The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment

We walked through the nearly empty, formerly flourishing space of the Kodak manufacturing plant near our home. The plant manager, a friend from church, sadly described how Kodak plants had been downsizing and closing ever since the advent of digital photography.

“We have a wish here,” he said. “We just want to be the last one standing.” Kodak since abandoned most of its space on this campus. This week the company announced the latest job eliminations.

My friend from church is gone. And I wonder. Is the church the next to go the way of Kodak? I see some chilling parallels.

Kodak dominated the photographic scene for over 100 years. It commanded an 89 percent market share of photographic film sales in the United States. Almost everyone used the brand. And the company’s advertising language of a “Kodak moment” became part of the common lexicon.

What happened since then has become a colossal story of failure and missed opportunities. A gigantic casualty in the wake of digital photography–a technology that Kodak invented.

That’s right. Kodak engineer Steve Sasson invented the first digital camera in 1975. He later said, “But it was filmless photography, so management’s reaction was, ‘That’s cute, but don’t tell anyone about it.'” And the company entered into decades of agonizing decline, unable to perceive and respond to the advancing digital revolution. In 2012 this American icon filed for bankruptcy.

How could this happen? Where did the leaders of this once-proud organization go wrong? And how might the American church, which has also entered a time of decline, resemble this story?


1. A misunderstanding of mission. Kodak’s leaders thought they were in the film business–instead of the imaging business. Their clutching of the traditional methodology clouded their ability to think about the real objective and outcome of their work. The same is happening in churches that confuse their methodologies and legacies with the real mission. Many church leaders believe they’re in the traditional preaching business, the teaching business, the Sunday morning formula business. Clinging to the ways these things have been done diverts the focus from the real mission of helping people today develop an authentic and growing relationship with the real Jesus.

2. Failure to read the times. Kodak’s leaders didn’t recognize the pace and character of change in the culture. They thought people would never part with hard prints. They derided the new technology. They assumed that people, even if they wandered off to try digital photography, would return to film-based photos for the perceived higher quality. People did not return. Similarly, church leaders who assume that the current church decline is just a cyclical blip, will be left to sweep out the empty factories of 20th Century religion.

3. Fear of loss. A central reason Kodak chose not to pursue digital photography in 1992 was the fear of cannibalizing their lucrative sales of film. Kodak had become a hostage of its own success, clinging to what worked in the past at the expense of embracing the future. The same tendency befalls churches. A pastor in our upcoming documentary, When God Left the Building, said his church will not make any changes to become more effective because someone will inevitably object and get upset. “We abdicate every time,” he said. “We just can’t lose any more members.” That congregation is already dead. They just don’t know it.


The Kodak story didn’t need to take such a dismal turn. And neither does the story of the American church. The times call for proactive steps for a brighter future, if we’re willing to learn from others’ mistakes. Some thoughts to consider:

1. Accept and understand reality. Even though some of the decline is slow, it’s real. The American church is fading. (See the cold facts in our new book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore.) Work through the data and the realities with your staff and lay leaders. Do not be misled by anecdotal glimmers of numerical growth in isolated examples. Examine the overall trends in the country. And look past the easy measures of butts in seats, and ask deeper questions about true spiritual vitality. And, resist the temptation to defend the status quo.

2. Don’t just tweak. Revolutionize. Once digital photography began to take off, Kodak tried tweaking their old models. It was a case of too little too late. Many churches today are tweaking with cosmetic changes–in music, church names, and pastoral facial hair. A church leader in our documentary said if his traditional church would just install screens, the people will come. They won’t. It’s too late for tweaking. It’s time to re-examine everything we’re doing and re-evaluate. Ask big questions. Is the old Sunday morning formula of half singalong and half lecture what works anymore? Is that performance on Sunday morning really how we want to define the sum total of the church anyway?

3. Take some risks. Experiment. Act now. At Group Publishing and Lifetree Cafe, we talk with hundreds of pastors and church leaders every week, many of whom are discouraged. As we brainstorm with them about changes they might try to enhance their ministries, some sink into paralysis. “People may not like the change,” they say. “What if it doesn’t work?” And we ask, “What are you afraid of?” It’s time to have some faith–faith that God will walk with the faithful who are willing to step out and risk a little love on his behalf. Try something. Experiment. Let your people experiment. Be bold. Don’t delay.

Kodak failed and squandered tremendous opportunities because its leaders chose to defend the status quo. We can learn from their mistakes. And we have an additional resource on our side–God. He’s not giving up on his church. He’s already moving into the future. We need to muster the courage to move with him.

108 Responses to “The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment”

  1. Amen to your insightful (and rather frightening) comments. I am a pastor who is 65 years old. I’ve served many churches of several kinds in several states for forty years, including living for a year as missionaries in South Africa. From our experience in planting, growing, repairing, and even burying churches, I think we have missed the mark. We have failed at our primary mission found in the original Great Commission: to make disciples. Jesus succeeded with a few men and thus changed the world. We try to plant churches, get crowds, win more, and end up simply having a little colony of weak Christians who have no power to impact the people of their city. If I had it to do all over again…

    • Amen brother, our first mission is to preach the Gospel and right after that is to make disciples. If we lose our focus the church suffers. I honestly believe that is we do these two things to the best or our ability with the guidance of the Holy Spirit the church will grow and be strong, if now it will be weak, there may be an auditorium full of bodies but a weak and feeble church.

    • I wrote in response to Kurt:

      “I have known clergy (of more than one denomination) who were like lost sheep trying to be shepherds without knowing Christ and therefore not even being part of His Body. There are others who obviously know the Lord and have His life in them in spite of being part of a religious system that preaches a false Gospel.”

      This is one reason why the subject of “Church growth” is such a confusing one. First you have to define what you mean by “Church”. Then you have to decide what “Growth” involves and how to recognise and nurture it.

      If the Church is indeed the “Body of Christ” then all denominations or groupings having the name of “church” are merely organisations that may increase or decrease, help or hinder, support or seek to destroy the growth of the true Church.

      A body needs air, food, and other things that make life possible. It may also need a chair to sit on if it is tired, medicine, bandages or crutches if it is sick or injured. But what really defines a body is not the house it lives in but the LIFE that is within it.

      Church unity and church growth are not to do with “bums on seats” or growing a business organisation, (though the “Kodak Parable” is still relevant), but with the life of Christ flowing through all true Christians. And even in the natural a body is able to recognise its own. That is why transplant patients are so prone to rejection of the transplanted organs – their body recognises that this new organ is not part of itself and this results in conflict, probably reduction in growth and eventually perhaps even death.

      But the true Church will (whether we are aware of it or not) will continue to live and grow, and in the end be victorious, because of the victory won by Jesus through the Cross.

    • I think a big problem is human nature trying to do thr work of the Holy Spirit. We substitute programs and strategies for the Gifts of the Spirit. If we appreciated and practised these gifts, the needs of people would be met and we wouldn’t be able to cope with the queues of people longing for reality instead of religion.

      Can I share a testimony? A traditional church in South Africa was battling to survive and the Pastor decided to seriously seek God. True story. He locked himself in his office and asked to be left alone. His testimony was that he started to pray. After a few minutes, he ran out of things to pray. He wasn’t used to spending that kind of time with God. He asked his secretary to bring him the membership roll and he prayed for them. After about an hour, he ran out of things to pray for. So he just lay on his face before God. I am not sure how long he spent in his office. I just know the Spirit of God came upon him.

