland Community Church located in Rockford, IL. I think it represents an emerging paradigm of the church. I am predicting this kind of church will change our world as much as McDonalds changed our diets. I am not saying that every church will be video preaching 10 years from now–we don’t all eat McDonald hamburgers every meal. I am saying that over the next 10 years or so this will become a trend that will substantially change the life of church as we know it.
There are three main reasons I think this kind of church will take off:
It is of high quality.
It is reproducible
It is a proven model. Based on the God-given law of sowing and reaping, it should work anywhere.
It is all made possible through the technology of the video projector. With the presence of the video projector, you tend to look at the screen anyway. I attended Willowcreek last night and found myself looking at the big screen a good part of the time, even though Bill Hybels was standing right in front of me. Watching video on a twenty foot screen is a completely different experience than watching video on a 27 inch TV.
(By the way, weekly Willowcreek videos are not yet available. Heartland is able to get them out of a personal relationship between Bill Hybels and Heartland's Directional Pastor.)
This model is going to change the face of church planting. Heartland is essentially a church planting model. It may be the fastest church plant ever. I am sure it has grown much faster than Willowcreek itself. Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, North Carolina is the only church plant I know of that would approach this speed of rapid take off. (Feel free to email me about this if you have better information.)
This model is going to solve the problem of overcrowding in many fast growing churches. Willowcreek is simultaneously experimenting with another model of satellite churches. These churches are not independent, autonomous churches, although they do have local church pastors who do assimilation and small groups. Second Baptist, Houston follows a similar model. Instead of building bigger and bigger barns, a better model may be to create satellites.
It is going to solve a huge problem for church goers looking for a church. Suppose you move to a different city. Wouldn't it be nice to be able to get plugged in right away to a church you knew you would like, instead of spending six months or a year trying various churches? We go to McDonalds, not because we love the hamburgers, but because we know we won’t hate them. In the same way, knowing what to expect in a predictable church experience will be desirable to many. People who move from Atlanta to Dallas will enjoy immediately plugging into a church that looks and feels like the church they came from in Atlanta.
This may be a model for some existing churches. Bill Hybels may be your next preacher. Some existing churches, upon the departure of their pastor, may choose to watch video on a big screen. This may be better than any option available for an interim. It may be a good enough model to stay with over the long haul.
Some people will deplore this, I am sure. I am sure some of you who read this will think this trend is awful. Although I like the idea, I am not trying to persuade you that it is wonderful. I am simply saying it is coming. What McDonalds did to Hamburgers and Best Buy did for electronics and Barnes and Noble did for books, churches like Heartland are going to do for church life.
The reason I am so sure of this is the same reason why McDonalds and Best Buy and Barnes and Noble work. They work because of the God given law of sowing and reaping. If you do certain things you are going to get predictable results. If McDonalds is successful in California, it proved to be successful in Chicago and Thailand. There are subtle adaptations. We sometimes have green chili hamburgers at our McDonalds in New Mexico and they had an outback burger at the McDonalds in Australia. Still, there is remarkable similarity between the McDonalds in Sydney and the McDonalds in Opelika, Alabama.
The other issue is an issue of quality. George Barna’s research indicates that two thirds of the people who attend church say they don’t sense the presence of God when they go. Let’s face it, many churches are sloppy in the way they do their work and the quality of the presentation is just not that great. I have listened to hundreds of Bill Hybels’ sermons. I have never heard one I thought was crummy. Not only is he very gifted, I suspect he has access to paid research assistants, probably several of them. Many mega-churches, at least, employ such help.
Willowcreek may or may not be the church that actually rolls this out. They have an inherent problem in that they are also trying to build the Willowcreek Association. I am wondering how Association churches will feel if Bill Hybels starts a church down the street. It may prove to be impossible to build the Willowcreek Association while promoting this model.
Usually, when a new technology or paradigm comes along, it is not the existing entities that jump in. The key players on the Internet are not the mainline brick and mortar business, they are businesses like Ebay and Amazon. Similarly, it may not be a mega-church at all that rolls this out, but rather someone outside spotlight at this time.
Somebody is going to reach a slew of people by figuring this model out. Someone is going to figure out how to launch thousands of churches with a completely reproducible model of video teaching on a big screen. You can decide whether launching these churches and reaching these people is a good thing or bad thing. I am telling you, it is coming.