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Block-busted

September 27, 2010 Leave a comment Go to comments

Not too many years ago, Blockbuster was king of the hill in video movie and game rental.  The company, founded in Dallas in 1985, grew by leaps and bounds, swallowing up smaller companies and a few larger ones too.  Every Friday night all over the country the multitudes went to Blockbuster to get set for weekends filled with movies and gaming.  And then on Monday’s they trudged back – most of them anyway.  Plenty of them didn’t manage to make it back until later on Monday or even Tuesday – and paid fees that were pure profit for the company.

In case you missed it, last week Blockbuster filed for bankruptcy protection. It was not a huge surprise – it had been rumored for months.  The company has been on the skids for awhile.

So what happened?  In my opinion, Blockbuster either ignored or was ignorant of the fact that the way people bought and watched movies and played video games was changing.  First GameFly, then Netflix delivered the goods to your door, you kept them as long as you liked, then sent them back – no late fees, no trips to the video store.  Netflix caught and past Blockbuster in total rentals in less than two years.  Digital content streaming – something Netflix has pounced on – also caught Blockbuster sleeping.  Their troubles mounted when RedBox made it even simpler and cheaper to rent a movie.

Blockbuster didn’t go down without a fight – They started their own online rental/video-to-your-door service, but it cost more than Netflix and was more complicated than it needed to be.  Lately in our area, I’ve seen “Blockbuster Express” kiosks around – but I haven’t seen anybody using them.

The bottom line is that Blockbuster continued to run their business like it was 1985 for far, far too many years after that.

Is there a lesson for the church in all this?  I think so.  Blockbuster, Netflix, RedBox all have the same “message” – movies on video to watch at home.  Netflix and RedBox have figured out “methods” that reach the people they want to reach.

No big original revelation here – just the reality that while the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ NEVER changes, the methods used to gain a hearing for that message, for communicating that message, MUST change.  There is tension in trying to communicate an eternal message using temporal means, but unless we want to end up even more marginalized, bankrupt and ineffective, we must find a way to walk out that tension with integrity.

This is not a stump speech for one particular “style” of doing church.  I bet I repeat Rick Warren’s words a dozen times every week: “It takes all kinds of churches to reach all kinds of people.” But unless a church understands how people receive, process, and respond to the messages they receive, and communicates accordingly – no one is reached.

And that is far worse than bankruptcy.

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Categories: business, change, church, ministry
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