      Sunday morning he stepped out of his office and into the pulpit. He said he preached an ordinary sermon, no different to any other he normally prepared, but as he spoke people began weeping and repenting, falling on their knees and crying out to God for mercy. He didn’t know what to do so he retreated back into his office. He looked out of the window and saw a long queue of people waiting to see him. He opened the door and as people stepped over the threshold, God met with them supernaturally. He said couples were reconciled, people were healed, lives were changed… He was just a spectator as the Gifts of the Spirit flawed freely.

      That church has become a lighthouse and is growing every day. It’s people are ministering and touching lives as the fresh Wind of the Spirit blows. It is still a denominational church in name, but now it is a CHURCH. May they continue to walk humbly with The Lord and allow the Holy Spirit to minister through them as they have been doing for a number of years now.

    • What’s more important – Jesus or His message? I’ve tried to return several times to the church I grew up with – a church that was terrific because of the love and the community. But the services haven’t changed in 30 years and if anything the sermons have just gone further into the bible (I would say they have become more conservative). Are you prepared to recognize that many of us will see the bible not as THE book, but as a book to be used for wisdom and insight – along with many others. My church of youth allowed those of us who questioned our faith to still sit in the pews and listen to sermons that helped us deal with issues we felt were due to a non-loving world. As the church has shrunk, the pastors kept getting more conservative and alienated all but the true believers. So I ask you – are you prepared to stop trying to shove the bible down my throat? I want to sit next to you. I want to sing with you. I believe in the teachings of Christianity, but not in a god, Do I have a place? Maybe not, but I do miss those Sunday morning hugs and the community.And I am not alone – the church lost my generation.

  2. Erica wrote on Facebook: “I took a class on this topic last year…about how Kodak, Blockbuster, and Borders failed to adapt to changing times and consumer demands. Really interesting to think about how that relates to the church.”

  3. Kodak’s demise didn’t eliminate imaging – only one form of it. “The Church” is not dying – only the North American form of which we have become so very fond. Jesus Christ promised that that gates of hell would not prevail against His church, that His church would not fail. He promised to build His church – he never promised to build My church or Your church. Our language fails us (i.e. church vs. congregation) but the promises of Jesus stand forever.

  4. Doug wrote on Facebook: “I see the ‘Kodak moment’ every weekend as I speak in faith communities all over America. If the church could muster up the humility to admit that maybe God wants to use “lost” people to help us get found, we might be able to recover.”

  5. On Facebook, Andrew wrote: “Businesses obviously need to develop and implement strategy well to survive through industry changes (of which Kodak utterly failed to do). The debate is whether or not strategy should be in the wheelhouse of church leadership… Some would say that that’s the Holy Spirit’s job (though I wouldn’t without caveats).”

    • Strategic planning belongs in a church just as much as it belongs in a secular organization. Christ is the Head of the Church – of the Body of Christ; and each individual church is part of that Body. We live in an ever changing world even as we serve a never changing God. If we do not understand the changes and their implications our own local part of the Body of Christ will not likely survive. Strategic planning and managed execution are essential to a church’s ability to “go make disciples” in the world around it. What we must remember is that our planning process must be based on the Word, and must be guided by the Spirit.

  6. Superb post, Thom. The parallels between this former market leader and today’s church is undeniable. I think a lot of church planters think to themselves, “Well, First ______Church is Kodak, but I’m Canon!” They don’t realize the whole Sunday morning model is Kodak. The church must begin innovating now if the next generation is to be reached.

  7. Why let the brand die? Kodak can ( and should ) re-invent itself and come back bigger & stronger in the future….

  8. David wrote on Facebook: “Living in the shadow of Kodak and knowing so many friends who aren’t interested in church I couldn’t agree more. The Church, true God-followers, need to meet people where they are and LISTEN, and then earn the right to share why we love to let God lead!”

  9. On Facebook, Julie wrote: “Interesting insight. I think of the church often as a dying institution. I certainly don’t see it as Google, or Apple or Amazon…..but more like myspace or Detroit.”

  10. Rather than asking the pastors what think, why ask people what they think of the church. The church should not try please the people. Jesus went around sharing as he found people. We must stand on the side of truth no matter what happens. But before hitting them over the he head w the bible, lets get to know them and ask them to share their thoughts. Where does their hope come from? How do they find peace? Conversation without judgement is part of the solution..if that is what He wants.

  11. Loved it! I have dialogued with a lot of people in my are including ministers. The last one was a the minister of a new church that meets at 9.15am on Sunday morning. I tried to show him that most people want a church that does not meet Sunday morning. How do I know this? It is very simple.

    None of the churches around here that meet Sunday morning are growing.because the people that want to meet Sunday morning are already doing so which is usually about 10% of the population.

    That means that 90% of the population is looking for something different. Not one meeting on one day at one time. They are looking for all sorts of meetings because society is very diverse.Because you do not meet on Sunday morning and use the sing/communion/preach model does not mean you are not a church.

    My next venture is a cafe church on Saturday 11am-3pm focussing on those that are fatherless. Will it work? I don’t know but I do know one thing. We will never know until we do it.

  12. The “church” that fails to use the Word and the power of the Word has and is failing. In and thru the study of the Word in and under the Holy Spirit, we have the Power of God Almighty. We are to seek and serve His plans rather than what “the people” May wish and want. People are still seeking and All of the answers are in His Word, so let’s “feed them”.

  13. I am not sure if it is as much as the church not keeping up with the times as it is the church not keeping up with the Holy Spirit, we know that no one comes to Jesus unless the Spirit draws them. I am not stuck on tradition and have no problem with services on Saturday night instead of Sunday morning and am not stuck on the formula we have been using, in fact I really don’t like using formulas in the first place. I am convinced that if we let the Holy Spirit lead the “Services”, whenever and where-ever they are, and get out of the way we will see people there. If God is there He will draw men and women to him. People will sit in the heat of a Texas summer in a tent in the middle of a field if God is there, I have seen it! But if God is not there you can have the most comfortable space on the day everyone wants and they will not consistently show up! Its not about the time or place, it is about following God’s leading, listening to the guidance of His Holy Spirit and letting Him have his way in the services. If we do this we will fill our churches, regardless of when or where it is!
    In short, it is not about us or our plans or ideas, it is all about Him, if we let Him lead there will be good fruit, if we do it our way the fruit will be poor and not desirable.

  14. I don’t see this as a Kodak moment for the church. Humanity is predictable. This country is doing exactly what Israel did after king Solomon. We are just getting worse and worse with every generation and we will continue until we destroy ourselves. Peoples hearts are not turning to gods of wood and stone as in those days, but in stead, a heart of covetousness for gods of plastic and electronics. AND these gods, you can even talk to and they answer back. Who has time for God or even cares?

  15. Can you please elaborate on what you mean by “experiment”? Because I think you using a potentially dangerous term.

    • Mike, I’m not sure what is driving your fear of the concept of experimenting. I’m not suggesting experimentation or tinkering with the message of Christ. I’m referring to experimentation with ministry methodology. For instance, when we meet, where we meet, how we communicate, how we relate to one another, how we reach out to others, etc. In our book we suggest many practical ways to become more effective, using what we call the 4 Acts of Love.

      • Roger Lloyd Schultz January 26, 2014 at 4:35 pm

        Of course you must not tinker with the message of Christ, but we all must revisit the sources as a corrective to what the Church has declared that message to be–even for centuries! If we’d get that right for once, the rest might just follow.

