The Next, Next Church
- Wednesday, August 01, 2007
The iPhone is so last month.
Which means, writes Adam Bryant in the New York Times, that “it’s been downgraded from the next big thing to merely new.” And these days, “new can seem so yesterday. What matters is what’s next.”
Bryant then notes how “next” is the go-to buzzword of our day.
There is “Next” the movie, released this spring with Nicolas Cage as a man who can see two minutes into the future.
Newsweek’s annual “Who’s Next” issue, intended to run against Time’s Person of the Year issue, prompted Time to start a regular “What’s Next” feature of its own.
New York magazine recently had a cover article on home design titled “The Next Next Things,” an update on the title of Michael Lewis’ 1999 book, “The New New Thing.”
Turn on the TV and you’ll find “America’s Next Top Model” on CW and “Next” on MTV.
There are even stores specializing in the “next” through “fast fashion,” such as H & M and Zara, which replace their entire line of clothing every few weeks.
Our preoccupation with “next” has replaced our earlier fascination with “new.” The difference? New is what something is; next suggests a special insight.
Christians can be captivated by “next” as much as anyone.
Just think church. Pastors often joke about a “migratory flow pattern” among Christians in their community who are constantly church-hopping to the “next” thing in church life. They move from one church to another, looking for the next hot singles group, the next hot church plant, the next hot speaker, the next hot youth group. Many times they end up full circle where they began, because their original church suddenly became “next.”
Church leaders can succumb to the same temptation, only in terms of church model.
First it was Willow Creek. Then Saddleback. Then came Hillsong, Northpoint and Fellowship. Or perhaps instead of doing it by church name, it was by type: first came seeker-targeted, then purpose-driven, then postmodern, then ancient-future, then emergent, then “simple.” For some the allure of the next “next” is programmatic, moving from Alpha to KidStuff to… well, you get the picture.
In truth, many of the “next” churches we flock to - as attenders or leaders - have little of the true “next” about them. More often than not, what is behind the attention is little more than a gifted communicator, or a niche-focus, or tried-and-true contemporary approaches in a traditional context, maybe one or two twists on previously envisioned programs – coupled with a growing edge of town. Yet the seduction of the “next” lures us to move our attendance in order to experience God more fully, or as leaders, to race to their conference to find the “secret” to success.
Yet there is a real danger in flocking to the “next.”
According to James Katz, who directs the Center for Mobile Communications Studies at Rutgers University, our current level of engineering knowledge allows products such as the iPhone to be developed more quickly than ever before. With basic performance less and less of a concern, consumers will purchase on the basis of looks. Add in what he calls “the professionalization of hype,” and you have the life of a product burn hot - and fast.
Meaning you can buy into the “next” before you know whether it was ever worth buying into in the first place. With an iPhone, you’re only out a few hundred dollars. With your spiritual life, not to mention a church, the stakes are much, much higher.
Recently on Pastors / Leadership
Have something to say about this article? Leave your comment via Facebook below!
Listen to Your Favorite Pastors
Add Crosswalk.com content to your siteBrowse available content