The decline of the cost of information has a disrupting effect on institutions - sometimes helpful, sometimes unhelpful. An example would be the role that Gutenberg's printing press played in the Protestant Reformation. The ability to print information facilitated the spread of Protestant Reformation ideas and therefore the movement. The radio also helped to change history - think of the impact of FDR's radio addresses on the United States during WWII. The television has had a similar effect and, today, the Internet is continuing to illustrate what happens when information becomes cheaper.
These information declines render some organizations unnecessary and change the ways that others function. Denominations are not immune from this phenomenon.
One result seems to be that as denominations are declining in their influence, certain effective individual churches seem to be increasing in the impact that they have on the visible church as a whole. Some have called these churches "Lighthouse Churches." It remains to be seen if denominations will be able to reconfigure in time to fully adapt to and take advantage of our new information situation.
Kent Shaffer of Church Relevance has posted a fascinating list of what he terms "The Top 22 Churches in America."
Shaffer culled this list by finding the 22 churches that made at least 5 of the following 7 lists:
- 07 AMIC = Outreach magazine’s 2007 America’s 25 Most Innovative Churches
- 06 FGC = Outreach magazine’s 2006 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
- 06 LC = Outreach magazine’s 2006 100 Largest U.S. Churches
- 06 MIC = The Church Report’s 2006 50 Most Influential Churches
- 05 FGC = Outreach magazine’s 2005 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
- 05 MIC = The Church Report’s 2005 50 Most Influential Churches
- 04 FGC = Outreach magazine’s 2004 100 Fastest-Growing U.S. Churches
Using these same lists, Shaffer's also compiled a list of over 250 churches in the US called Churches to Watch that are divided by state.
Care must be taken when examining such lists and Lighthouse Churches. Churches transform communities because of effective people of talent and character. It is easy to be distracted by the programs of Lighthouse Churches into thinking that a mere duplication of those programs will also duplicate results. We must avoid an inappropriate megachurch triumphalism that fails to recognize how absolutely foundational Spirit-filled and Spirit-gifted people are to megachurch program effectiveness. (We've elaborated on this here.)
That critical caution being expressed, we can nevertheless learn from such churches and see how they have optimized various people-systems for kingdom impact.
Related Articles or Posts:
- When the Church is its own Worst Enemy
- Leadership Formation and the Declining Cost of Information
- Intentionally Missional Communities
image courtesy of Aleš Čerin @ stock.xchng
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