  16. Is this a parable or a case study? If it’s a case study, then the issue is one of technological change, and perhaps about meeting the needs of consumers rather than maintaining market share. if so, then it may not be applicable to the mission of the church, a mission which, presumably, hasn’t changed in the past two thousand (three thousand?) years. If it is a parable about not adapting, it may be applicable. The danger is that we see things in the for-profit sphere and think that they are applicable to a non-profit like the church – but an economist would say that they are two very different types of organisations.

    • Bruce . . very insightful and analytical. I believe it important to look at problems objectively and subjectively. . . that is, our subjectivity falls short of God’s objective. the call is to allign our technological understanding to comply with God’s logic and which was manifested and spoken by Christ . . . “I do always those things that please the Heavenly Father . . John 8:29.

      What is the true need of lost man? Is it not to return to agreeing with God instead of agreeing with the world and Satan? Man will only come to God’s eternal perspective when man gets sick enough from eating with the hogs and he turns to God and the only hope that man has. instead of operating in personal conclusions that come only thru self discernment rather than Holy Revelation.
      As to being ‘applicable to a situation’ . . . how about coming to the desparate point of agreeing with Christ’s conclusion when he prayed, “Father, forgive them, for these people don’t know what they are doing. The way back to God is facilitated by and thru the Spirit of God. When man gets sick enough with his demise, he will cry out to God and the fact of the matter is that God will keep his promise to hear them. That is the first step on the journey back home to live in God’s Garden of blessedness and righteousness kingdom. May our personal lives be being a living witness unto the Heavenly Father and uphold his Holy Word.
      My comments are not to be criticism of anything you have said. I loved your comments. You are a thinker. I love that. I only hope my comments are saying, I uphold what God knows and I personally want my life to manifest the blessedness of living day to day in God’s Holy Way.
      Amen, Amen and Amen . . one to the Heavenly Father, one to Christ his Son and one to the Holy Spirit.
      As for me and my house, may my life be a testimony that to live is Christ and to die is gain. May my living uphold the Lord’s authority in my life and may I be loving and longsuffering unto the lost by saying, “The Bible says.” when they discount that statement, Holy Spirit will convict them and when they agree with it, they will be forever thankful and lovingly obedient. Their whole life will be full of joy and meaning everyday that they live.
      So be it, Lord Christ, as you have taught us to say, “Thy kingdom come, Thy will be done.” Amen to the Tri-unity of God.

      • Amen Brother! Jesus said “I will build MY Church”.

        Although there are of course practical considerations in the outworking of our doing of God’s will (which may well include running things in a businesslike way), attempts by any denomination, group or movement to build the Church are not the answer.

        Yes, go with new ideas and new ways of reaching people – but only if you are 100% certain GOD has told you to do it and how to do it, and that you are doing it in HIS power.

        Otherwise it will be building in “wood, hay and straw” that will not endure the Fire, as it says in 1 Corinthians 3

      • I just realised that my last post here were partly to do with other comments as well as Bill’s. The “Amen Brother” was for Bill however!

    • Bruce, take a look at this blog post for my thoughts on the church gaining insights from the business world.

  17. All I know is that I stopped going to my regular church for more than a year after the last presidential election, because it presented an event trying to tell people how to vote. Jesus was not a Republican, of that I am sure.

  18. The change in technology heralded a change in culture. I think it is worth asking why we take photographs because far more people snap today on their smart phones every day than ever took photographs. Today it is about everyday people (not photographers or enthusiasts) communicating the moment, recording life in the everyday and special occasions as well as for commercial and artistic purposes. Digital technology is cost effective and enables new uses.
    What is the Church about? It has always been about the mission of God which is to restore creation and in particular, humanity, back to the intended creative purposes of God. Nothing on that score has changed but God has changed his approach. He sent servants and finally sent his son (God came in the flesh). The Church has had the mission of preaching the good news of Jesus and fulfilling the command to make disciples (learners/followers/worshipers) of Christ. By and large it has done the job but we tend only to know of its success because its failures mostly get forgotten. Throughout the history of the Church the culture in which it works has constantly changed and it has had to find ways to connect with the culture, challenge the culture, subvert the culture and even create new culture. Our culture has changed and so the way in which the Church goes about its mission needs to change too or it finds that it is simply not connecting, not communicating its message and it is increasingly perceived as being irrelevant.
    Film photography will always have a place for the specialist and enthusiasts where it continues to provide a valid medium for art and photography. One might argue that Church in its current form will also continue and become a bit of a oddity, a cultural and historical interest, a bit like steam train enthusiasts or perhaps like those odd christian communities such as the Amish.
    Meanwhile the true Church will be preaching Christ and transforming culture to establish the Kingdom of God on earth.

  19. this has got to be the most interesting post (your whole discussion). Many years ago the Lord told me to take my ministry to the streets. I never looked back. I led countless souls to Christ, all the while being mystified how it happened. Yes your topic is true. The Church IS dying, and there’s not much we can do about it. However, if we as part of the church, sincerely turn to Him (as I did) and cry out to Him with our whole heart, He will answer us. He answered me!

  20. While I appreciate many of the comments there is another dimension. The fuel and dynamic energy of our faith is the waiting on God that Jesus demonstrated. Surely we are invited to stop worrying about success? “He has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” Church is more than a programme/program. We are also invited time and time again to practice the presence of God. “One thing have I desired of the Lord; that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His temple[presence].” Even in a busy worship service is it possible to hold a moment of ‘silence transformed’ – not as a moment of manipulated worship or direction but as a sincere and open waiting on God? Once people taste the sweetness of that transformation and sense that gentleness from on high then lives are utterly changed and people know themselves loved by God. Then it is no longer all about churches and programmes. Perhaps we are required to be a little more silent before God and to be always waiting on him. But after that forget about success just look for faithfulness. I am sure that did not come out as I intended but I hope it is gentle and useful.

  21. Scary isn’t Thom? In effect we fear being branded heretical to cultural and societal norms and practices- yet fear less God’s true intentions for this very lost world. “What does it profit a man to gain the world?” Is the big ask. A radical change does need to take place. But, unfortun-ately, the solution cannot come through another board meeting, planning session or programtic change. Instead we gotta revisit the upper room. Indeed we don’t need performance..we need reformation! On your knees saints.

  22. The question is: WHY is the church withering? Second question -is the decline across all denominations? I sense the evangelical churches’ numbers are on the increase; the Lutheran Presbyterian churches are declining fast, rather like the Anglican Church in the UK. The reason? In their desperate attempts to be appealing to all, they appeal to nobody and they no longer stand for anything – with many pastors stating they don’t even believe in God!

    • Steve, in our book Why Nobody Wants to Go to Church Anymore we detail the primary reasons people say they’re staying away. And, the decline is being felt by virtually every American denomination–mainline as well as evangelical. In fact, the largest evangelical denomination, the Southern Baptists, have been experiencing losses for a number of years now. The problem is widespread and complex. First, we must admit we have a problem. Then we must be willing to muzzle the defensiveness and genuinely explore ways we can be better stewards of the time, talent and resources that God has given us.

  23. The Anglican Church in the UK has reversed its decline because it is focusing on Fresh Expressions of Ministry. They have planted 1000 Fresh expressions over the last 10 years and begun to see growth as a denomination because they have been willing to experiment with methodologies and give these new fresh expressions of Church time… approximately 10 years of investment as they are tested, shaped and redeveloped.

  24. Thanks for this challenging insight. Its both worrying and inspiring to read and think about. I remember when Apple was a byword for ‘unfulfilled potential’ some years ago, before the advent of the iMac… decline and current poor performance are no guarantee of future failure if we engage with the situation. I hope you don’t mind if I link to this post.

