The newspaper headline surprised me: “Blockbuster Declares Bankruptcy.” What happened? How did a company that was once a central part of our culture become irrelevant?
Movies always played an important role in my life. I grew up in rural Arkansas where they had only one Movie Theater. It wasn’t unusual for me to spend most of a Saturday catching the latest double feature.
· I learned to appreciate history watching, “Longest Day.”
· The first time I was scared out of my wits was watching, “The Mask.”
· When walking by groups of birds or going to the beach I still remember, “The Birds” and “Jaws.”
· There were the teenage date flicks: “Romeo and Juliet” and “Love Story.”
· I’m not sure what was learned but I watched every “James Bond” adventure.
· Even my young faith was partially shaped by “Godspell” and “Jesus Christ Superstar.”
As a young adult, I eagerly purchased a VCR. Not long afterward movie rentals caught on and soon became ingrained as part of our culture. Bad weather sent more parents to buy videos than groceries. I guess you could always find something to eat but keeping our children entertained was a necessity.
I became a customer of Blockbuster video while serving as pastor of three churches within central Virginia. We were protesting the sale of “adult” videos at our local video store. A church member told me about a chain of stores, “Blockbuster” and how they refused to rent pornography.
I decided to check them out. The first thing I noticed was the friendly greeting from employees upon entering. I later learned this was part of their training. I was impressed and soon became a regular customer often driving 30 miles out of my way to rent the latest movie from Blockbuster Video.
What happened? Did people stop watching movies? Of course not, but the way we watched movies changed over the years. At first Blockbuster seemed to adapt as formats progressed from Beta to VHS, from Laser Disc to DVD. In fact people are watching more movies at home than ever.
But companies like Netflix made it more convenient to receive movies by ordering online and receiving them at home. Other companies like Amazon made it even easier providing movies that were downloaded directly to your computer or to a video recorder. Blockbuster slow to adapt reacted with too little, too late and eventually dwindled in size and influence.
So why am I telling you this story?
I love Jesus Christ and for nearly thirty years, I’ve dedicated myself to serving the church. In the midst of change and stress, I’ve discovered answers and a sense of peace only God can provide.
David describes it beautifully in Psalm 62: “I wait quietly before God, for my hope is in Him. He alone is my rock and my salvation, my fortress where I will not be shaken. My salvation and my honor come from God alone. He is my refuge, a rock where no enemy can reach me. O my people trust in him at all times. Pour out your heart, for God is our refuge.” (Psalm 62:5-8)
I still love watching movies occasionally but God now plays the central role in my life:
· I’ve learned a new sense of history from a God oriented perspective.
· At times I’ve been scared out of my wits but God is my rock and salvation.
· I have a newfound appreciation and respect for all of God’s creation.
· I cherish a deeper “Love Story” for others and for God.
· I still occasionally watch James Bond but I’ve discovered a more fulfilling adventure.
· My faith and trust in God has deepened and matured over the years.
For centuries, the central place to learn about God and live out your faith was within a local church. But in the United States and Europe, fewer people are now living out their faith within God’s church. Has the church been slow to adapt to a changing culture? Like Blockbuster, have we responded with too little, too late?
Yes. I do believe the church in many ways has been agonizingly slow to offer God’s guidance in the midst of our changing culture. No. I don’t believe it is too late or that the church will ever go bankrupt.
However, we can heed the warnings and learn from Blockbusters mistakes.
During a time of fasting, prayer and Bible study I’ve also been reading how various businesses, individuals and groups responded to our rapidly changing environment. Some failed like Blockbuster because they missed the significance of what was occurring all around them. Others thrived in the midst of those changes.
Both, the successes and the failures offer valuable lessons on how the church can be more relevant as we communicate the unchanging always life-transforming, grace of God.
Next: Stay tuned… as we look together for answers. What do you think? I will also be sharing comments from my Facebook friends who have been helping me with these issues over the last several months. Send me an email at LarryDavies@SowingSeedsofFaith.com. As space permits I hope to share your answers too.