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The Evolution of Language



The other day I happened to notice a poster about a Big New Blockbuster Movie coming out. The top line on the poster read: “Only in Theaters!”


It suddenly struck me that just a few years ago that particular phrase didn’t exist. Theaters were the only places you would ever watch a major multi-gazillion dollar motion picture. But now the streaming giants are investing billions in movie productions to help drive us carbon-based bipeds to their subscription services.

Today it’s not uncommon to have huge movie stars featured in films that are only shown on your TV…or your smartphone. Pixar has reportedly been disappointed that their parent company, Disney, has only been releasing their movies on Disney+ rather than in theaters, while showing their inhouse Disney Animation films in theaters first. Obviously, subscriptions are the main money-drivers…and Pixar films have a good reputation for drawing audiences.

The Covid-19 pandemic certainly fueled the fire. When theaters shut down, people fell into new and different viewing habits, quarantined in homes. It helped to turn the movie industry upside down…and to find new ways of not only monetizing their work, but engaging audiences in different ways. The new reality is that there are now two distinct ways of viewing movie events, because both are unique ways to drive profits, whether we like it or not. A-list actors who once snubbed the small screen are now realizing and reaping the benefits of potentially larger audiences…and paychecks. Plus, the prices of large screen TVs have seriously dropped over the last few years, meaning more people can have a “pseudo-theater” experience in their home.

Many pundits and prognosticators have written about the “reinvention of the church.” So far I’ve yet to see an online church ad with “Only in a Church Building!” as a headline, but hey, who knows?

The greater question remains: how do we help people experience God in the different contexts that have evolved? And remember, it’s not just the vertical connection, it’s the horizontal one as well, where people exercise the gifts they have in the context of community…wherever and however that community is shaped.

Bottom line: spiritual leaders know they’re in a brave new world. They understand that never-before-seen phrases will be birthed, new ways to communicate the new normal must emerge, new methods of engagement will evolve, and new ways of leading will have to be realized. And that means that leadership teams will need to allocate time and energy to mull…and dream…and pray…and debate…and strategize to refresh their methodologies and renew their mission. Regardless of the resulting approaches, I promise the exercise is a reward in itself.


Can you identify some new phrases in your leadership world? What does it make you think...and even more, do?


Dave Workman | The Elemental Group

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