The video store is dead.
This is not really news. The video store has been on life support for years. And in some rural communities Mom and Pop movie rental shops are still hanging in there.
But after years of fighting a terminal, self-inlicted disease, Blockbuster finally decided to shutter its final 300 stores.
There will be many blogs and thinkpieces written with lessons to be learned from the death of the American video store. Perhaps the most relevant lesson to the church is in Blockbuster’s reluctancy to evolve.
Blockbuster was late to the game against Netflix and on-demand entertainment. In the mid 2000’s, what once was exciting about going to the video store was replaced by the convenience of digital on demand entertainment.
Blockbuster hung in there. They built a DVD by mail service. They tried to eliminate the idea of late fees. They even marketed their own Redbox competitor Blockbuster Express. But the once dominant company was too late to the scene each time. The home entertainment world passed by Blockbuster and left it to die.
The American video store has become an artifact because it refused to evolve. Many prognosticators say the American church will die as well if it refuses to evolve. The culture is changing rapidly and the church must change along with it to remain relevant.
Or should it?
Many believe the church will wither away if it does not conform to the culture of the day. I feel the opposite. The church must hold tight to what it was built upon and refuse to change.
Allow me to clarify: The church must never stop researching, questioning, and learning new things about God’s word and God’s will. The Bible is a living document. New generations will always ask new questions and learn new answers about God.
There are many areas where the church would be well served to evolve. There’s no good reason for the church to be so uptight about what people wear, where people sit, when people meet, and what people sing. (There’s a great book called Pagan Christianity? which highlights the unbiblical reasons behind many of the church’s most common practices.)
There are also many well-researched and helpful new translations of the Bible out there. (I’m a fan of The Voice translation myself.) New Bible translations help us pull closer to the original intent of God’s message.
While our translations may evolve, the truth of God’s word must remain constant. The church must avoid the temptation to evolve on what it believes. As much as there is room for debate and interpretation, there are undoubtedly inerrant truths in the Bible as well.
The mainstream culture wants to eliminate Jesus from the conversation, or at least turn Him into a simple prophet. The world wants to offer a wide path to eternity. The world wants to offer political correctness and safety and freedom to live and do whatever whenever.
The temptation is for the church to do the same. The world wants the church to accept all ways of life. The world wants the church to not be so judgmental. The world doesn’t understand why the church talks so much about sin.
But just because the culture evolves does not mean the church should.
What the world does not always understand is that God does not want to condemn His people. He wants to redeem them. A redemptive love is not the same as an accepting love.
Holding strong to this truth will make inevitably make the church politically incorrect. But we have to hold strong believing the message of God’s love is timeless. The church must resist the temptation to blend in and be bold enough to be culturally outdated.
The church should not be afraid to ask questions, research, and dig deeper into the questions and uncertainties in the Bible.
But the church is not a video store. The church will not be put out of business because of a failure to evolve.
What will make the church strong will be resistance to cultural evolution. Trying to keep up with the culture of the world is a foolish pursuit. The church must resist the temptation to evolve simply because of what the world demands and be willing to be culturally left behind.
You will be hated by all nations because of My name. Then many will take offense, betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. Because lawlessness will multiply, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be delivered. (Matthew 24:9-14)
I’d love your input on this topic. Do you think the church should evolve as the culture does? What are the biggest obstacles facing the church in today’s world? What are the truths you think the church should fight for?