  25. Yes, we need to move with the times as far as ways of “doing church” are concerned, though without compromising the truth of the Gospel as some are already doing and teaching.

    But that in itself is not the answer. It is also important to discern the “signs of the times”. The Bible says that before the return of Christ there will be a great apostasy – many will turn back from following the true Christ and embrace error and idolatry. Also, that the Antichrist will appear BEFORE, not after, “the Rapture” – as 2 Thessalonians 2 shows.

    Therefore we should not be surprised that the visible outward organisations and gatherings that we call “The Church” appear to be dying. Not should we be tempted to lose hope.

    As Jesus said before His crucifixion:

    “The light is with you for a little longer. Walk while you have the light, lest the darkness overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes.
    36 While you have the light, believe in the light, that you may become sons of light.” (John 12:35-36)

    The Bible also indicates that near the end a false world-wide Church will arise and take over all religions. Jesus warned that even “the elect” may be deceived by false teachers, even some performing miracles by the power of Satan, and get sucked in to this (Matthew 24:24; Revelation 18:4).

    True and faithful Christians will be few before Jesus returns. Yet we need not despair but know ever increasing hope and strength in the Holy Spirit!

    Luke 21:28 says: “Now when these things begin to take place, look up and raise your heads, because your redemption is drawing near.”

    • JP, I agree with you. It is not about change! It is about being the same yesterday, today and tomorrow, like our Lord. The reason the churches are getting smaller is because the Self is let loose. This could well be the great apostasy. All our Lord asks of us is to faithfully administer the mysteries of God, to preach the Law and Gospel with the right distinction and to administer the Sacraments according to the Gospel.

      • Hi Kurt

        You said: “All our Lord asks of us is to faithfully administer the mysteries of God… and to administer the Sacraments according to the Gospel”

        Perhaps you have misunderstood some of what I was saying, because, sadly, it seems that our agreement isn’t as close as you think.

        We obviously have very different understandings of what the Gospel is. The first disciples simply believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit. Although this was normally associated with baptism there was no direct cause and effect. Only our willing response to Jesus can change our lives. Dipping or sprinkling with water, or taking communion together makes no difference to anyone’s spiritual state, any more than the Old Testament Passover feasts and animal sacrifices could (Hebrews 9:23-28 and 10:1 ff).

        When Peter gave the Gospel in the house of Cornelius (Acts 10) his sermon was interrupted because those who heard were so open to the message that the Holy Spirit came in response to their faith. It was only afterwards that they were baptized. They had already received Christ; baptism, in and of itself, added nothing to that.

        It was only later that the idea took hold that baptism and partaking of communion automatically conveyed grace and salvation to the recipients. We see from the New Testament that even while the apostles were still alive some apostasy had set in and the Church was already corrupted by idolatry and various kinds of pagan and Gnostic ideas, as well as traditional Jewish legalism.

        But in these days it seems that apostasy of various kinds is becoming ever more widespread, even in what used to be “Fundamental Protestant” and traditional Pentecostal and Charismatic churches.

      • OK, so you are from the Zwinglian-Anabaptist tradition which denies that Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are means of Grace given to us for the forgiveness of sins?
        The word “sacrament” is a translation of the word “mystery” as found in many letters of Paul for eg. 1 Cor 4,1. Strictly speaking if you want to complain about that word you should not be using the word “Gospel” either because the direct translation is “good spell” or “good tiding” not “God-spel” merged to “Go-spel” which means God’s story. But I won’t press that term. The mysteries of God are those gifts of God where we are spiritually and bodily united with Christ in both Spirit and Body by His doing through His means. Here is a webpage that explains all FAQ concerning Lutherans from the side of the Baptist tradition by a former Baptist! May Scripture win, not tradition!

      • Hi Kurt, I read some of the ‘stuff’ from your link and am reminded how nice it is to have the simple relationship with God I have here outside of the institutional church. I don’t know why people don’t want to go to church but that ‘stuff’ is one of many reasons I don’t. I find it amazing at how man can complicate that which is so simple.

      • In this way you can blow any argument. The fact is God has written what you refer to as “stuff” down for us. We have 66 books in the Bible not just John 3,16. By the way all people have a relationship with Christ. Some hate Him some love Him. Did Peter have a relationship with the LORD? Yes, but he still denied Him three times. So what is your relationship based on? That is the question. And who is Jesus? What did He give to us and how and through what? These are all important issues. Do you know that as Christians we are physically united with Christ’ Body, see Ephesians. There are many mysteries in the Bible. Let us start with he Lord’s supper: Did Jesus say and mean what He said when He said, “this IS my body… this IS my blood”? Are you prepared to go with the literal meaning of Jesus Words of the new Testament or not? Regards in Christ, Kurt.

      • Hi Kurt, My frustration with church and all that ‘stuff’ written by the reformers is that people get so caught up in all the microscopic details of how it all works that they completely loose sight of what Christianity is all about. They get so caught up in those God awful man-added traditions that do nothing for anyone but enslave people to doing things comparable to the hokey-pokey and chicken dance, infant baptism as a perfect example, they loose their Christian love. Christianity is not about going to church, baptizing babies, taking communion and getting to heaven. It’s about enjoying that relationship with God that was lost when Adam and Eve sinned and restored to us by the sacrifice and blood of Jesus. Why complicate this?

      • Ryan, I hear what you say regarding complicating the matter with all the means of Grace. I think many people think this way. I think you are right that people don’t see the sense of it all. Do you know that Luther himself expressed it at the beginning of the reformation that at one stage he wished he could take Baptism, Confession and Absolution, Lord’s Supper away from the Roman Catholic Confession so that he would be able to say, they are not the church. But he came to the conclusion, he dare not do that, because the Words of God were to strong against him. That is why instead of abandoning the means of Grace alltogether, which the Anabaptists did, he tried to remain as close as possible with the clear Words of God. He checked the teachings of the Roman Catholic Confessions against the holy Scriptures and kept what agreed with Scripture and only threw out what clearly was unscriptural.
        Therefore please consider what Jesus said in John3: “3 Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.”
        5 Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.”
        Please note: “unless one is born again by WATER AND THE SPIRIT” is in parallel with “unless one is born again”. This can only refer to Baptism! God Himself ties His Grace to Baptism. Why can’t God create trust in us through Baptism where His servants pour the water and speak the words as His ambassadors? He baptises us onto His name and into His name. He unites us with Himself forgiving us all our sins. Mt28,18 confirms this: “Make disciples of all nations by baptising them in the Name … and teaching them All …”. Make disciples is the main verb which is described by the participles “baptising” and “teaching”. That is how disciples are made according to Jesus’ own words. Rom 6 confirms this. Faith is a gift! Faith does not come from us as you also want to have it! It is given to us as a gift because God puts His name on us and forgives us our sins. Conversion experiences can come before or after. But we cannot rely on our conversion experience. Abram did not rely on the fact that he had this experience that God spoke with him. God cut a covenant with him to give him certainty that God will keep His promises regarding the land. In the same way God has cut a New Testament for us on the Cross.The Word of the Cross is the power that saves us. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are different ways of applying and handing out the Word of the Cross.
        That is why Jesus commanded the Lord’s Supper and said “do this..” There in the Lord’s Supper He started the Divine Service of the New Testament, namely that He serves us and with what He gives to us we respond to God’s gift to us. It flows from Him through us back to Him. Through the preaching of the Word, Baptism and Lord’s Supper God facilitates the dispensing of His Grace. He uses these to give us His Grace, to create faith in us through the working of the Holy Spirit working in, with and through these means!
        And we see Paul didn’t rely on his heavenly experience, although he really could have, but he didn’t do so. He points to the Word or to a Confession which he has received in 1. Cor 15. He points to Baptism for eg. in Rom 6.
        So these means of Grace are definitely not “stuff” in God’s eyes! God’s gift of Grace is packed in these means just like God was in the man Jesus! Of course, these gifts only are a blessing for us if faith sprouts forth from them, which is not always the case. They are means of Grace not Grace itself. They convey God’s Grace to us personally in a very tangible way using God’s servants. So please consider these means of the New Testament well. When Jesus says, “this IS my Body” He means what He says. In this way Jesus ties everything together, His Word and work, Holy Spirit, and church and the old creation and makes a new US.

