Thursday 24 August 2006
Pastor Stephen - Pod Preacher
In 1996 240 odd people (some odder than others no doubt) attended the WCG services in Fairfield, California. Then the winds of change blew. There was a newly redefined, repackaged Gospel. The old ways were a barrier to evangelism.
Fairfield had apparently been a reasonably vibrant congregation up till then, as WCG churches go. Now the sky would surely be the limit.
Today they muster around 20 on an average week.
I'm indebted to Bob Thiel for drawing attention to a local newspaper article featuring the Fairfield congregation and its pollyannaish pastor, Stephen Smith. Stephen is not discouraged by his dwindling, aging flock. Stephen is not distressed by the disappearance of some 220 people to God alone knows where - splinters, sects and secular alternatives. In the spirit of the Monty Python song, Stephen tries to "always look on the bright side of life."
...as his church's membership ages and the congregation dwindles in numbers, attracting newcomers by offering podcasts and downloadable videos of sermons is becoming more key to the church's survival, he said.
"Otherwise you just grow old and die," Smith said.
Technology has been a way to reach more people, as the church's membership dropped over the years, Smith said.
About a decade ago, about 240 regularly attended the Fairfield church, he said. Then, the church changed its doctrine to no longer require members to limit activities on the Sabbath, from sundown Friday to sundown Saturday.
Membership dropped. Today, it's about 20, Smith said.
Will podcasts save the Fairfield church? Probably not. Is it just a vain chasing after the wind, Ecclesiastes style? Indubitably.
And if you had a group of only 20 regulars, might there be a more appropriate way of conducting a meeting than having a bloke in a jacket and tie standing up the front and dramatically waving his arms around? Perish the thought!
For a somewhat different perspective on what's up in Fairfield, you can click over to Richard Burnett's blog. Or visit the Fairfield WCG website at http://www.worldwidechurchofgod.com (which Richard also manages) - I'm sure he'd appreciate the traffic.