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Church Cord Cutting

A recent article in the New York Times chronicled the massive disruptions happening in the entertainment world.

The odd juxtaposition is that Americans are spending more time and money than ever watching movies and shows on demand, but the studios producing them are struggling. The article noted that Disney’s stock price was half of what it was in 2021 and shares of Paramount’s parent company were “worth less than they were 25 years ago.” In a major freefall is cable television, once a huge revenue stream for Hollywood studios who would license their old shows and movies.

And then Netflix came slouching toward Hollywood.

The entertainment powerhouses failed to see the disruption Netflix would become when it transitioned from DVDs to streaming in 2007. The big studios had sold Netflix the right to broadcast their movies at a “relatively low price” which was then used to attract millions of subscribers.

“What these legacy companies didn’t realize until it was too late was that streaming wasn’t just going to become the dominant mode by which people watched movies, replacing DVDs. It was also going to replace cable TV,” commented author and reporter Jonathan Mahler.

Cord-cutters are now in the majority, causing a 40% decline in subscribers over the last decade. Now Hollywood is trying to catch up. It seems every other week a new streaming service pops up creating content in an attempt to make itself distinguishable and indispensable.

Which, of course, causes me to wonder: how many churches have missed the sea-change in how people look for community, purpose, and hope? This is not an issue of megas versus house churches, or liturgical worship versus praise teams, or expository versus topical preaching, or even high church versus low church. This isn’t so much about methodologies as it is how people experience God.

My bigger concern is that churches fail to even think about if anyone is actually experiencing God. Especially if Jesus meant it when he said, “Where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” It seems in the New Testament accounts that when Jesus walked into the room, the atmosphere changed.

And perhaps, this is the real problem: There is no sense of expectation.

Church leaders must ask themselves in a literal “Come-to-Jesus” moment: is any kind of transformational experience happening because we gather each Sunday? If the best salesperson is a satisfied customer—and our numbers are shrinking—then we must be missing some experiential process that should be happening when we gather together.

Trying to force or hype something isn’t the answer…and a better show isn’t either.

But surely as leaders we can’t be satisfied with the status quo. And until we start tackling the issue with our leadership teams and seriously inviting God into the conversation, I fear we’re in a cable-sized freefall of our own…and people are cutting the cord.

Dave Workman | The Elemental Group


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