      • Hi Kurt,
        I understand all you say and how it is all put together. I use to enjoy studying all those difficult subjects that many don’t agree on. I refer to those things as the fruit of the tree of knowledge. It separated man from God and seems to do well to separate we Christians into our own traditions. The tree of life is where I try to hang around now with the fruits of the spirit but tend to occasionally get sucked in by that other tree. Be thankful I have a relationship with God, as simple as it is. I was saved when I was 5 and was baptized once upon a time. I went to church and had gotten involved in ministry the last 6 years before I stopped going when I moved to this state for a job. I would take the Lord’s Supper when it was given, symbolic as it is and as the bible says, in rememberence for what Jesus did. As man cannot live by bread alone, my Lord’s supper now is when I sit alone in my quiet room in the basement in prayer with my bible, reading, seeking God, watching, listening for God to speak to me out of His word. Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God. It’s simple and simple is good. I don’t need the bells and whistles, the praise teams, social groups and fancy traditions to make me feel like a Christian. When God speaks to me out of His word, it grows my faith and makes me see I am His child. I’ll listen to Dr. Charles Stanley whose preaching backs up the relationship I am living with God. I’ll occasionally download sermons but for the most part, I get the word of God from the Horses mouth and the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit. Everyone should be seeking God in the bible apart from the church and get to know God personally. No one can correctly perceive God through another human being. We are all to opinionated… to biased. We need to encourage people to read God’s word, teaching them how to hear God. Let God do the teaching through the Holy Spirit. If people take the time to get to really know God and find out how much better He is than how He is often presented at church and from the pulpit, those people won’t have a problem being obedient. So why don’t I go to church right now? Because God isn’t telling me to go in my quiet time with Him. I talk to God about it but apparently it’s not important.

      • Hi Ryan

        The Lord freed me from denominationalism and called me out of the Presbyterian Church about 30 years ago. For years afterwards I was part of a local Pentecostal fellowship (homely and rather traditional, not “way out”) until moving to a different area and being forced to find another church. Then, fairly recently he called me out of this church too. There were signs of wrong things beginning to creep in, especially Rick Warren’s “Purpose-Driven” stuff (man made attempts to serve God as opposed to “GOD-Driven”); but then I was given specific scripture that made it clear the time had come to leave. I am not a “church hopper” by nature and it was an unsettling time, but each time I knew God was in it.

        For over two years after this, like you I went nowhere. Not because of not wanting to, but the Lord wouldn’t let me! At one point I tried to attend meeting of a local church and He gave me a kind of spiritual slap on the wrist, as if to say, “You go WHERE I telly you, WHEN I tell you, not before!”

        But this was only for a season, until He had finished whatever he wanted to do in my life through this “wilderness time”. It can be lonely in the wilderness but I did go to some non-denominational meetings occasionally and had individual fellowship with other Christians, (though not in a formal church setting). By God’s grace I thrived and grew spiritually.

        Then the time came that He released me to seek a local church once more. As He gave no specific directions I decided to start with the nearest and work outwards. The first, within easy walking distance of home, turned out to be the right one and I have been with them ever since. I know the Lord has a purpose and a work to be done there, in which it seems He intends to use me.

        The reason for saying all this? Because I want to urge you not to assume that your present situation is permanent. In the true Church we are all “members of one another” and God wants us to have fellowship in the way and in the place He provides; until in heaven we are all one in experience as well as in fact.

      • Ryan, I hear what you are saying. I don’t agree, I must say, but I hear. I accept that many people go through different phases in their walk of faith. And when Baptism & Holy Communion are only confessed to be symbols they are not necessary, like candels or crosses etc. I agree. However what if they truly do convey God’s Grace? Therefore one last question which Jesus asked: “Was the baptism of John from heaven or from man?” (Mk 11,30).

      • Just a brief comment on “Was the Baptism of John from man or God?”:

        John didn’t baptize because it was his idea, GOD sent him as a forerunner to prepare the way of the Lord. Therefore his baptism was of God.

        However, the baptism of John was only a baptism for repentance. He said that he baptized with water, but the greater One who followed would BAPTIZE WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.

        How can the physical cause the spiritual? How can mere water convey the life of Christ? Being baptized in water conveys water and we get wet! But being baptized into Christ means we are baptized into His life by His Spirit and we come alive in a new way – spiritual death and resurrection. Flesh and spirit are different.

        But when God sees a public demonstration of faith in baptism, (which in some countries takes a huge act of faith and courage) and that we “mean business”, He will honour that faith by sending the Holy Spirit too.

        He sends the Spirit if we ask and if we are prepared to obey God, not otherwise (Luke 11:13; Acts 5:32). That is why some (even some clergy) obviously lack the life of Christ even though they have been baptized.

      • Thanks for your response. You said, “How can the physical cause the spiritual?” That is the question isn’t it? Consider ESV Mark 1,4: “John appeared, baptizing in the wilderness and proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins.” A Baptism … for the forgiveness of sins!! Isn’t forgiveness of sins highly spiritual, given by God alone, here given to the people, not just washing their bodies but their hearts as a preparation for Christ who would receive the Spirit, as one of them, in their midst? It is not the water alone, it is the Proclamation of the Word together with the water, through which God gives forgiveness of sins, through God’s human servant on earth! Isn’t that wonderful!
        “Flesh” stands for the whole rebellious nature of the old Adam. “Spirit” is not opposed to “body”. Even the Holy Spirit came down on Jesus in a physical form, like a dove! Jesus born of Mary, fully human being, received the Holy Spirit in a highly spiritual event, as He was baptised by the human servant of God, John, together with the Word of God!
        Isn’t it true that it was God who facilitated the calling of John, proclamation of the Baptism, Baptism with water,facilitating Repentance, to bring His Grace amongst His people in a physical way, to bring Jesus and His work to them? And then, through the same facility, God gave His Spirit to Jesus, standing amongst them! Jesus took their place, our place, taking on Himself the punishment for all our sins which culminated in His death on the cross. So when we are baptised with water and the Spirit we are baptised into His death, into His ministry. In Rom 6 Paul explains it very clearly that our old Adam was crucified and was buried WITH Christ so that we will live together with HIM. (All these verbs are in the passive mode showing that it is GOD doing it to us in Baptism). And so Christ’s Baptism and our Baptism are essentially one (Eph4,5). See all God’s doing preparing and giving everything that is necessary through His written and proclaimed Word coupled with the application of water! Rom 6,8 sums it up so perfectly: ESV Romans 6:8 “Now if we have died with Christ (referring to Baptism in the past), we believe (present tense) that we will also live (future tense) with Him.” So, faith follows from baptism and the content of faith: That we will live with Him. Isn’t Baptism of water and the Spirit the great work of God to save us?

