Friday, November 21, 2008

Churchapreneurs: worship is the key to success

YouTube - Mars Hill Worship Service Seattle
If you are really, really cool, and on the cutting edge of churchapreneuriship, this is what worship will look like. This clip of course, is taken from the "calvinistic" churchapreneur franchise of Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church. Driscoll is "calvinistic," with a small "c" for Calvinism, because he, like the typical churchapreneur, is too arrogant to subscribe to any historically Reformed confession, since, after his extensive study, he cannot find one he entirely agrees with (surprise), so instead, he crafted his own Driscoll creed which maintains elements of Protestant orthodoxy while remaining consumer friendly. His real genius however, lies not in his doctrinal acumen, rather, it is in his ability to define his target demographic and provide them with just the right worship ambiance he knows they are searching for.

Driscoll, in his Confessions of A Reformission Rev., describes some of his struggles as an early churchapreneur in finding the right worship leader and worship band. In one place (p.63), he relates the day that confirmed to him that Mars Hill Church would not be a place where everyone was welcome. Apparently, a family with a troop of children, skilled in the lost art of playing handbells, wanted to have a prominent role in the worship service. After watching them rehearse once, he realized he did not want them playing, or even coming to his church. The interesting thing about this episode, understood from the broader context of the book, is that Driscoll understood that if he was to reach a young adult target audience, he had to find hip, cool music, that would connect with them, in order to both attract and keep them. This is a classic churchapreneur move: find the people, find out what the people want, and then give it to them. That does not necessarily mean you find out what the people who are currently at church want; rather, it means, find out what the target audience, the potential church wants and then make sure its in place if and when they do show up.

That last thought leads us back to churchapreneur basics: goal, strategy, and tactics. The goal is an enthusiastic and expanding customer base; the strategy is to maintain a culturally relevant worship ambiance; and the tactic is worship and programs that really connect with the target audience. Churchapreneurs are very calculating businessmen. They understand that you cannot be successful by targeting everyone, because not everyone is useful for your purposes. So, the savvy and successful churchapreneur finds his target audience first: young and cool, thirty-somethings with growing families, or baby-boomers with empty nests. Once that target audience has been established, then he will be able figure out the precise worship ambiance and tactics that are needed in order to start reeling the new customers in.

Just work with this principle for a moment and you will be able to better understand the churchapreneur around the corner from you. For instance, if the franchise has either a piano, keyboard and acoustic guitar along with a middle aged worship leader, and sings songs out of a song book that sound soft, nice, and inspiring to Ann Murray or Barry Manilow sounding tunes, you know that the target audience is primarily baby boomers with an empty nest. This could be the target because the community is located in a sunbelt area and is inhabited by retirees and AARP members. It could also be this way because the church was once "traditional" in its worship (used an organ, piano, hymnbook, and had no worship leader) but has made the risky decision to become "more attractive" to the younger crowd, so the target audience is really older people, but the ambiance says "hey, we are youth friendly too," or so it thinks. However, if the church uses multiple instruments (guitars, drums, keyboard, etc.,), projects lyrics on multiple large screens (you know, the kind people who still have good eyesight can see), and has a cool looking, fun, spontaneous, light footed guy leading the worship, you are definitely in a franchise that is targeting thirty-somethings with kids. These people are still "young at heart" but worship cannot have the mayhem of a concert because that would set a bad example for the kids. The larger band with the peppy worship leader attracts the younger people (obviously), but maintains the order and consistency that young families need, without all the stuffy formality and traditionalism of the church they grew up in.

HOWEVER, if the franchise has a concert look and feel during worship, as in the example above from the Mars Hill Church, the target audience is clearly the 18-34 demographic. In this case, the churchapreneur knows his target audience is "edgy" and wants no part of the conservative, predictable, half-cool, out of touch and out of style worship that the thirty-somethings with families want. Here, what is unpredictable, trendy (in various sub-cultures), artistic, and creative is what's going to be on tap. This sort of style appeals effectively to the college educated, organically grown coffee-drinking, young adult crowd. Of course, that is not to say that older folk wont be found here, though the ones who do gravitate toward this tend to be the life-long hippie, anti-establishment types or the mid-life crisis types searching for some venue to re-live their younger but all too tame years.

