Thursday, October 03, 2013

Running With Dad

I'm quite impressed with my old man.  On the rare times I find myself in his town, without fail, he is always up for a run.  He is 67, looks about 53, which is a testament to his religious adherence to running regularly, diet (primarily salads) and no drinking.  He can't bang out 9 miles at a 7:30 minute mile rate, but he can do 5 at a decent clip which puts him and his cardiovascular system in the top 2% of his age group.

However he is also old AND also "with it."  He doesn't need hand holding.  His mind is still sharp and this combination allows him not only to have wisdom but to make observations and think things through resulting in interesting epiphanies.  So when we run I'm not tolerating a discussion with somebody just for the sake of having somebody to talk to, nor am I wishing I had my MP3 player so I could listen to a more interesting podcast, I'm simply discussing things with him.

In our latest run he was talking about a church in Milwaukee.  He was a pastor and kind of keeps tabs on "the industry."  And apparently there is this "rock star" of a pastor coming out who is turning one of Milwuakee's ghettos into a nice place (of course while the Milwaukee's teachers union and leftist thugs fight against it).  Regardless, the pastor, paraphrased from my dad said something to the extent,

"The future of the congregation and religion in general is not going to be buildings, but the internet, podcasts, and Youtube videos."

I had never thought of that.

Like radio, the "religion industry" is headed up by old farts who largely are incapable of seeing how the internet will shove an entirely different business model down their throats.  Young people don't want to spend the money on gas going to church, let alone sit with a bunch of old farts who want to sing and go through 45 minutes of BS just to get to a sermon that might be marginally good.  Additionally, they don't have the money to tithe, those that donate in the first place.  But notice how something as simple as podcasting can completely revolutionize religion.

First, people are not stuck with the pastor sent to their local community.  Like podcasting, they can go on the internet, select from thousands of podcasting pastors.

Second convenience.  No more wakey wakey at 6AM to catch the early service.  You download it, put it on your MP3 player, and go running while listening to Reverned Bob tell you about St. Paul's letter to the Corinthians.

Third, no more buildings.  Again, like radio, buildings and capital equipment are expensive.  But with the internet and podcasting, nearly all capital expenses are eliminated.  A rock, solid pastor with a laptop and internet access can smoke any established old fart pastor with the church's largest temple.  He can also attract more donations, a higher percentage of which now can be donated to his personal Jimmy Swaggart account, uh...err...ummm...."go to charity."

Fourth, higher quality sermons.  Not just because people can choose from more pastors, but with out all the singing, rehearsing or (god forbid you're Catholic) standing,kneeling,jumping, squatting,calisthenics, that leaves more time for the sermon.  Also, the pastor only has to record it ONCE.  He doesn't have to do late service, early service, Saturday service, etc.  He just uploads it and they're off to the races.

There are other benefits, but like all old, established organizations, I'm very interested to see if the old guard will embrace these changes (as they would not doubt immeasurably improve the quality and religious life for many religious followers) or if they will fight against them because it would undermine their control and force some of them to give up their fiefdoms.

Guess where my money's on!


Anonymous said...

It is probably worth noting that a church (ideally) isn't just somewhere you go to get inspirational sermons. It is also a place that makes it easier to meet and form bonds with like-minded people that (hopefully) have similar morals, priorities, culture and work ethic.

I know that with my church group the people I meet and the services and advice we provide for each other are far more valuable than any of the sermons. And while you could certainly make friends with online religious fellows a spiritual brother that lives five states away isn't much help when a storm has toppled a tree onto your garage and you need five guys with chainsaws to show up over the weekend and help you move it.

Also, many religions include a ritual component that can't be digitized. You can't stream communion or download a sacrament.

So while many churches could probably benefit from enhancing their product with high-quality online content I think that regular physical meetings will still be seen as a vital component to the church experience for years to come.

Stingray said... - Father Robert Barron has been on this for years. Of course, being Catholic, we still have to go to church on Sunday. ;)

Completely off topic, I thought you would like this:

Paul, Dammit! said...

I dunno... Catholic mass is pretty reserved, and the homily is usually only 5-7 minutes, so the Catholic Calisthenics helps and it keeps the blue-hairs limber.
I'm not sure I could agree with the value of podcasts as anything other than a supplemental value. The actual service, and imbued connection to community is valueable to a person's well-being in a time when it's damn near impossible to commit to anything.
This may be the Papist in me shining through- we're big on ceremony and tradition. Still, things like the Book of Hours (daily reading) would be greatly enhanced. Other meditation-inducing activities like the Rosary (insert hate here) wouldn't work at all as a podcast, as inducing an alpha-wave mental state (repetitive chanting does this) while awake requires direct participation. No point in committing time to things like that if you don't come out feeling like you're at peace with yourself.

dienw said...

You overlooked one aspect: taxes; the internet creates an informal church: there is no building and, most importantly, no 501(3)(c)"requirement"; the informal church can speak of things which the IRS would disapprove.

Eric S. Mueller said...

That's a development I'm excited about. I've reached a point where church SERVICE bores the crap out of me. Even with a paid worship pastor, they're incapable of singing more than 6-8 different songs over the course of a year. But the pastor is pretty good. I meet with a small group on Sunday so as not to "forsake the assembling together", but I download the sermons and listen to them on my phone during the week so I don't have to sit through a service.

earl said...

Plus as can't get the sacraments through the internet.

For me anyway...that's my primary motivation to go there. Sure the readings and homilies are worth listening to and meeting people is great but you can't get the Eucharist or confessions in secret any other place.

Richard said...

As a long time distance educator, I have to agree that there are some aspects of the Church that could easily and effectively go digital. Much of the teaching ministry could benifit from these methods.
As mentioned above, the electronic Church leaves out the fellowship aspect. And fellowship is a big part of my church experience. This was an area I was never able to adequately capture in my online classes. So for folks like me, my money is still on the brick and mortar model.
The 501(3)(c) aspect is something that is going to have to soon be addressed by serious churches.

The Plague Doctor said...

Nope, this is what the internet will do.

Theo P. said...

My old church (I moved 400 miles away) had every single sermon since about 1978 available to any anyone to listen to for free in the library (which was open about 30 hours a a week), about 200 to sell at any given time for about the price of lunch, and the ability to get any sermon custom burned in a day or two. This was fairly high-tech stuff until recently, and they are METICULOUS--four different sermons, five open lunches, and three classes every single week for decades. Last I checked, the last year's sermons were all available on the website for free. And don't get the wrong impression. I knew half of the A/V crew personally, and they run on a shoestring budget, and webcast everything live.

Anonymous said...

So you're the son of a preacher man, but didn't you say you're also "technically Jewish" too!?! You need to write a book on this crazy stuff! There aren't many people with that kind of background.

My suspicion with religion, however, is the complete opposite of yours. The nerds can now dig up all the scripture and commentary they want. Religion will become much less for ignorant rubes, and more for the social capital.

Materialistic iconoclasm looks more prole than prestigious every day. American religion is going to look more like its European counterpart socially, being more of an upper class thing, but with far healthier demographics and sincerity.