      • There is that word sacraments again. It is nowhere to be found in the New Testament as applied by us.

      • Kurt, what has tradition got to do with it???

      • Well take for instance the Lord’s Supper. What are the words of institution for the Lord’s supper say? Jesus said, this IS my body … this IS my blood. Those are words of the New Testament. He did not say, this represents my body or this is like my body. He simply says, this IS my body … this IS my blood. As Lutherans we try to remain by these clear words and don’t change them. It is precisely here that we need the faith of the Holy Spirit, because it goes beyond our understanding. But Zwingli and the anabaptists interpreted these words according to their logic turning them symbolical. So now all of the anabaptist tradition, which you follow, receive nothing but wine and bread. By the way where do you ever receive the forgiveness of sins concretely if it depends on your will to believe? Where is faith ever GIVEN to you concretely?

      • [Kurt] “Where do you ever receive the forgiveness of sins concretely if it depends on your will to believe? Where is faith ever GIVEN to you concretely?”
        Concretly, I received forgiveness and new life in Christ on May 1st 1967, between 11 pm and midnight,. Not in church but in my room in a student hostel. I had been brought up to go to church (Presbyterian, not Baptist) and believe in God, but my parents never got around to having me baptized as an infant. I knew God was real (He sometimes even answerd my prayers) but I didn’t KNOW Him personally – He was just a distant, benevolant Someone “up there” somewhere.
        But on that night I finally come to the point of realising that I couldn’t live without Him any longer. I cried out to Him and He came. Life has never been the same since. He is with me at all times, not only in church.

      • That is special, a conversion experience where you realised your sinfulness and cried out for God’s help. I am glad for you. But you had heard the Gospel previously. So you knew the Gospel. I would say, the Holy Spirit led you to repentance. So you have been taught and now, if you haven’t been baptised yet, God wants you to get baptised so that what He has earned for you on the cross is applied to you (Rom 6). Your old Adam needs to be crucified and buried by God. That happens in Baptism. Read Rom 6 carefully and watch for the passive verbs. God is doing the crucifying, the giving of new life. In Baptism God declares us to be His children. He puts His name over us. It is important that we hear His voice through His servants. We must not forget, although much of the church could be apostate Jesus the head of the Church still wants to work through His Body. You cannot seperate Jesus from His Body, His Church. He humbles us in this way. Just as God spoke through Jesus as human being (of course He was God also ) he chose to speak through the servants of His church what Paul refers to in 1 Cor4,1. There He refers to himself and Apollos as stewards of God’s mysteries.
        Just because something like Baptism is ordered, not spontaneous, it doesn’t mean that it cannot be from the Holy Spirit. No. The Holy Spirit is a Spirit of order. Paul wrote the whole letter to the Corinthians because things were getting out of hand, to charis-maniac someone wrote the other day. He did not say, wow, just look how spontaneous everything happens. No, he called for order. The Holy Spirit always works through the word of God. Baptism and the Lord’s Supper are applications of the Gospel which involve our body. The word of God and His commandment to do this constitute their effectiveness. God gives His Grace through them. Same with confession and absolution. This is a tangible way through which God speaks His forgiveness over us through the ordained servant of God. All done in good order, not by ourselves but someone outside of ourselves which makes it objective. We hear the objective word of forgiveness spoken by the ambassador of God. These are given for our benefit. God speaks to us from person to person using His church personnal. This only works because He chose to do it in this way. The humble way of incarnation. May God bless you.

      • Like Ryan I read some of the “stuff” from that link. It made me sad because it seems the writer has merely swopped one largely man-made tradition (Baptist) for another (Lutheran) instead of finding and following Christ in reality.

    • Hi Kurt

      I appreciate your concern and agree that water baptism is important. I was baptized in water, as the obvious and right thing to do, soon after coming to Christ. I am also part of a local church fellowship, which happens to have a traditional denominational label, because that’s where God sent me.

      However, there is no way mere water (whether you are “sprinkled” or “dipped”) can convey “grace”, let alone make anyone into a Christian. Only a true conversion to Christ, sometimes called New Birth, will do that (although it need not be through such an obvious crisis as mine was). Of course, others who are already true Christians can help point the way, and we need teaching afterwards, just as a baby needs milk, and later more solid food. But, like the Spirit coming on those in Cornelius’ house, true conversion to Christ is ALWAYS a sovereign act of God in which man can have no direct part. John 1:12-13 shows that clearly.

      You seem to think that ordained clergy are somehow special, somehow different from ordinary Christians. Yet I have known clergy (of more than one denomination) who were like lost sheep trying to be shepherds without knowing Christ and therefore not even being part of His Body. There are others who obviously know the Lord and have His life in them in spite of being part of a religious system that preaches a false Gospel.

      That is not a criticism but an observation. Some clergy are like Nicodemus (John 3), earnest and sincere. He was a senior rabbi and member of the Sanhedrin, perhaps the equivalent of a bishop in present day church organisations, yet when Jesus spoke to him of the New Birth (literally being “born from above”) he didn’t have a clue!

  26. Steve Brown, recent church growth research results seem to indicate that Evangelical churches and Liberal churches can grow but they can also shrink – the deciding factor is how seriously they take church growth. But the article does not make comfortable reading.

  27. The above two links seem to suggest that different churches can grow best by knowing what they are meant to be and being that and not trying to be something else. When people come into a church and try to take it off in to a different direction and cause friction it is likely to cause no good at all. Better to recognise a calling to be two different missional communities/churches and do each one well and in harmony. [Apologies for the rather frequent posting]

  28. The church has gone to the dogs seven times and every time the dog has died!

  29. Kodak also moved into new products. They made a little video camera that became very popular within a particular market and word spread that this was the best camera to buy. Next thing you know word starts spreading that you cannot buy it any more and there is nothing on the market as good. Oops!

    My other experience with Kodak a printer bought for a community group that lasted a few weeks and was returned under guarantee. Ooops again

    What new products is the church moving into? I remember a wooden sign someone made for the March for Jesus through Chester in the 1980’s. An old message i.e. Jesus is the answer now what is the question.

    Today many people have an issue with money. Often struggling to earn enough to meet their needs so needing to turn to food banks etc. OK that is their presenting problem. What can the church do to offer help for that problem and as a side-benefit introduce them to biblical teaching about money. I don’t mean be content with what you have because that runs the risk of imprisoning people in bad circumstances. I mean how to find God-honouring ways of increasing their income like find a job or run a business like Jesus and his disciples did.

    We know their real problem is that they don’t know God and his ways because they have no understanding of how to get over the barrier of sin to build that relationship..However, that does not seem like any kind of practical solution to the problems they see themselves as having.

    They don’t even believe the church has any ideas on how to help them. Yet we have the best depository of ancient wisdom available to mankind. Many of us don’t even realise the treasure we have in this ancient wisdom let alone have any idea how to share it with others.

    What is worse? Counterfeiters have come in copied some of the ideas from the bible and presented them in an ungodly way. We then throw out the baby with the bathwater by rejecting the principles saying they are New Age clap trap.Yet when you look at them carefully you can see where they came from. The enemy then wins twice with this tactic.

    God help us design new products that meet the needs of a way that honours Him.

    Those new products need not necessarily be based around the church as we know it. What is the church doing to empower its members to set up social enterprises that meet these needs? What is it doing to enable all saints to go out into every area of the world media, politics, education etc and become salt and light in a way that they have never done before. We have a lot of work to do folks! Lets train the troops and help them get out there and fight rather than saying everything has to be done within the church walls.