So, what is churchapreneur worship like? Easy, its whatever the target is like; taste the style and you will find the target. That is the genius of the churchapreneur, and the key to growing the business. See, for churchapreneurs, building a business is "as easy as one, two, three." Remember how the original churchapreneur Billy Hybels put it: What is our business? Who is the customer? What does the customer consider value?. If we tweak this pithy little phrase by changing the last question to "what worship style does the customer want?" we will understand how to make it as the next big churchapreneur.

For more information on churchapreneurs and worship, consult the following:

Saturday, November 15, 2008

UFC 91: Couture v. Lesnar

In reading the predictions by the experts about this fight, it looks like a majority side with Randy, but all give Brock a chance based on his size, strength, and wrestling ability. As much as I am a fan of Randy, and think he is all-around the best guy (not best fighter) in the sport, I am going against the majority and am picking Brock. First of all, this is a bad match up at a bad time for Randy. I was watching the UFC 91 preview the other night and they were showing old Randy, you know, before he was old. That Randy was thicker and more powerful, and on account of that, he was able to hang in the heavyweight division against guys who had the mass and size of a Kevin Randleman. Today, Randy is much leaner and lighter, and he just does not have the thickness and strength to keep up with a guy as powerful and massive as Brock. I know Randy has fought guys like Tim Sylvia since moving back up to heavyweight at this lighter, leaner weight, but Tim Sylvia is no comparison to Brock. He is not as strong or mobile, and his base is nowhere near as solid as Brock's, so Randy was able to keep him off balance, tie him up, and use that to get some good strikes and takedowns. That wont happen with Brock though. Second, Randy's clinch game is not going to work on Brock. Brock will be able to shuck the clinch off with his power and keep out of it with his speed. But, if Randy does get a clinch lockup, I think Brock will just use it to ram Randy into the cage, either breaking the clinch or then use it to take Randy down once he has him up against the fence. Third, Randy must be very careful with trying to engage in a striking match up. Yes, Brock has not been tested here. We don't know what kind of a chin he has, and we don't know if is able to allude and block punches and kicks. However, we do know that when guys get close enough for him to connect, he can send them flying across the ring with a short, snappy blow, like he did with Heath Herring. Randy must be very careful if he wants to try to keep this thing standing up. Besides having to fear a counter-strike, he also has to worry about being taken down by Brock if he chooses to stand and trade. So a striking game is going to be difficult to pull off. I think the best striking game plan Randy could come up with is the one Marco Ruas pulled off on a much larger Paul Varelin. but Randy has never shown that kind of game or skill before. If he has developed it in preparation, then hats off to Randy. Fourth, when this fight hits the ground, its not a great place for Randy simply because Brock's size and wrestling skill neutralize Randy's greatest strength. I just don't seem him pulling off a submission, and I don't see him riding a top position and just wearing Brock out. So even on the ground, where on paper, Randy has an edge, I still don't see it working out for him.

I call this fight for Brock somewhere before the end of the fourth round. At some point Brock's size is going to be too much even for a cardio freak like Randy to push around, he will get tired and Brock will secure a stoppage via strikes. I seek the night ending with an interim belt around Brock's waist and hopefully looking forward to a rematch with Frank Mir after he beats Nogueira.

Friday, November 7, 2008

Churchapreneurs: the marks of your local franchise (church)

Given what we have said to this point about churchapreneurs, what we are going to say about the marks of a churchapreneur church won’t come as much of a surprise. What it may do however is explain to you why your church looks and feels like it does. For many Christians, that I meet, they have one of two backgrounds: Roman Catholic or non-denominational Protestant. Those backgrounds leave a profound and lasting impression upon them. The Roman Catholic, though he or she rarely goes to church, knows that church is supposed to be formal, and that all the action in worship is objective and centers around the priest up front who performs the ritual of the Mass, while the non-denominational worshiper knows church is supposed to be casual and all the action in worship is supposed to leave them emotionally charged after the experience. Whether it’s the music, the lighting, the sound system, the skit, or the pastors extra “powerful” message, everything is crafted to make an emotional impact upon the non-denominational worshiper. Beyond that, if you dig deeper with either of these worshipers you will find that for the Roman Catholic they see that church gives them an identity that transcends themselves and their culture, uniting them in identity both with believers in other cultures stretching around the world and with believers in the past; while on the other hand, the non-denominational worshiper finds no such identity in his or her church, save only the shared emotional experience they have with others.

