In my book Ministry in Hard Times, I contrast the past world with the emerging world by contrasting the metaphors of a national park and a jungle. The world I was born into was like a national park with lots of rules. The world we live in today is more like a jungle with only one rule: the survival of the fittest – those who change the fastest with the least amount of angst are most likely to thrive. The difference between the national park world and the jungle world is the largest cultural shift since the printing press.
Here is an example of how this change affects the church.
In the national park most people were driven by duty and guilt. They would go to church whether they wanted to or not because it was their duty. If they stayed home they felt guilty. Not so in the jungle, where there is little duty and no guilt. In the national park world, when a church was behind in giving, they would print it in the bulletin (they probably did this every week). The church relied on its members to pony up because it was their duty and they would feel guilty not doing their part.
But try this in the jungle. When churches put in their bulletin how far behind they are, their donors (not members) see a sinking ship and very few donors want to contribute to a sinking ship. In the past, when churches needed volunteers they would make a plea from the pulpit or newsletter and people would come forward out of duty and not wanting to feel guilty. Try that today and see where it gets you.
So what’s a church supposed to do if it needs money or volunteers?
In a world where duty and guilt no longer drive how people respond, it is far better to appeal to ways the giving of money or self will either bring joy to the giver or make a difference in the world. Instead of telling the congregation how badly you need money, share stories with them every Sunday about how the church is changing people’s lives. Better yet, have the people whose lives have been changed by the church give their testimonies. Instead of making a plea for volunteers, have a young person tell of how their life was changed because of their teacher or sponsor’s role modeling.
In the jungle there aren’t “members” who are driven by duty and guilt. Instead, there are “donors” who are driven by joy, fulfillment, and making a difference in the world by giving either their money or time. If you would like to read more on this, check out J. Clif Christopher’s book, Whose Offering Plate is It?
Have a great new year trying to figure out which end is up in this upside-down world.
Question: What is another example of a way our world has changed from a national park to a jungle? Share your thoughts in the Comments section below.