EPISODE #79 – Church Trends with Keelan Cook Part 1
Jimbo does a solid favor for Bob and Kyle of the Replant team and then they guys get down to the serious business reflecting on trends in the church with our good friend, Keelan Cook, from the Union Baptist Association.
- Church gatherings have fundamentally changed through the use of media (online, drive-in, Facebook, Youtube etc.)
- The “Netflixification” of church is occuring, people are watching worship services when it fits in their schedule – not when the church is live streaming the in person gathering
- There are positives and negatives with this practice (homebound, special needs populations)
- Consumerism and Self-focused decisions are on the rise
- “Embodied Practice” = we expect you to be present for gathered worship is going to be a tension point for us as we moved forward.
- We have to evaluate every piece of media we put on social media and ask: “Who is this for?”
- What churches put online should shift to be a primary means of outreach, shared by church members
- Pastors and Leaders will need to work hard to transition their folks back to the gathering as a practice.
Check out part 2 next week.
See where Jimbo stopped to pick up Dr. Pepper @ the great travel stop Bucee’s – check it out!
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Show notes powered by Descript are an approximation of the verbal content, consult podcast audio for accuracy
[00:00:00] JimBo Stewart: Exactly. Hey, so you’re going to here, the hotel room acoustics on this episode of the replant bootcamp podcast, I’ve noticed when we record them or hotel rooms, you can tell that we’re recording in a hotel room. The acoustics just aren’t quite as good.
Bob Bickford: It reminds me of the first hotel recording Jimbo that occurred in Jackson.
JimBo Stewart: Missouri. Okay. Jackson, Missouri at the infamous after infamous situation, which is, which is the moment. That’s a good segue. A story I wanted to open with today. This was, this was the moment I’m still getting there. No, Bob Bickford don’t know him super well yet we go out to eat and ,Bob says, do you have Dr.
Pepper to drink? And the waitress says is Mr. PIB. Okay. And Bob immediately, I mean, without thought, just replies. Is monopoly money. Okay. I mean, have you tried Mr. ? I thought this poor waitress
Bob Bickford: I’m I’m throwing a flag on revisionist [00:01:00] history here. No revisions say, have you tried Dr. Pepper, but I don’t think that I said is monopoly money.
Okay. No, I
JimBo Stewart: remember that. Okay. So here’s the deal, whether he said that
Keelan Cook: or not, he did. Yes.
JimBo Stewart: He, I can attest to his seriousness of Dr. Pepper. Dependency
Bob Bickford: and you can attest to it because on this trip, Jimbo, Kyle Bierman texted are actually Facebook posted. I’m on the plane. We’re about to take off. And Kyle basically repeated that same scenario with a server yet here in Atlanta.
So as soon as I landed, what did I do? I called you. You called me, what
JimBo Stewart: did I say right here? All the way from Jacksonville, Florida. And I get a call from Bob and dead serious. He goes, Hey, I got a favor. I need you to. I said, okay, Bob, what, what do you need? He goes, look, all they have here is Mr. PIB. And, you know, I can’t handle that.
Me and Kyle are not going to be okay. Do you think you could stop by like a grocery store or [00:02:00] something and grab me some Dr. Pepper and so sure enough, five minutes later, I see the big, yes. Lucky’s yes, the Buc-ee’s I knew, I knew without a doubt Bucky’s would have. Dr. Pepper and mass. Yeah. And they did. So I got each of you 12 pack, and then I thought they’re going to feel weird walking around with a can a hotel.
So I got you each little Bucky’s thermos mugs because that’s how much I love you, Bob.
Bob Bickford: I want to, I just want to say that I felt really loved by you Jimbo in and you, you exceeded my expectations and I knew that you were a solid friend. So on behalf of Kyle Bierman and myself, I just want to say. Thank
JimBo Stewart: you.
You’re welcome. You’re welcome tonight. We’ve got such a great guest with us. The great Missy allergist, the doctor himself to be the dad of two who hasn’t slept in months. Keelan cook from [00:03:00] union Baptist, Houston. Welcome Keelan.