Now, this brief and anecdotal orientation to the two most common worshipers in contemporary North American Christianity is useful background for getting at what one can expect to find at your local franchise (church) and may help some of you understand your religious experience in a way you have not thought of it before. Going back to Chuck Smith, the head of the Calvary Chapel franchise and pioneer churchapreneur, non-denominational churches have been carefully crafted to optimize sales volume and enhance customer satisfaction. Given that aim, it is understandable that these churches are characterized by these three marks:
  • First, churchapreneur churches are personality driven. That is no surprise given the profile of the churchapreneur. He is usually a "type A" personality, gregarious, and highly verbal. This choice to make the churchapreneur church personality driven kills two birds with one stone. On the one hand it helps the person with a Roman Catholic past identify with their new found church. Remember, their past worship experience revolved around the action of the priest up front, who was busy mumbling out the liturgy of the Mass. Whether they understood it all or not, or were even that captivated by it, they still tended to identify their religious experience with the guy up front. So churchapreneurs tapped into that, only with a twist. Instead of mumbling out the liturgy of the Mass, they have replaced the priest with a multitasking pastor who is all at once a cheerleader, coach, and practicing stand-up comedian. On the other hand, the guy with the big presence up front is just good for business. He is the face of the company. Whatever people’s felt needs are, he has anticipated them and knows just how to pitch his product so as to touch a heart in order to close a sale. If tears are needed, he can cry. If laughter is what you like, he can joke. If being vulnerable is what you are after, he can be transparent like nobody’s business. This really “connects” with people, helps them feel like they have finally found that church where people understand them. And hey, after all, Paul said to be all things to all men, right? They are just trying be like Paul. The key to bringing in customers from both target areas of Roman Catholicicm and broad evangelicalism is a big personality up front, so that is exactly what you will find.
  • Second, you will find a church that does not believe in much. They don’t subscribe to any creeds or confessions, and if you bring that up to any body you will be quickly informed that that kind of thing is just traditionalism. If pressed to give any answers about doctrinal basics, you will find that most of these churches have doctrinal statements buried somewhere. But this lack of doctrinal precision is considered a virtue in these churches; after all, Jesus and the apostles did not recite the Apostle’s or Nicene Creed, besides that, if you get too specific in your doctrine, customers are likely to get offended. In that event, “no creed but Christ” works quite well. This of course, is a long way away from historic Christianity as practiced in any major form of its expression, whether that be Roman Catholic, Orthodox, or Protestant. That is kind of the point though. Churchapreneur churches are intentionally designed not to be churchly; they are businesses which need to keep expanding customer bases, and doctrinal faithfulness or expressing unity with the historic Christian churches through confessing the creeds of old is irrelevant to their mission.
  • Third, you will find that these churches are radically independent. This follows from their refusal to confess the faith as Protestants have historically, and beyond that, the great ecumenical creeds of the Christian church. Independence primarily flows from the ethos of the churchapreneur concept. Just review for a moment: Churchapreneurs are businessmen who have been given a divine business plan from God called their “vision.” These “visions” are the result of some conversation with God, an unverified prophecy, dream, or some mystical experience. Such experiences are so highly personal and subjective that its hard to reproduce churches in other places after a similar fashion and to get other pastors to buy into your particular franchise and business plan. Further, the kind of guys who are attracted to churchapreneurship are too independent/arrogant to allow themselves to be cast in someone else’s mold. Calvary Chapel is a notable exception, but I firmly believe the facade of this “movement” will shatter into a thousand pieces as soon as papa Chuck fades off the scene.

So there are the three leading marks of a churchapreneur church: personality driven, non-confessional, and independent. Now, contrast these three marks with the marks of the true church as outlined in Belgic Confession article 29: the preaching of the gospel, the proper administration of the sacraments, and Christian discipline. My challenge to you, if you are in a churchapreneur church, is to think about the three marks of your church. Perhaps you have not thought in this way before. Maybe you just did not know better, or maybe you were a Roman Catholic by background and you were told that formalism and institutionalism was the problem with the Catholics and what you really needed was a simple Jesus and heart-warming worship. Well, that is not true, what you need for your spiritual well-being is a true church, which confesses and proclaims the Biblical Christ, and not a commercial enterprise. Compare the marks of your current church over against the marks of a true church as outlined in the Belgic Confession and see for yourself, from the word of God, which one is Biblical.

More churchapreneur websites:

true churches: