Did you watch it Sunday? No, not the Super Bowl. Did you see the Radio Shack commercial? In case you missed it, the tag line was, “The 80′s called, they want their store back.” If you’ve ever shopped at a Radio Shack you get the self-deprecating reference. This electronics chain that once was considered “high-tech” for its day has struggled over the years to stay relevant in our ever increasing tech society.
In a follow up video, Chief Marketing Officer, Jennifer Warren said of the new campaign, “We really want to disrupt the marketplace and tell people, “We are not the Radio Shack that you think we are.”" Whether the advertising works or not, I think Radio Shack’s vision for the future is right on the money. Without compromising their mission they understand that they need to “disrupt” the public perception that they are a dinosaur corporation stuck in a pre-Internet age.
Like it or not, there is a public perception today that the church is the “Radio Shack” of religious institutions. The church had its heyday years ago but now our culture has moved on to spirituality without all the rules and regulations. Many people today aren’t anti-church, they just see it as an irrelevant dinosaur that has little or nothing of value to say modern society. The 50′s called, they want their church back.
Knowing this, the church today has a number of options to address the growing tide of irrelevance. The first option is to fold our arms in protest and do nothing. “This is the way the church is–love it or leave it!” This approach hardly embraces the compassion of Jesus (cf. Mt. 9:36). A second option is to revise the message, taking out all the offensive parts. “We’ll preach the love of Jesus. That’s far more attractive than sin, hell, and judgment.” But this approach of course empties the gospel of its power (cf. 1 Cor 1:17-18).
There is a third option that is sometimes suggested: proclaim the gospel, but ditch the church. The thought here is that if we can trim away all the fat that has accumulated over 2,000 years of church history, we can get back to the pure first-century version of Christianity. But this approach reduces Christian faith to “just me and Jesus” and ignores much of what the Bible says about growth in community and membership in the body of Christ.
So where does that leave us? It leaves us in the same place that Radio Shack apparently sees itself today. First, we too need to “disrupt the marketplace.” In our case it is the marketplace of ideas that needs disruption. Presently all “worldviews” (how one understands who we are and why we are here) are marketed as equally valid options for life. Yet we believe that the gospel is very different. We believe that a gospel-centered worldview is not only true but it alone is truth (cf. Jn 17:17).
Second, we need to do a better job of communicating to an uninformed or misinformed world what the church is. Some of the misinformation is our own fault. Somewhere along the line we’ve left people with the impression that church is where “bad” people go to learn how to be “good.” Marital problems? You need to be in church! Prodigal children? Get them to Sunday school! Struggling with addiction? You need some good preaching! But “church” has no power to change hearts–only the gospel can do that.
The other side of this coin is the infamous label “hypocrite” that we Christians often get stuck with. Again, we are partly to blame. Certainly all of us fail to live consistently with the gospel lifestyle we affirm. But in our desire to be as inclusive as possible, we have tended to rope in all who do not identify with “another religion” and who speak of belief in God as fellow “Christians.” Could it be that many of these “Christians by default” have never truly become regenerate (cf. Jn 3:3)? Is it any wonder then that there are “Christians” in churches all over this country that behave like “hypocrites”? All the more reason to guard the door of church membership.
Third, we need to be willing to let go of any non-essentials that might be preventing us from reaching the lost. The Apostle Paul said it best when he said, “For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings” (1 Cor 9:19-23, ESV).
Perhaps the dirtiest word used in the church today is the word “change.” We think that our preferences and methods are to be as set in stone as the gospel itself. While it’s true we must never compromise the gospel, this would be the equivalent of Radio Shack saying, “We are committed to technology, but we prefer to offer it in the form of cassette players, fax machines, pagers, and corded telephones.” And so we say, “Good luck with that.”
The church is not a for-profit company, and yet I wonder why the marketing world is sometimes able to see things that we the church tend to miss. What we have to offer the world has more power to transform our world than every piece of technology ever invented. Our gospel alone offers hope to a hopeless world. The question is are we hopelessly stuck in the wrong decade while trying to reach the world of today?