Keelan Cook: Hey, it’s good to be here.
JimBo Stewart: So we wanted to talk. We had you on here before talking about the Panorama.
And we wanted to have you on here as the most educated Missy ologists. We know.
Keelan Cook: So you’re telling me I’m the only Missy it’s just get,
Bob Bickford: well, the only live one keys. Fair enough. Uh, you know, we’ve read, uh, Leslie Newbigin and you know, a couple of other guys got some good stuff.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. So from, from your perspective, what are trends that you have noticed in church?
In America, uh, in, in the last 12 to 18 months, particularly we’ve had a few major world events that have impacted the way we view and do the, I don’t know if you’ve paid attention to the news now. Um, w what are you
Keelan Cook: talking? There’s
JimBo Stewart: there was some people got sick. Some people got mad, some elections [00:04:00] happened.
And some other events with large gatherings. And so we, we wanted to know what those impacts have been on
Bob Bickford: the church. And we also, I just, I need to say this. We also celebrated one year of podcasting. We did. And that wasn’t a, I think that was another,
JimBo Stewart: it was a notable event in the last 12 months that we had a one-year anniversary.
Yeah. This is like episode. I’m going to get it wrong. 78. This is episode 78. So. 78 weeks and we still like each other. We do. Okay. There was a hesitation hesitation there. He was, he was contemplating.
Bob Bickford: I just didn’t know if I was, it was, you wanted me to respond yet, but
JimBo Stewart: you dropped your cue card. He wasn’t sure what say it was, it was confusing feeling.
What have you, what have you noticed, uh, in, in the church world?
Keelan Cook: So trends over the course of the last year, like, [00:05:00] man, that’s a super broad and confusing and jumbling mess right now. Right. I think in order to narrow it down, let’s focus maybe on. Like one of the things, probably the, probably the biggie on the eye chart here would be the pandemic as far as how it has affected church practice.
It’s not the only one. Now you mentioned two or three things there that I think are a big deal. There’s some cultural and political tension that is starting to occur. That’s an understatement, isn’t it? And there’s several other things that are swelling around that. But the pandemic is probably the easiest.
Isn’t this funny, it’s probably the easiest to get a handle on when it comes to trying to talk about church breakfast right now, that’s the world we’re living in. Is that the pandemics that you’d like to talk about?
JimBo Stewart: You don’t have to think about it every once in a while. You never ever have 2020 started with Australia on fire.
Keelan Cook: That’s right. You
JimBo Stewart: forgot didn’t you? Yeah. You completely forgot that a whole continent was on [00:06:00] fire. And that was like one of the least memorable moments of 2020. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s really, wasn’t pretty notable year entirely. So what, what would be the trends you’ve seen
Keelan Cook: from the pandemic? Yes. So if we, if we focus on pandemic and talk about how that’s impacted us, uh, obviously, uh, most of our churches for the course of the last year have been forced into either not gathering in person online, or not gathering in person and going online.
Uh, or finding some way of doing services outside, or you heard for awhile about churches that were meeting in cars and doing things over the radio. So there was all of these scrambled to try to figure out how we could meet when we couldn’t meet. And I think a lot of churches are starting to come back together.
Now you’re seeing that you’re seeing people that are, they’re starting back up. I’m in Houston. Most of our churches are meeting in person again, however, over the course of the pandemic, I do think one thing that really sticks out for us is the fact that. [00:07:00] Churches that had never really seriously considered, uh, alternate forms of media and how they impacted the way that we as a church are we as churches do what we do.
I think they were forced to start thinking through how do we use, what do we use media to, how do we use media? Uh, what’s a good forum. What’s it not good for? These are the questions that I think we’re going to leave the pandemic, having to answer well, and I think there’s some good answers to it. I think there’s some bad answers to it too.
And so I’m going to be interested to see what paths a lot of churches take, considering things like, are we going to keep streaming services? Are we going to use, um, like an online zoom, small group, there are churches that are persisting, those kinds of things too. And so what we do with that, I think is going to be the, kind of the big trend.
