EPISODE #80 – CHURCH TRENDS WITH KEELAN COOK PART 2
The guys picked up where they left off discussing the Netflixification of the Church and how the on demand nature of streaming has impacted the way people are engaging with the Church.
- Streaming Church Content due to convenience – probably not a good motive
- Streaming due to life circumstances and need – a periodic necessity and gift but not long-term solution
The pandemic has given us a gift-in that we can clarify with our congregation what does it mean to be with the church.
We can and should evaluate everything we are doing and help our folks assess their engagement with it.
Our goal, as Pastors is to help our congregation understand the value of embodied presence (gathered worship)
- Preach on the value of embodied presence
- Connect with your congregation
- Elevate connection through groups
- Lead others to engage in shepherding along with you – “the one another’s”
- Restructure the embodied presence by changing your liturgy
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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: Do you guys remember when streaming stuff started? What’s the first show you watched, like on demand, not live when it came on TV, not recorded on your VHS or laser disc, but like you what’s the, all right. I’ll rephrase. What’s the first show you ever binge-watched at least so by binge-watched three or four episodes, at least all in one sitting.
I’ll go first.
Bob Bickford: Yeah, go first
JimBo Stewart: heroes. Yeah. Heroes. Yeah. Yes, it was, it was good for my marriage. We had just moved to new Orleans and I did not have a job and my wife had a job, but she hated it. And so what we would do in the evenings, I would, I would in the day try to find work and do seminary. It took me a few months to find some good, decent work.
I would. I would add mystery shopping. I saw stuff on Craigslist. I did all, anything that was legal and I could make money. I did it. I mean, I, so plasma the whole thing. Oh gosh. The only bright [00:01:00] spot in our day is when we would get our kids to bed and we would watch heroes. And that was on Netflix actually was at that time, Netflix had beyond demand the next day, like Hulu does where you’d watch it the next day.
And so we had started binge watching heroes. What about you guys? What, what did, what is the first thing you ever binge watched?
Keelan Cook: I think it was psych. Oh, what a good show? Psych psych. That’s a man. Sean. Spencer. What? A guy. I don’t know, man. And guess what I was actually talking to Meredith just the other night about the fact that I, so we don’t, we don’t watch a lot of PD anymore.
JimBo Stewart: Pluto. It’s messed
Keelan Cook: up. I told her, I miss a quote. I’m Mrs. Burton Guster, like out of nowhere, I told Meredith I was like, I really miss I miss Guster.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. I have no
idea what you guys are talking about.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah. You gotta watch site, man. Yeah. You need to watch it now. Right. All right. So what about you first show?
Bob Bickford: Friday night lights, Friday night lights, Texas
[00:02:00] clear eyes, full hearts. Can’t lose. So Mike, my daughter, oldest daughter was a senior graduating and about to go to a college in Dallas. And so somehow we got on Friday night lights. Now I had a, I had a replant her trauma moment in watching Friday night lights.
And here here’s the replant or trauma moment. You know, at the end of one of the seasons, when coach Taylor is fired from the Dillon Panthers, basically, and he has to go coach now, the East Dylan Lyons. I remember that. And at the end of that episode, after he walks out of the school board meeting or whatever it is, he gets fired.
He and Tammy Taylor, they walk to the East Dylan football field, which looks like. A ramshackle place. That’s half junkyard truck, pole, row Reyna, and broken down football stadium. And he and his wife were on the 50 yard line there facing the [00:03:00] broken down press box and they have their arms around each other.
And I looked at my wife and said, that’s exactly what we’ve done in replanting. This church. I loved the big, I lived a big multi-site church with that was the Dillon Panthers. And I went to the East Dillon Alliance. And can I say that my first year was about as bad as coach Taylor’s first year, you
JimBo Stewart: know, the theme song.
The Friday night lights is one of my favorite songs to listen to I’ll study. Yeah, it’s called, it’s called your hand and mind by explosions in the sky. I have it on my playlist. Yeah. I mean, it’s, it’s, it’s one of the most enjoyable, instrumental electric guitar songs to just sit there and listen to.
