Jay Rosen created the meme of The People Formerly Known as the Audience – those of us who are no longer content to be content consumers – but have become content creators ourselves.
The people formerly known as the audience wish to inform media people of our existence, and of a shift in power that goes with the platform shift you’ve all heard about.
Think of passengers on your ship who got a boat of their own. The writing readers. The viewers who picked up a camera. The formerly atomized listeners who with modest effort can connect with each other and gain the means to speak— to the world, as it were.
Now we understand that met with ringing statements like these many media people want to cry out in the name of reason herself: If all would speak who shall be left to listen? Can you at least tell us that?
The people formerly known as the audience do not believe this problem—too many speakers!—is our problem. Now for anyone in your circle still wondering who we are, a formal definition might go like this:
The people formerly known as the audience are those who were on the receiving end of a media system that ran one way, in a broadcasting pattern, with high entry fees and a few firms competing to speak very loudly while the rest of the population listened in isolation from one another— and who today are not in a situation like that at all.
Let me introduce you to The People formerly known as The Congregation. There are millions of us.
We are people – flesh and blood – image bearers of the Creator – eikons, if you will. We are not numbers.
We are the eikons who once sat in the uncomfortable pews or plush theatre seating of your preaching venues. We sat passively while you proof-texted your way through 3, 4, 5 or no point sermons – attempting to tell us how you and your reading of The Bible had a plan for our lives. Perhaps God does have a plan for us – it just doesn’t seem to jive with yours.
Money was a great concern. And, for a moment, we believed you when you told us God would reward us for our tithes – or curse us if we didn’t. The Law is just so much easier to preach than Grace. My goodness, if you told us that the 1st century church held everything in common – you might be accused of being a socialist – and of course, capitalism is a direct gift from God. Please further note: Malachi 3 is speaking to the priests of Israel. They weren’t the cheerful givers God speaks of loving.
We grew weary from your Edifice Complex pathologies – building projects more important than the people in your neighbourhood…or in your pews. It wasn’t God telling you to “enlarge the place of your tent” – it was your ego. And, by the way, a multi-million dollar, state of the art building is hardly a tent.
We no longer buy your call to be “fastest growing” church in wherever. That is your need. You want a bigger audience. We won’t be part of one.
Our ears are still ringing from the volume, but…Jesus is not our boyfriend – and we will no longer sing your silly love songs that suggest He is. Happy clappy tunes bear no witness to the reality of the world we live in, the powers and principalities we confront, or are worthy of the one we proclaim King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
You offered us a myriad of programs to join – volunteer positions to assuage our desire to be connected. We could be greeters, parking lot attendants, coffee baristas, book store helpers, children’s ministry workers, media ministry drones – whatever you needed to fulfill your dreams of corporate glory. Perhaps you’ve noticed, we aren’t there anymore.
We are The People formerly known as The Congregation. We have not stopped loving the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Nor do we avoid “the assembling of the saints.” We just don’t assemble under your supposed leadership. We meet in coffee shops, around dinner tables, in the parks and on the streets. We connect virtually across space and time – engaged in generative conversations – teaching and being taught.
We live amongst our neighbours, in their homes and they in ours. We laugh and cry and really live – without the need to have you teach us how – by reading your ridiculous books or listening to your supercilious CDs or podcasts.
We don’t deny Paul’s description of APEPT leadership – Ephesians 4:11. We just see it in the light of Jesus’ teaching in Mark 10 and Matthew 20 – servant leadership. We truly long for the release of servant leading men and women into our gifts as apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors and teachers. We believe in Peter’s words that describe us all as priests. Not just some, not just one gender.
We are The People formerly known as The Congregation. We do not hate you. Though some of us bear the wounds you have inflicted. Many of you are our brothers and our sisters, misguided by the systems you inhabit, intoxicated by the power – yet still members of our family. (Though some are truly wolves in sheep’s clothing.)
