From the early days of television through the 1970′s, there were three television networks. They had no competition and total control over what Americans watched on TV.
Then came cable. 24 hours a day of news. Sports. Movies. Weather. Home shopping. Music videos. They focused on smaller markets, but gave people what they wanted to watch. Suddenly, people had choices. Satellite expanded the television universe to micro markets. The soap opera network. The game show network. Do-it-yourself home repairs. Extreme sports, classic sports, international sports. Poker.
Now the internet. YouTube. iTunes. Sidereel. Anyone can watch whatever they want, anytime. And not only watch, but connect with other fans and create their own content.
This is happening with mainstream Christianity as well. Splinters, spin-offs, and startups dot the landscape of American Christianity and provide an infinite number of ways for churches to connect and cooperate. Exclusivity is passé; most of the churches involved are aligned with multiple networks. “Loyalty” is redefined; churches maintain these associations only as long as they serve their intended purposes. Christians used to connect via centralized “broadcasts” such as denominations, personalities, or geography. Now they’re connected via the “cloud;” allowing them to partner with others according to their beliefs, worldview, practice, politics, and interests. Some are pretty unique. Others are nearly identical.
The Southern Baptist Convention is NBC in the 1960′s. Now there are hundreds of ways for likeminded believers to connect with one another. The Founders movement. Purpose Driven. Mosaic. Allelon. Acts 29. Glocal. The Missional Church Network. CBF. New Baptist Covenant. Emergent. The Antioch Church Network is a new channel to watch.
Why does all this matter?
Because it all comes down to influence. You don’t need to be the president of anything to change everything for some people. Steve McCoy is a nobody in his church’s denomination. To artistic, reformed-leaning, music-loving, post-denominational bloggers, he’s a rock star. Follow his blog for a little while and you’ll understand.
And because if you’re dependent on one of the old broadcast TV-style networks, you need to find some new ways to connect.