Keelan Cook: Well, and I’ll tell you what I think at this point. Yeah. You’ve convinced me. I need to get a screenshot of that moment and start printing them and handing them to all of our new perspective
JimBo Stewart: church way. I’d be like, here you go, buddy. Just
Bob Bickford: take this to your office postcard and give it
JimBo Stewart: that’s [00:04:00] it. All right.
Well, you have, you are listening. You’ve joined us for part two of the Netflix of education of the church with our resident, Missy ologist Keelan cook here all the way from Houston here in the hotel and Atlanta for the AMS. Training lab, one of the biggest and best events our team does all year long. , I look forward to this one so much.
My wife looks forward to, this was real sad. She couldn’t be with us this time. but we had such a great time talking with Keela and about the Netflix vacation, it was decided to continue that conversation. I don’t see how many times
Keelan Cook: I was gonna say getting better and better at saying it. Now your theater
Bob Bickford: background is really coming through
JimBo Stewart: working on the annunciation.
You’re doing great. You know, the one, the only class I was, and this is true. The only class I was ever asked to tutor anyone in, because yet finishing I’m dyslexic and ADHD. So there were very few things people ask me to do
Bob Bickford: them in that explains a lot. That was it. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: Phonetics. All right. Really whatever reason, man, it makes sense in my head and I’ve memorized the [00:05:00] entire phonetic alphabet had a phonetic dictionary.
And I could hear all the different nuances in the sounds. And, and so while taking the class, I was tutoring half of the class I was in. Awesome. And phonetics, the only thing I excelled at in college. So if nothing else I can, uh, C8 words correctly. You’re very good. All right. So the Netflix application, we were talking about how.
This on-demand nature. Like the shows we’ve just talked about have become the way people consume church services a lot. And that that’s, there is a segment of the population in special circumstances where we are grateful that the technology has allowed them. To have some connection, with the church body and the church service in that way.
Uh, but outside of like extenuating special circumstances, when you’re doing this just for your convenience, we determined that that’s probably not a good idea. [00:06:00] Right. And so we were talking about, and here’s what I would love to continue the conversation. Keelan brought up a good point of if it’s being, if we’re using media, And the technology that we have in this age as an on-ramp into more meaningful, what was it embodied?
What did you say? I think as an embodied practice, embodied practice, if we can move an on-ramp into embodied practice, then, then that’s a good thing. That that’s a good thing, but how do, what does that look like? How do you get somebody to drop the convenience of play this whenever I want. While I’m doing whatever posit when I need to whatever.
And that’s my church. That’s what I do. I go to that chair cause that’s my pastor. And because I watched them on YouTube or Facebook, how do we move from that to embodied presence in, in the body.
Bob Bickford: I kind of have a theory and I don’t know if this is right, so you can do, you can dismiss it out of hand and [00:07:00] then try to figure out what you were going to say. But, um, here’s what I, here’s what I think about what, what is it that breaks me out of convenience and my so convenience basically as an expectation of self.
And a priority of self and I’m going to do what I want to do when I want to do it. Right. Or when it’s easy for me to do. Yeah. Here’s what I’m, here’s what I think. I think suffering and difficulty have an opportunity to break me out of my desire to have always, to always have things my way and be convenient.
And so I’m just wondering if that’s, if that’s a part of what we’re maybe. Headed towards and looking because the current cultural trends are typically trending a little less friendly towards embodied practice and Christianity gathered worship as we’ve seen in some locations. And then also if we see the cultural trends publicly that Orthodox biblical theology on, relationships, sexuality, the role of government, et cetera, et cetera.
We’re we’re kind of [00:08:00] in one of these interesting moments where all of that is out of step with mainstream culture. So are we heading into a time w where our convenience is going to be under assault because of our practices? not being accepted as widely? I don’t, I don’t know. I mean, yeah,
Keelan Cook: that’s certainly a potential scenario.
the number of circumstances that surround that are virtually infinite. but I think there are a whole lot of scenarios that could play out where that’s certainly the case. A lot of the things that you said are in fact, I mean, I mean they’re happening that’s right. we’re increasingly living in a world now where the biblical morality is seen as the exact opposite.
There’s a morality where we’re now the immoral ones in some ways. And so intolerant. Yeah. We’re intolerant. We’re immoral because of our stances. Four things that the Bible says, this is morality. And so you’re certainly right. That some of that pressure is there. How that plays out is yet to be determined.