  30. Ryan, I can understand your frustration with 2000 years of Church history! But you cannot in all honesty claim that the Lord’s Supper and Baptism are microscopic details. All four Gospels including Paul’s letters include them prominently. The Word of the Cross, the Lord’s Supper and Baptism tie God’s way of salvation to the Cross of Christ. In the end I cannot argue with you, because you say God is making it to complicated. What is complicated with preaching the Word, baptising all people of all nations, no age restriction, teaching the Word and going to the Lord’s supper and receive what the Lord has said it IS. What is complicated about that?
    The way of salvation is exactly the reverse of the fall into sin.
    Fall into sin: Eve and Adam rejected the Word of God, the Grace of God deceived by Satan. They were eating what Satan suggested and God had forbidden! Then God asked them what they did? In other words He was expecting a confession of sins. They pointed away from themselves- in denial. Then they clothed themselves. But God clothed them instead with animal hide which means that for the first time an animal life had to be sacrificed so that they could stay alive! Then God sent them out of paradise.
    Way of Salvation: The Gospel calls us to repentance and faith. Baptism clothes us with Christ, unites us with Christ, we confess our sins, we receive forgiveness and last but not least God puts His meal before us for His remembrance, to test our faith, to forgive us our sins and for sustenance of faith.
    In this way God restores every act of rebellion Adam and Eve did.

  31. Several years ago I wrote a similar piece using the decline of the Canadian brewery Molson as my case study.

    Part of my argument was that the very fact of success sows the seeds of decline.

  32. As scary as this comment is please consider it well. Unless a man is BORN AGAIN he CANNOT see the KINGDOM OF GOD.In or out of the church dead is dead.

  33. I am a Lutheran pastor and deeply apologize to all of you who consider yourselves to be part of the Zwinglian-Anabaptist tradition–or anyone else outside of the Lutheran tradition–who was (or ever has been) rudely criticized for being who you are in Christ. I am sorry. This sort of historical arrogance has been around for way too long! I may be a Lutheran but I am a Christian first. Are we not called to have a greater love for the Kingdom than our own denominational identity? Revival, renaissance, reformation–whatever you want to call it–is the only hope for our nation (USA). And it begins with repentance; specifically that we repent to one another as leaders within different denominations/expressions of His Church. But, instead, we accuse our brothers and sisters of not having a perfect theology according to our own experience and tradition. Lord, I apologize for grieving the Holy Spirit on so many different levels.

    We are the Body of Christ and desperately need one another for the living of these desperate days. May the Lord grant all of us–as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers within His Body (Eph. 4:11)–an extraordinary measure of His grace as we press into the prophetic truth found in John 17:22, 23: “The glory which thou hast given me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may become perfectly one SO THAT THE WORLD MAY KNOW that thou hast sent me and hast loved them even as thou hast loved me.” So that the world may know His love! Wow … and we continue to fight over minutia as the world is dying to receive just one word of the Father’s love through us. Just one word. Amazing.

    No doubt, we do need to be radically grounded in the Written Word as it reveals the Living Word in Jesus Christ, the simple and incredible news of this Gospel: Jesus is God, the Christ, died on a cross in our place, paying the penalty for our sins; three days later He rose to conquer sin and death and give the gift of salvation to all who believe in Him alone for eternal life (1 Cor. 15:1-4). But, at the same time, we must embrace what the Spirit of the Living God is speaking to us … for such a time as this. May the Lord embolden all of you in the days ahead. In Christ’s love, Craig

    • AMEN Craig! Very well stated, and I agree.

    • Craig, thank you, THANK YOU!!! Praise God!!!

      I was blessed even to tears on reading your message. Not that I care one jot about denominational labels, or tirades against them, but to see that there are still faithful pastors in whatever denomination who walk in the Spirit and can write such words, speaking Truth so humbly and lovingly.

      I was if possible even more blessed because you obviously know the Lord and seek to walk with Him; and have a prophetic awareness and understand what the Church of Jesus Christ really is.

      Hebrews 12 says it too:

      “22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering,
      23 and to the assembly of the first-born who are enrolled in heaven, and to a judge who is God of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect,
      24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel.”

      In these days God is beginning to shake the nations and the denominations, and in the end the whole earth in preparation for the New that is coming. The same passage speaks of this shaking and agrees with your words:

      “We are the Body of Christ and desperately need one another for the living of these desperate days. May the Lord grant all of us–as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers within His Body (Eph. 4:11)–an extraordinary measure of His grace as we press into the prophetic truth found in John 17:22, 23:”

      “26 His voice then shook the earth; but now he has promised, “Yet once more I will shake not only the earth but also the heaven.”
      27 This phrase, “Yet once more,” indicates the removal of what is shaken, as of what has been made, in order that what cannot be shaken may remain.
      28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe;
      29 for our God is a consuming fire.”

      AMEN, even so, come Lord Jesus!

  34. Years ago I heard this similar illustration that Reggie Joiner shared at an Orange Conference with digital photography using Kodak, Cannon & Nikon and addressing how to approach change and the different ways to respond and their outcomes and what we can learn to apply to our ministry settings. Change is difficult and resisted. The companies that embraced the new digital technology have thrived and moved forward and Kodak has gone the opposite direction. We have to realize that we will get push back, complaints, etc. in either case…when we make changes now and be revolutionary or 5-10 years down the road when people question us why we did not make the changes necessary for the future.

  35. Thank you for this courageous post. It came at a very timely moment, when our church AGM can’t find anyone to fill the positions on the board. The church is dying, if not already dead. I’d like to rip out all the pews and do something radical but I know that my job of catalyst is long over there. I’m wondering how much longer I can hold on, smelling the decay.

    • Do not lose heart, that is all. Even if you feel you have failed, like Elijah felt when he fled from Jezebel, know that iGod still has work for you to do. But do not stay just for the sake of it. Stay until the Lord tells you to leave, again like Elijah when the stream at Cherith dried up. He didn’t move until the Word came to him, and then he went to a most unlikely place – to a widow who was near starvation yet gave him food. And her whole household was blessed with resurrection power.

    • Jeremiah 17:7 “Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose trust is the LORD.
      8 He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit.”

  36. It’s not your average pastor’s habit to read Clayton Christensen (e.g. The Innovator’s Dilemma), but they really should!

  37. I think about the Christians who are in the Middle East areas right now, and what they are facing. Many are being told to leave their Christianity and to convert to a form of Islam, or else face torture and/or death. While we should be praising God daily that we live in a country which has freedom of worship, I still must wonder if our personal faith would be
    strong enough to endure the choices which our fellow believers overseas are having to face. We are living in the days of the Laodicean Church here in North America where spiritually we have become “rich and increased with goods, and have need of nothing; and do not know that [we] are wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” [Revelation 3:17] In North America we have a feel-good faith which fails to have the roots which are needed. If a plant is able to grow, it must have roots deeply imbedded in good soil. Otherwise the plant’s growth becomes stunted, or it will die. We must ask ourselves how deeply we are rooted in Christ. If we do not have those roots, then like some of the plants in Christ’s Matthew 13 parable, we will spring up quickly and die [Matthew 13:5-6]. Or, like the seed which fell among the thorns, we will again spring up quickly, but will soon die when the thorns of life choke the life out of us. [Matthew 13:7] Without the needed changes in our hearts, any program, no matter how well-meaning, will be just another trend or fad.