Bob Bickford: One thing that we’ve talked about on the replan team, the larger replay team, and one of the things. Observing is that [00:08:00] people are relating to the scheduled gathering of the local body in a different way. So the whatever percentage of your people are attending church in in-person are still doing that on a schedule.
There’s a number of the percentage of people who are not doing that, and they’re watching online. And here’s what I’m saying. They’re not watching online at the time of the actual gathering. If it’s live-streamed on YouTube or Facebook, they’re treating the, broadcast gathering as appointment worship.
So, so like Netflix, like, so when you know who watches a show when it’s live anymore at all, We don’t. Yeah. Well, I think people have adapted to that in, in the way that they approach worship. So part of what, the question that I have in my mind, and I don’t have an answer for it is how is that going to persist?
Right. And people are, are okay with, [00:09:00] you know, putting the, putting the pastor’s message on pause. Uh, okay. Pause. I need to go to the snack or pause. I need to go do this or wait a second. I’m going to watch church on Monday night or Tuesday night, or whenever it fits for my schedule.
Keelan Cook: Yeah. Um, so we’re, we’re we’re forecasting here, right?
We’re all just kind of predicting. What’s going to happen. It’s hard to say. I will say this though. I think you’re very right about that. there’s this Netflix suffocation. Ooh, I like that spun that one up. Uh, there’s more where that came from.
JimBo Stewart: It’s now the title of this episode, you know, like suffocation of church.
Bob Bickford: not a red hot chili pepper song.
JimBo Stewart: You’re close. Oh, Whoa.
Bob Bickford: He said, all right, I’m sorry. I wasn’t listening to secular music back then. Um,
Keelan Cook: What secular music box. Oh, I don’t know. Maybe Jimbo can tell us. So anyways, uh, I think the answer is absolutely that’s, that’s the thing that’s [00:10:00] occurring is the benefit perceived benefit.
At least for many people is the fact that I can now move church around my schedule. probably didn’t happen as much in the beginning, but along the way you start realizing the light bulb goes off. Oh, I don’t have to watch this at 10:00 AM. I can watch this, you know, in two hours and three hours, I can watch this on Tuesday and.
There’s some value add to me being able to build my schedule that way. Right. And so I think you’re right. I think it’s starting to increasingly be used in that manner. A question that we need to be, considering as church leaders is, is that a good thing or is that a bad thing?
JimBo Stewart: Can I ask you? You said they were good answers to this and bad answers.
So is the Netflix vacation of church? Is that a good answer? Is that a bad answer?
Bob Bickford: Yeah right now, I guess I’m feeling like it’s not a good answer. Yeah. In the sense that, if we think of a mandate and scriptures to gather together, not forsake the gathering. Well, the gathering [00:11:00] in that context in the time of the writing was an actual physical gathering that occurred at a particular point in time.
Right. So if I was kind of go nine marks on you, then I would probably say that. It, it has to be a place and a time and people are called to that place of that. Right. So I think what there’s things that we lose, we, so I can gather with the church by watching. Something, but I’m not really gathering with the church, I guess.
And I, I really wrestled with that. And you’re you’re you got a new baby, right? Man, new man child. What’s his name? He’s got a really cool
JimBo Stewart: name. Right?
Bob Bickford: So what are you going to call him? We’re calling
JimBo Stewart: him,
Keelan Cook: etc. That’s the, so my, my name is Charles Keelan and my dad’s name is Charles Robert. So that’s where the Charles comes from. That’s kind of a tradition for us to be the first boy that way as
JimBo Stewart: HRA is like just extra biblical. Absolutely.
Keelan Cook: That’s right.
Yeah. So I feel like I get plus points in some sense by using [00:12:00] a name that’s out of the Bible. Yeah. Um, my
JimBo Stewart: son is Charles Cash, but named after Johnny Cash.
Keelan Cook: So let’s actually, you’re the one that gets the blessed points here.
