Nothing is truly ordinary

The Blockbuster Church?


It’s 1995.  It’s a Friday night.  You don’t want to go out, so you decide to stay in.  The plan is to order pizza.  But first, it’s a trip to the movie mecca:  Blockbuster.

You walk in, past the “be kind, rewind” signs and movie drop-off points.  You skip past the comedy and drama sections and go all the way to the back wall, where all the new releases are on display.  You get excited when you realize that they’ve got the new release of Braveheart on VHS in stock.   You grab one of the few remaining copies, and head to check out – maybe grabbing a bag of microwave popcorn on the way.

You get home, order your pizza, then it’s movie time.  At that moment, you’re not thinking about the fact that you’ll forget to return the movie before it’s due (and have to cough up the late fees).  This…THIS…was how to spend a Friday night at home.

All thanks to Blockbuster Video.


Within 3 miles of my house, there is an old Blockbuster store and – just a couple of blocks away – an old Hollywood Video.  If you go out about 20 miles, you pass a “video rental and tanning salon.”  The Hollywood video store has been empty for years.  The Blockbuster building now houses a jeweler and a medical supply company.  Oddly, the video rental/tanning place *might* still be open.

In any event, it’s amazing how things can change so dramatically in just a few years.  These stores did for movies what movie palaces did for movies back in the early days of Hollywood.  The stores were packed every weekend.  The latest releases were always gone if you didn’t get there early enough.  It was just a part of life… part of culture… Americana on VHS.

Today, it was announced that Blockbuster is closing what remains of their video stores (strange – I thought they had all already closed, but there were apparently 300 left) and distribution centers.  And with a whimper, Blockbuster fades into history.


I’m sure much will be said in the coming days about how Blockbuster didn’t adapt to survive – or how they resisted change.  RedBox made things easier.  Netflix brought movies to your front door – then started a trend in streaming movies/TV straight into your living room.  Today, there’s Hulu and Amazon Prime.  And Blockbuster – the once King of Friday nights – lies in ruins. had this to say:

Blockbuster was caught flat-footed by many of these changes. It could have purchased Netflix for $50 million in 2000, but passed. As Netflix rose, Blockbuster’s attempts to compete on Netflix’s terms — especially through the mail — foundered. It also tried to compete with Redbox using standalone kiosks. That didn’t work, either. (, 11/6/13)

“That didn’t work, either.”


The analogy to the decline of many churches is too obvious to make, as I’m sure hundreds of pastors/leaders will do in the following weeks and in years of conference illustrations to come.  While most people will want to make comparisons about how churches don’t like to change or don’t know their culture well enough to see the handwriting on the wall, I WILL SPARE YOU the obvious illustration.  No one likes a guy who pours salt into a wound, so I’m not going to be THAT GUY.

Instead, I’m thinking about churches right now that are booming and thriving.  Those churches that are showing record attendance numbers.  You know, the ones whose pastors get on Twitter and talk about how many hundreds (if not thousands) of people came to Christ and/or got baptized.  Those churches who have shaken up their community and seeing rapid growth.  Those churches who are spreading their “brand” by going multi-site.  Churches with “I Love My Church” t-shirts.  Building programs.  Thriving student ministries.

You know, those churches whose leaders stand up and say “the church is NOT in decline.”  They are seeing life change and growth.

And I praise God for that!!

All I offer is a warning.  Consider that this season of your church or ministry might be your Blockbuster in 1995.  You have captured “it” – the vibe, the vision, the very sweet spot of growth.

Just remember that the people we want to reach – they are MOVING targets.  The culture is always in a state of flux – constant change.

Just be ready for it!


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