I [00:09:00] think for us though, it will, it could certainly lead in that direction. I think that’s one of the things that we would need to consider there. And I think even then that has the potential to spin in a healthy direction or an unhealthy direction. If that, if that pressure does in fact come, does it press us toward one another?
which is what it should do, right? Or does it press us even further to the ability to clandestinely consume my church in a way that keeps people from knowing I gathered where the church at all that could spin in both directions though, you’re your heart or the point at the center of what you said I think is, is right.
the heart motive of the individual behind why and what they’re doing. I think is, is one primary determiner for how we get people to move back toward it. So I think there’s kind of two things here. I finally got to run to my answer. I think there’s two things here. One we need to help create a very clear picture of what the church is [00:10:00] too.
We need to at an individual level challenge, our church members to ask them why they are engaging with that. So there’s kind of an individual piece to it here. And then there’s that corporate piece. I think the pandemic will have given us a gift in this sense. We have a real clear, easy reason right now to revisit with our folk.
What is the church? What does it consists of? And. What should we be doing together? We, we now have an opportunity to revisit that one and we’ve had to change practices enough that we’re now in a position to be able to look at every practice we have been doing both before the pandemic and during the pandemic and ask, why, why, why have you been doing that?
And some of that stuff should probably get tossed, right? Uh, but there are pieces of it that are irreducible to the nature of the church. Like being together in person. Right? So this allows us to [00:11:00] assess that hopefully come back with a clear understanding of what the church is, and then start communicating that well to our people.
This is what it means to be a part of a church. Now assess yourself. Where do you stand in relationship to that? So when we’re trying to communicate
JimBo Stewart: that I’m going to list a couple of strategies and you get them back to me in order of priority. Well, the price is right. All of
Bob Bickford: a sudden this is like a memory game, truck, car, elephants
JimBo Stewart: strategy.
Number one, I’ll have a drunk by the way, tweetable statements in my sermon strategy. Number two. Getting tagged on preachers and sneakers, Instagram strategy, number three, theologically enriched content that moves people to embodied presence with the church.
Keelan Cook: You know, this is a tough one, jumbo.
I think it’s probably the last one. Okay. Okay. The, the, the sneakers, [00:12:00] Instagram is a close second. Are
JimBo Stewart: you familiar with preachers? Oh man. It’s it’s interesting. I’ve no, of course I’ve not
Bob Bickford: made it. Okay.
JimBo Stewart: No, no preachers and loafers me all over that one.
All right. So, so I think, I think that is key is defining what. What is a church, what is meaningful membership and not meaningful membership is in this is your obligation, but what does it actually mean? Yeah. Uh, to one biblically theological glee, and then even to, to steal from John Piper in a Christian hedonistic way, selfishly.
Right. So if we take the Christian hedonism approach of what is, what is your. Path to the greatest joy in life. It’s going to involve embodied presence of some level with a local [00:13:00] church body and helping people. I see that. And so I was thinking about when we were talking to Hallock, uh, recently he was talking about the importance right now of Mike.
What do you call it? Micro shepherding and how we do macro shepherding pretty well, uh, from the pulpit and, and. I think relevant to this conversation. All all you can do is macro shepherding. If we’re doing the Netflix vacation, I mean, and, and not even really well, I mean, it’s not even good macro shepherding, but at best you will do macro shift, but there’s no way in the Netflix application to do micro shepherding, to really get connected with people.
And so I wonder, could, could some micro shepherding strategy. Where you are assigning to deacons or elders or lay leaders or whoever. here is X amount of people that on paper are members of this church, but we have not been [00:14:00] blessed with their embodied presence. And so check on them, see how they’re doing, talk to them and coach them on what a church means and what membership means and figure out where they’re at.
I mean, And then can we get them in a cycle? I mean, yeah,
Keelan Cook: I think that’s one great way to go about it. so the, the macro micro distinction I think is an important one. Uh, you’ve got, he’s probably referring to like, Witmer’s work there on that one. I’m sure he is.
JimBo Stewart: Um, usually is, yeah, right.
