A fascinating article appeared in the NZ Herald recently on the best SuperBowl commercials and had available for viewing these super 'cool' and 'engaging' adverts.
This they were. They were all designed to do precisely this. The marketing involved in paying out mega dollars for a SuperBowl advert - must bring something of a return - even if it is only brand recognition.
This commercial situation alerted me to what is happening in church life across the western world according to what I've been hearing and reading. Even the ABC radio national had something on this, highlighting something of a paradigm change.
Christians are ditching the traditional suburban church life to making a bee line for Cathedral worship - or - to the more hands on, dramatised, family orientated, digitalised, wifi organised and mega performance of the Pentecostal congregation.
As a member of the Chamber of Commerce movements for 25 years, all this interests me, as the commercial world is based squarely on two things, survival and profit. Without ongoing sales, the survival issue becomes essential and the primary focus. The profit comes with growth, marketing results and enterprising energy.
The Cathedrals for many years have struggled, now there is a resurgence. Pentecostals have become the mainstay of Christianity across the third world for three decades or more and now they are dominating in the West.
There have been copious articles over decades written to the emergence of the Pentecostal phenomena and throughout Australia these churches are like fast growing bean plants.
Up they shoot. Where the people come which makes up the congregation is often a mystery. Someone knows someone who knows someone else, a need to belong, a joy to participate, the wifi and digital world engaged, fun loving male preachers in sharp or less sharp clothing – often a simple T shirt.
Terrific music with musicians who know their business. The singing is enlightening and bright. The atmosphere is inviting and welcoming. Babies and toddlers and primary aged and high schoolers are treated as a sacred trust. What parents doesn't see this as being paramount.
There are so many different and delightful church agencies to get involved, it is a maze of activity. There are home groups, a wide variety of groups from children to welfare and charity involvements, the list goes on and on.
The emphasis is on the bible. Believing the words contained in the bible, every word, is held high. Bible teaching is 1st Century. Not a progressive thought offered. Black and white is highlighted. Security in the Word is extended. Miracles are illustrated. The Prayer of Faith is central.
Many former mainstream Protestants find it enthralling and something so fresh and authentic they slowly but surely adopt it all. Catholics love it as they have grown up with a church politic where the Priest is in charge of everything, as is the Pentecostal pastor. Congregational rule is recognised for in-flighting and ill-disciplined church politics. Sad, but true, ask many a Baptist minister.
The Cathedral movement
There is a fascinating return to the Cathedrals. Here are some of the reasons -
Suburban church doesn't offer this type of Christian mysticism
The choirs are heavenly and bring a very special contribution
The architecture encourages spiritual enhancement
The Cathedral brings with it a professionalism of worship
The Cathedral have schools and often other community welfares
The Cathedral has a certain kind of class – nicer brand of people
The Cathedral offers a sense of belonging to a greater thing
The Cathedral solves the church politic issue for worshippers
The Cathedral has many of staff engaged in various roles
The Cathedral provides Christian and doctrinal security
The Cathedral is a feel good for many
All these factors – and there are many more – in this era of uncertainty and change of political and social goal posts, the Cathedral provides a sense of security for the followers of Christ that no suburban or Pentecostal situation provides – not in a bull's roar.
As strange as this might seem, the Pentecostals apply all the marketing tools at their finger tips. They are good at this. No flies on them!
As a counter to this type of fast sell into Christian life and worship, there is this resurgence of the Cathedral experience in which the Cathedral itself is the counter measure and is bringing in the 'sheaves' as the old hymn retorts!
Dr Mark Tronson is a Baptist minister (retired) who served as the Australian cricket team chaplain for 17 years (2000 ret) and established Life After Cricket in 2001. He was recognised by the Olympic Ministry Medal in 2009 presented by Carl Lewis Olympian of the Century. He mentors young writers and has written 24 books, and enjoys writing. He is married to Delma, with four adult children and grand-children. Dr Tronson writes a daily article for Christian Today Australia (since 2008) and in November 2016 established Christian Today New Zealand.
Mark Tronson's archive of articles can be viewed at http://www.pressserviceinternational.org/mark-tronson.html