  38. Sadly, the church is also going the way of Borders. As digital music and books were coming of age, Borders responded by expanding their buildings and adding more product to their stores so people could come and get it. Amazon, among others, figured out to take their product to the people through the Kindle and their music service, along with Apple and the I-Pod. If churches are not willing to stop expanding their buildings and hoping people come instead of taking their “product” (i.e., the Gospel) to them, churches will continue to die. Please note that I see the Gospel as far, far more than a product, I referred to it that way for the sake of the analogy.

  39. This is a great article, but I think you misapply the analogy. Most churches teach some version of “There is one way to God, through Jesus Christ,” and teach that the Bible is the only reliable source of religious truth. I assume most reading this believe that.

    It’s this exclusivity that people are rejecting all over the world. This is occurring because for the first time in history, all of humanity is linked by open communication and exchange of ideas. Isolated communities of Christians here, Muslims there, and Buddhists way over there no longer exist. We can go to the Blue Mosque in Istanbul and feel for ourselves the presence of God there. We can visit the shrines of Kyoto and realize how deeply in touch with God the Japanese people are.

    When I started to really travel and make friends in other cultcures, I realized I no longer believed that Christianity was any more “true” than other religions. Now I consider myself a universalist and find myself on a spiritual path outside of the church, and it has been wonderful. I think the internet is driving a similar phenomenon on a global scale.

    Kodak died because people no longer needed their core product. Christianity is dying because people no longer need to believe that there is one path to God, to the exclusion of all others. Will atheism prevail? I hope not, but it’s clear we’re going to wind up more like Scandinavia where almost nobody participates in church.

    • What you believe or I believe is really irrelevant if the bible makes it clear what the truth is. God said I AM that I AM and Jesus said I AM the way, the truth and the life. That is not up for discussion or disputation. You say you are now a universalist. That means you have changed. God or Jesus hasn’t. God is still the I AM and Jesus is still the I AM, as much as you want to believe otherwise.

      I can own a Ford and believe that it is a Ferrari as much as I want to but it won’t make it a Ferrari.

    • You need to read Isaiah 53. It’s not that long. It was this prophesied man, the Son of God who through His sacrifice and shed blood that make us worthy, not only to be able to approach God but also said, “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever; Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.” It’s God’s Spirit who brings us to life whom we wouldn’t have, if not for Jesus. Real Christianity is not just another religion. It’s living life, 24/7 with God inside you. It is hard trying to justify going somewhere to worship God when He’s right there with you, all the time. There are no roads to God. If you are His, He comes to you. He finds you and He will dwell with you, in you, never to leave or forsake you. He chooses you, not you, Him. If your His, He draws you to Him, to His Son. Anyway, enough preaching. Always wish I had the ability to verbalize this stuff but I write pretty well.

      • So if He doesn’t choose someone, then they are doomed to eternal damnation, right?

      • “No man can come to me, except the Father which has sent me draw him: and I will raise hIm up at the last day.” “All that the Father gives me shall come to me, and him that comes to me I will no wise cast out.” That was John 6:44 & 37. The response later in the chapter to this and other things was, “This is a hard saying; who can hear it?” Jesus response was, “Does this offend you?” After this big spew about eating his flesh and drinking his blood he says, “the words that I speak to you, they are spirit, and they are life.” Jesus restates again, “no man can come unto me, except it were given to him of my Father.” This was a difficult subject for me years ago. Just as to the people in Jesus time it can be offending and hard to swallow.

  40. I know what modern churches need. But I doubt anyone will ever ask me. If you’re interested in knowing, let me know.

  41. Phew! I was afraid for a moment you were going to bring the Bible or the leading of The Holy Spirit into your article. So glad to see it wasn’t necessary. The more the Church learns how to imitate the business world without reference to God, the better off we’ll be.

  42. Interesting


  1. The Church That Dies To Success | In A Spacious Place - January 21, 2014

    […] The words were boldly launched on FaceBook in response to an article comparing the perceived demise of the church to the collapse of the Eastman Kodak Comapny. […]

  2. Thinking About Mission | A Kodak Moment - January 24, 2014

    […] the church be having a ‘Kodak moment’ in all the wrong ways? Thom Schultz thinks so. Is he right? What should we do in order to […]

  3. The Church of England still needs to wake up and smell the coffee over church growth « God and Politics in the UK - January 24, 2014

    […] but at least now there are increasing attempts to think seriously about avoiding going the way of Kodak and […]

  4. The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment | Holy Soup | Wired Jesus Podcast - January 26, 2014

    […] The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment | Holy Soup. […]

  5. Church: Kodak’s mechanical watch | Liturgy - February 10, 2014

    […] Kodak dominated photography for over a century. Then in 2012 it filed for bankruptcy. Why? What happened? While it was instrumental in the invention of digital photographic technology, it failed to recognise its significance. In the late 1990s sales of photographic film declined and Kodak was slow to transition to digital photography. […]

  6. This Week’s Links « Timothy Siburg - February 11, 2014

    […] month Thom Schultz shared, “The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment.”  Give it a read.  It seems like a helpful piece as part of some larger “missional […]

  7. LPUC eNews – Sunday 9 February 2014. | Lugarno Peakhurst Uniting Church | - February 16, 2014

    […] The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment […]

  8. Engaging Culture | Northside church of Christ in Mena, AR - February 17, 2014

    […] The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment by Thom Schultz […]

  9. the Church is not the point | Maleny Activity Centre - March 9, 2014

    […] This article caught my eye a few months back and I keep going back and mulling over the points raised here.  I would love to hear other peoples responses. I have started with the first 2 points. […]

  10. We will NOT “pull a Kodak” | Bethel Lutheran Church - March 25, 2014

    […] While it can be scary to read about, it is imperative that we–”the Church” and “the church”–learn from the mistakes of others. […]

  11. Kodak Lesson | On Q - November 7, 2014

    […] Thom Schultz, founder of Group Publishing and Life Tree Café, writes in his blog, […]

  12. Riding Out 3 Big Ministry Storms - January 6, 2015

    […] “The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment.”  People seemed captivated by examining the similarities between the demise of the Eastman Kodak […]

  13. The Ostrich Syndrome - January 11, 2015

    […] […]

  14. Sunday Reads: 2/15/15 - Jason C. StanleyJason C. Stanley - February 15, 2015

    […] The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment: Remember Kodak? They held the market on film for decades. But then the digital changed everything! Thom Schultz reflects on how the church is similar to Kodak and what the church can learn from Kodak’s experiences. […]

  15. Purpose | Jeff's Jottings - March 1, 2015

    […] Thom Schultz, “The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment,” Holy Soup, (posted 15 January 2014; accessed most recently on 28 February […]

  16. Out of the Box, Out of the Phone | Charis: Subject to Change - May 19, 2015

    […] This article from Holy Soup  by Thom Schulz on “The Church’s Frightful Kodak Moment&#82…fits with what I am sensing. Photography has taken off in the last few years. More people have better access (even on phones) and quality has improved enormously. It’s not left just to the professionals anymore. There is freedom to make mistakes and forgive ourselves by hitting delete. It’s about seeing worth in the moment and making meaningful images we can enjoy and share in the future. […]

  17. Crafting a Better Mission Statement - - June 23, 2015

    […] Schultz has chronicled on his blog more than once about the importance of a mission statement in relationship to a church’s sense of purpose. […]

  18. The Church’s Kodak Moment? – Discovery - January 19, 2016

    […] Here's a great blog post contrasting Kodak and the Church, well worth a read (HT Ian Youthblog). "A misunderstanding of mission. Kodak's leaders thought they were in the film business-instead of […]

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