A Christian radio station commissioned a listener survey and learned that less than 100 people were tuning in to its programming. Instead of being concerned, management’s response was to say that it didn’t matter because their sole responsibility was to get the station’s message out.
Hearing this story in a Consumer Behavior class at Wheaton College was a defining moment in branding expert Karen Dougherty’s vocational journey. “They didn’t care how the receivers on the other end actually connected with the message,” said Dougherty.
The story illustrates a problem that Laity Leadership Institute Senior Fellow Darrell Guder and his colleagues tackled in their 1998 landmark book, Missional Church: A Vision for Sending of the Church in North America.
In the introduction, Guder identified these crises in the Western church: “diminishing numbers, clergy burnout, the loss of youth, the end of denominational loyalty, biblical illiteracy, divisions in the ranks, the electronic church and its various corruptions, the irrelevance of traditional forms of worship, the loss of genuine spirituality, and widespread confusion about both the purpose and the message of the church of Jesus Christ.”
I talked with Guder at Princeton Theological Seminary, where he is the Henry Winters Luce Professor of Missional and Ecumenical Theology, about what it means to live out the Christian faith in light of these crises.