Keelan Cook: Uh, it’s a great book.
and yes, all we’ve been able to do is some shadow form of macro. And some shadow form of micro. There has been a shadow form of micro. So the, uh, the zoom small groups, right, right. Somebody can be in a small group. The, the thing that we’re running into though is it’s really hard. If the church is just receiving content, [00:15:00] then we’ve been doing macro and micro shepherding.
If the church is more than receiving content, if it’s say. One another commands that to members of a church you’re supposed to live out together, then we’ve been inhibited from doing that on a macro or a micro level. Right. And so it’s been anemic on both. If all we’re doing is relying on this piece. So finding some concrete practices in your church that would allow.
For reconnecting and reengaging with those people and then pressing them towards something better, assigning people to deacons or assigning people to leaders. If you’ve got a robust, small group structure in your church, like that becomes a way to start trying to pull them back toward those things.
And so I think that’s one really good approach that you just know. Yeah.
JimBo Stewart: What I mean, what are other ways that we could make sure that we move beyond and that flips vacation and we actually bring people. Into meaningful
Bob Bickford: connection. Yeah. So if we’re, if we’re thinking through the reality [00:16:00] that some people may not want to gather in person, something we started were three 20 run groups where we said three people for 20 minutes, together one time a week.
And so we gave them the option in person. On zoom phone call that sort of thing. So read a scripture, share what’s going on in your life and pray together. Now we know that it’s gonna be hard to do that in 20 minutes, but what’s happening is people in our church are doing at three 21. And so it’s like, Hey, here’s your three 21 groups.
So we’re cast a vision for it. We talk about it. People are connecting. And so that’s the way that they connect with one another. So we, we basically. So to do that, one is to maintain connection in the bot verbal connection to the body, because these are the things that happen in the space of conversation.
As the church is dismissing after the benediction people hang around, right. COVID policies told us we weren’t supposed to do that, but we’ve pretty much ignored that. Right. So we have our mass on weeds. We connect. So I’m wondering if that aspect for us is helping us build some of that [00:17:00] in to share the burden of shepherding.
And here’s what I wrestled with. Um, a lot of the shepherding that we think about is we think about the shepherd shepherding rather than the body doing the work of a shepherd amongst itself. So this gets me to think about, uh, the past the one, another passages, and then the exhortation passages and encouraging one, another passages and all those sorts of things.
And I think. Maybe in a, counterintuitive way, the breaking up of the regular pattern of gathering, where everybody faces the front and sings and listens, and doesn’t really do any kind of significant things. Maybe if we utilize it that and built in some opportunities for people to actually. Do the one another’s and pray for one another and remind each other of scripture and exhort one another.
Wonder if, if the, the climate might be right for us to plant some of that [00:18:00] within our bodies?
JimBo Stewart: I think you’re spot on
Keelan Cook: there. Bob. The fact that we’ve not been doing, in-person gatherings is the perfect time for us to ground up reassess our liturgy. Every like every, the meet and greet what, how many songs you were going to include?
Are we going to do songs? How’s the room gonna be like now as an opportunity for us to really blow up some of the paradigms there. If we want it to, they don’t have to be blown up, but we can be thoughtful about how we’re doing that. And I think the way you structure sure that corporate worship service itself can start to increase in heightened.
Uh, participation, instead of it being built more around a spectator model, we start engaging people in that. And if you change that kind of thing, as people start coming back or experience it, then it does, it did cast a different vision for what this time. It’s four.
JimBo Stewart: I think that’s so, [00:19:00] so key. I’ve been thinking about that too, of have we have maybe accidentally set ourselves up for the Netflix vacation because.
We’ve trained people to come sit and spectate. And so for them, it doesn’t really feel that different to be at home and watch it on their phone while they’re cooking dinner. Right. Cause it’s not fairly significantly any different than what they did when they came on Sunday morning because they came and they said there, and they spectated, and there was no participation.
Yeah. and so we kind of set ourselves up for this and I think you’re right. That we. You have an opportunity right now to, to clearly define what a church is clearly define what membership is and rethink and figure out. And I don’t know what that would look like. I thought about this a lot and I don’t know.
