Kodak is the textbook example of a successful company that failed to adapt to major changes in its core business. In a spectacular example of mismanagement and organizational hubris, it failed to anticipate the transition from photographic film to digital photography.
An organization’s Kodak moment occurs when peak success gives way to rapid changes in culture and the marketplace, producing a diminished organization unable or unwilling to adapt.
Is the American Church facing its own Kodak moment? Has it begun the inexorable slide towards ineffective witness, waning influence and spiritual complacency? Those questions hit me hard as I read John Dickerson’s book, The Great Evangelical Recession.
He documents 6 “Kodak moment” trends of decline in the American Church:
- We are an inflated church. – Evangelicals aren’t as big as we think we are. We likely comprise about 7% of the U.S. population or around 22 million people.
- We are a hated church. – It’s clear that the host culture is turning against Bible-believing Christianity in the United States. On a wide range of issues from abortion to homosexuality, Christians are seen as intolerant, bigoted and backwards.
- We are a divided church. – Evangelical unity has been undermined by doctrinal, political and social divisions that further marginalize and reduce our influence.
- We are a bankrupt church. – We are faced with the prospect of declining financial Wresources as older giving generations die off and younger generations give less.
- We are a bleeding church. – Millennials and other young people are leaving the church in large numbers. Many see it as irrelevant or unresponsive to their idea of a difference-making faith.
- We are a sputtering church. – Evangelicals are not making disciples like we should and we are unable, or unwilling, to evangelize the lost like we used to. As a result, each succeeding U.S. generation is less Christian than its predecessor.
Have we arrived at a point of no return? I believe the American Church is closer than it’s ever been to an irreversible slide to obscurity. With each year, the road back to spiritual vitality grows longer and harder.
But there is hope.
We rightly define growing Christian churches by their worship and their witness. They are purposeful places of discipleship, ministry, evangelism and missions. They are Great Commission and Great Commandment places of authentic Christian fellowship and community.
We have to be those things again. We must:
- Love and worship God above anything else.
- Demonstrate unselfish love for unchurched people.
- Value Kingdom-oriented, disciple-making outcomes.
- Do more with less and become focused stewards of limited financial resources.
- Address culture directly and confront difficult issues graciously.
So what’s the Big Idea?
The way back to spiritual renewal and revival begins with loving the right things. We must love Christ more than the world, love others more than ourselves, and love the Kingdom of God more than our material possessions. That’s the path to a spiritually vibrant and growing American Church.
- Fresh Wind, Fresh Fire by Jim Cymbala
- The Great Evangelical Recession by John S. Dickerson
- The Last Christian Generation by Josh McDowell and David H. Bellis
- The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White
- You Lost Me by David Kinnaman
- “7 Encouraging Trends in Global Christianity” by Aaron Earls, Facts & Trends
- “Live an Everyday Life on Mission” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
- “Memphis Matters” on Serve. Grow. Lead.
John S. Dickerson, The Great Evangelical Recession: 6 Factors That Will Crash the American Church…and How to Prepare (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2013) 21-120.