And, as The People formerly known as The Congregation, we invite you to join us on this great adventure. To boldly go where the Spirit leads us. To marvel at what the Father is doing in the communities where He has placed us. To live the love that Jesus shows us.
Addendum: This is a polemic. The first-person plural pronoun, “We”, is not used as Pluralis Majestatis (the Royal We) but rather is based on the post-charismatic/post-evangelical conversations that are occurring in the blogosphere. I have no more right to speak in this voice than any other person living in the liminal reality of the church in 21st century.
Please note also that I have many good friends who lead within a more traditional church context for whom I have great love, as well as deep respect. They are doing their very best to be missional within their worlds.
UPDATE 2: Emerging Grace has written Part Two of TPFKATC here.
UPDATE 3: Jamie Arpin-Ricci writes Part Three.
UPDATE 4: John Frye writes Part Four
UPDATE 5: Greg Laughery writes Part Five
UPDATE 6: Heidi Daniels writes Part Six
UPDATE: This post has had a lot more attention than I anticipated. (And has also been mildly re-edited.) I’d like to point out a number of posts from folk who’ve responded, reacted or been on the same page at the same time.
My friend, Brother Maynard, helped with the editing of this post (fixing some things that needed fixing) and I appreciate his input here and the thoughtful nature of his blog. Here’s a link to a few of his posts to get you started.
At Calacirian, the blogger, aBhantiama Solas had written a post on the Church and Leadership called Leaving Oz. She stumbled across my post after her own writing and recognized we are on the same wavelength.
The folks at Called and Sent found me “thoughtful” and “outspoken” but didn’t quite agree with what I had to say. (I appreciate their response.)
Triple D (Darryl Dash) was one of the first to link to the post on his Dying Church blog. His most recent Christian Week column seems to fit right in with what I’m saying. (Perhaps its because we spent time together recently – and he’s infected me…)
Steve Sensenig, with whom I’ve had some lively discussion, linked on his blog and created some good conversation there – I particularly appreciated what Alan Knox and Mike Ross had to say…as well as Steve, of course.
Jan Edmiston sites The Princess Bride (a Kinnon family favourite) in her response and generates more good conversation. (One of the people commenting recommends a post - The People formerly known as Pastors.) My friend, Ed Brenegar, knew Jan when he led a Young Life club @ UNC-Chapel Hill and pointed me at her post. Ed has written his response, Church as Distraction.
Erin at Decompressing Faith asks some good questions based on the post. (Though I’m not sure I’d go for her short form PKFC, as the KFC part of it jumps out at me. UPDATE: Apparently my dyslexia kicked in – Erin wrote PFKC – I must be hungry.)
David Fitch, who’s book, The Great Giveaway had a powerful impact on me, wrote a great post in February on the multiplicity of leadership at the Church community he co-leads, Live on the Vine. My interview with David a week ago, Friday, and our extended lunch afterwards also played a role in my writing this post.
I like the picture John La Grou uses on his blog link.
Jim Walton tells a bit of his own story in light of the post – a story worth reading.
Mak @ Swinging from the Vine had a physical reaction to the post – and may be in need of some chiropractic attention.
Pernell was one of the first to link to the post at his blog, but I would have to say that the way he and the folk at The Freeway are being the missional people of God in their Hamilton community has spoken volumes to me (and I look forward to sharing their story in an Allelon video later this spring.) If you are in the GTA, try to make this event.
I wish I spoke Swedish, as Pastor Astor wrote a post about this one – and has had a number of comments in Svenska.
Some of you will understand why I find this post title particularly amusing. And he really should read the post.
My son, Liam responded to the post with his own, Bearing Scars – being very open and very real.
My iPastor, the iMonk joins the discussion with his a riff. The Peter Finch pic from Network is classic…and appropriate.
Paul Mayers responds with some strong concerns.
Strong words in the comments at Monday Morning Insight
Even Jay Rosen, from whom I “borrowed” the meme, linked to this post. (Although he seemed somewhat surprised by it.)
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