Bob Bickford: So back to the I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to throw us a curve ball there, but young parents, and this is what we’re hearing from Marian parents. Like. So Charles Ezra doesn’t sleep all night and you know, you guys are exhausted and everybody’s meeting online and then your daughter gets, you know, she’s a little fussy or something.
And so you just push pause and you’d go to Meredith. Hey, I think we’re just going to watch it after lunch when the kids are
Keelan Cook: down for the nap. Right. So we can actually do this in peace. So that is tempting. However, I, I think. I think that’s problematic. That particular use case that you mentioned is problematic, though.
If so, I’m largely in agreement with your, your assessment of it. When you say that that’s wholesale kind of a bad thing, I’m [00:13:00] largely in agreement with that assessment. However, let me play devil’s advocate for a second. I had a conversation, a brief conversation on social media the other day with a friend from always the best
Bob Bickford: place
Keelan Cook: to not tell you, I’m telling you, it certainly is unclear.
JimBo Stewart: always
Keelan Cook: really easy to understand. Yeah. Sympathetic, empathetic, all of those things. It’s all of it. I’ve never seen it this year. That’s that’s the perfect medium for
don’t worry about anything that matters. Isn’t it? Yes. Anyways, though. So this conversation was a good one though. We were having some discussion about the impact of, uh, COVID the pandemic on church practice.
And one of the things that came up was. The fact that it forced churches into thinking about some of these alternate means of delivering things like corporate worship and some of that stuff. And there has in fact been a whole vein in church life of people that legitimately were home bound, shut in families with children that have special needs.
And there’s, there’s a spectrum [00:14:00] there. And some families who have had children that are. in that kind of special needs category, like a lot of churches, it’s very hard for them to fit into what’s going on. And I have friends who have children with special needs that churches have told them as much.
And so we really don’t have anything for you here. And so there’s a whole vein of people over here that are in different use case than men. It was really hard for me to get my kids up today. I think we’ll just. Push pause and do church whenever we want to. Yeah, those are two different things.
JimBo Stewart: I would affirm that that’s one of the things that happened in the pandemic for me as a pastor was a heightened awareness of shut-ins honestly, because I I’m an extrovert.
I am a nomad. I do not want to sit in the same place very long. And so even as short as Jacksonville was locked down, I, it, I became empathetic immediately. For shut ins [00:15:00] because I thought I can’t do this. I can’t imagine what I really did have this, like how frustrating and difficult it must be for shut-ins to just sit there and go.
Like, I can’t, I mean, even when there’s not a pandemic, I can’t go anywhere. I can’t do anything. I can’t. And so here I am at the home and at home and it made me as a pastor think that all this stuff we’re doing, if for nobody else, if, for nobody else’s for the shut-ins and for that, I am grateful. Yeah. But I, I would also agree in idea of outside of that when we moved from that to a matter of convenience, it’s like we have gone ahead and been honest about the fact that we were just consumers.
That’s a good way to put it. Right. It’s like all of a sudden you, like, we pretended we weren’t consumers. Like we go to church, we’re part of it and participate. Yeah. But like that whole mentality of I’ll play it when I want to play it. When it’s convenient around my schedule, I’ll pause it. I’ll do it while I’m [00:16:00] watching the dishes or cooking dinner or getting lunch, ready doing the laundry, like a podcast, all you’re doing is consuming.
And if you’ve said
I’m good with that. I,
I have issues with that. Yeah. I take issue with that’s. That is not a look. Extenuating circumstance, stances, special circumstances. So grateful for this technology that we can do things. but it’s not, not meant as a long-term solution for your convenience. And I, I do think that that is an issue.
Do you think that there will be problematic, continuous patterns from that?
Keelan Cook: there are enough churches in America and the answer to that is inevitably yes. There needs to be able to do this really poorly. So, yes, I do think you’re going to see it. I hope it’s not that Jordy trend. Right. I hope we don’t see the majority of folks doing that.
Um, there’s two or three very tinting things that I think online church as [00:17:00] replacement for church. Cause that’s really what we’re talking about. Right? Right. Flick suffocation. Yes. Uh, this idea that online can substitute for, the. What is biblically the irreducibly embodied nature of the church. The word church means assembly.
