The Church of Radio Shack

Radio Shack Last Day

I’m standing in a post-apocalyptic scene.  Disheveled shelves.  A barren store.  No sign of life.  It’s the last day of Radio Shack’s existence, and it is sad.

For the man behind the counter, “mad” might better describe his attitude.  He greeted me with a snarky, “Welcome to what’s left of Radio Shack,” as well as many other much saltier comments I won’t repeat here.  Apparently, they had given him virtually no notice he would be out of a job, and they had even closed the store earlier than planned.

Today wasn’t supposed to be the last day, and yet here I was, sifting through antiquated computer accessories for 95% off.  It wasn’t always this way.  Radio Shack actually had a mission back in the day.  Electronics hobbyists loved this place.  They sold things like pagers and VHS tape rewinders back when people actually needed pagers and VHS tape rewinders.

The problem with Radio Shack is they didn’t evolve as the market evolved.  They were a tech company that didn’t stay on top of technology.  They were selling home answering machines when no one had a home phone anymore.  In hindsight, it’s easy to see why Radio Shack’s empire crumbled, but it’s also obvious they either didn’t see it coming or weren’t brave enough to make changes.  They decided to stay comfortable instead of press on.

I think there’s a lesson here for churches:  Churches that act like Radio Shacks will end up like Radio Shacks.  I know firsthand how hard it is to bring change to a church.  It feels like steering a cruise ship.  It takes time, energy, investment, visioncasting and a lot of love.  It’s not easy, but it can be done.  I remember fighting to get lyrics projected in a church decades ago.  There were some who viewed video projection as a violation of the second commandment.  I remember fighting to allow the guitar to have a place alongside the piano on a church stage.  Recently, I successfully navigated the process of adding haze and moving lights.  Progress is an uphill battle, and we shouldn’t expect it to be any different.

It gets intensely practical for me when I receive negative feedback.  I thought our church did an “A+” job on Easter of presenting ourselves to the community, and most people agreed.  But there’s always that one guy, that one email.  He began the email by complimenting how the church had doubled in size in the past few years.  Then he went on to list the things he would like changed — for example the length of the songs (which are 4 minutes on average, by the way).  It failed to dawn on him that the changes he opposed were precisely the reasons why we had grown.

Progress isn’t supposed to be easy.  If ministry is easy, you’re probably coasting.  You’re probably resting.  You’re probably comfortable.  Just remember, Radio Shack was comfortable too.

Let Radio Shack be a warning to us all.  Everyday, we must fight against fossilization in our churches.  The last thing we want to do is to look back in a few years on a post-apocalyptic scenes — empty parking lots, empty pews and abandoned buildings — and wonder what happened.

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