Yeah. So kind of by virtue, there’s an embodied nature to it. Right. So if you just think that online is a substitute for that, there’s several temptations that that’s bins up one. If you were struggling to have people show up in person, but now you look at your, your metrics on Facebook. And it looks like we not, we all know the problems with your metrics, but it looks like I’m now reaching more people, quote unquote, that’s, that’s a tempting poll.
The fact that we may not want to say to some folks that have started to kind of engage with us, that we have an expectation in our church of embodied practice. And so you can just stay there and help assist there.
JimBo Stewart: The expectation of embodied practice,
Bob Bickford: we’re just dropping [00:18:00] phrases and terms on there.
JimBo Stewart: I’ve never heard it put that way, but I like it.
Keelan Cook: There you go. you can translate that into like we expect your rear end to be.
Bob Bickford: He just went Tennessee on it.
Keelan Cook: That’s it, it dropped back into my native tongue.
Bob Bickford: I love it. I love it.
Keelan Cook: Um, so like, That’s going to be a hurdle that we have to overcome at some point.
And who wants to have that conflict? Right? Maybe we can start talking about having an online service that’s just perpetually. So, and here’s where we are really going to have to split some difference. I think if we’re not careful and we make that a legitimate alternative perpetually instead of an on ramp toward a full understanding of church, then we’re going to have some problems.
Bob Bickford: So if we get real practical, And saying we’re, we’re not going to make this, uh, on addressed on critically thought about practice. If we’re going to take a couple of steps towards addressing [00:19:00] it, what would those be?
Keelan Cook: Yeah. So one, every piece of media you’re putting out as a church, I think you need to ask, what is this for?
I just had this conversation with some of our pastors in the association just the other day. If you’ve got a service, that’s going up on, Facebook or it’s going up on YouTube every week. Who is that for? If it’s for your regular congregation. , we’re at a point is we’re starting to pull people back together.
Like you need to find a way to onboard your people back to a full experience in church. So let’s look for ways to do that. It may not happen immediately. There’s probably good and bad ways, sympathetic and unsympathetic ways to do that. and so if that’s our purpose for this media, we need to find a way to transition back to where the other I’ve seen other churches that I think have done a fairly effective job saying, you know, we’re, now that we’re in the habit of doing something online.
Let’s use this as a means of outreach. And so it’s not just going to be a carbon copy of the sermon that we’re having here. Maybe it’s a truncated version of the [00:20:00] sermon. It’s 15 minutes instead of 30, and we’re going to preproduce this. And then we’re going to tell our folk to share it on their social media.
And so it becomes an outreach opportunity. And the expectation though, is that our folk will eventually make their way back into the sanctuary. They’re eventually going to make their way back into corporate worship. With one another, but we’re now going to use this as a tool to engage friends, family, people in our social circles, something to that effect.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. So this is like, you know what this reminds me of, this is the electronic version of the youth group postcard. You remember that you, I don’t know if you, you might not be all you’re going to need to do in life. Okay. So back as a youth group postcard, back in the day when I was a youth pastor, One of the things we would do is we would make an early
We would make postcards and we would, you know, pizza blast on Friday or, you know, laser tag. And then we would, there was this thing called paperclip art that you would, [00:21:00] you would cut these images out. I I’ve seen clip art,
JimBo Stewart: but you would
Bob Bickford: send them out to people. Well, you’d give them to your friends. And, and you would,
corral your youth group. You’d get pass them out on Wednesday night. And you’d say hand these out, cause you’re gonna have a big event on Friday and we’re going to share the gospel. And so this is the electronic version of a, of the youth group postcard. Sorry, I
JimBo Stewart: love it. But you know what we’re going to do.
We’re going to leave it with a Netflix suffocation.
Keelan Cook: You have to really work to articulate that it’s an Apple Netflix application
JimBo Stewart: cliffhanger. I
Bob Bickford: say we do a part two. Let’s do part two.