I thought if I were really truly in charge of an entire worship service and I wanted to make it as rich, biblically is in, [00:20:00] in really a gathering, what would that look like? And I. I mean, I haven’t come up with a final answer to that.
Keelan Cook: Sure. I’ll tell you one thing that I’ve seen a couple of our churches in Houston do as churches have started to regather, and this is just spitballing here, but a heightened focus on prayer in the corporate worship service.
And you can do some neat things when you break people down into groups to pray for an extended period of time in that corporate worship gathering, That’s much more participatory. It feels very weird. What a church has been in a spectator mode for a long time to say you five people now go sit up in the morning for 10 or 15 minutes.
Bob Bickford: How do you put that on Facebook? You don’t right, right. So
JimBo Stewart: the pandemic archers did that pretty regularly. And I would often get feedback from peer introverted people. Like, Hey, that was super awkward for me. You just be standing in a group with people. And I only think I need to do [00:21:00] his level.
He say like, Hey, I know this is a stretch, but that’s kind of what we’re doing here. And so I do want to respect different personality and perspectives and those things you don’t have to pray out loud. You can just stand in that group. And let them, and you just ignore them, pretend like you’re not there.
And, but like, let’s just take a step. And, you know, when we did that prior to the pandemic, it was, it was very meaningful for us, but that’s our that’s that is because it’s not spectator driven. It doesn’t translate to the Netflix.
Bob Bickford: Sure. It doesn’t. So the idea that Keelan has, uh, pre producing something for, either the person that is home-bound or the general public, that’s a.
On Looker. Right? So can I, can I come from left field on a couple? Come on, we got like
JimBo Stewart: five
Bob Bickford: minutes left. All right. So, we’ve been talking about you even joking about the youth group postcard, but every kid that went to youth group youth camp came back [00:22:00] really changed from the experience of hearing preaching in the morning, the bed day in the evening, but more often than not, there was some sort of youth group share time.
Right around a campfire or in a pavilion where people talked about what the Lord had said to them that day in terms of what, an insight that they get. And so I’m going to be careful. I’m not talking about the audible, you know, we’re we’re, you know what I’m saying? Right. We’re, we’re getting a place where people can go, the Lord spoke to you.
Like, no, we can’t do that. You know, that kind of thing, but there’s some sort of interaction with them. Holy spirit impressed upon them through the teaching of God’s word. And we would casually say in youth group culture, God spoke to me. Right. And we all know what we meant by that. Yeah. So we don’t bear testimony in the public worship service on a whole that I, that I’ve been a part of it in many years.
I don’t see that. So, so then we’re getting off into [00:23:00] this whole area of, You know, first Corinthians 14, they get the prophecy and I’ll just, I’ll go on record. And I’ve said this from public, uh, publicly as a, as a pastor. I’m not a cessationist. Right. Um, I’m more of a container, tens of thousands
JimBo Stewart: of listeners now
Bob Bickford: know that about you.
Yes. Tens of thousands officially it’s out. So that’s what I wrestled with is like, um, the cut and paste of first Corinthians 12, 13, and 14. It’s like, we. Keep 12 and 13 and we cut out most of 14 and we kind of toss it
JimBo Stewart: 14
Bob Bickford: But I wrestled with that load because I, it is defined and we’ve had some really wacky prophecies, you know, like prophetic, but prophecy is defined as I read it in first Corinthians 14 is speaking for the edification of the building up of the body of Christ. So it’s got to be consistent with scripture.
And it’s gotta be weighed. It’s not, it’s not authoritative. It’s edifying.
Keelan Cook: Right? [00:24:00] I’ll tell you. So, I mean, you guys know my, like I grew up in this Hill, Backwoods Baptist,
JimBo Stewart: snakes,
Keelan Cook: man. I’ll tell you, right. I was independent kind of fundamental Baptist background. It’s kind of what I was raised in. And, uh, we.
We had, like, we had regular periods for testimony built in our surfaces and of course every now and then you’d have that person that would get up and like where it, the world did, what they just said. But more often than not, you know, people that had just struggled with a sickness were able to talk about God’s provision.
Uh, his faithfulness is something that people that had a real need that the Lord had met. We’re able to Edify the whole body by giving a verbal testimony to God’s faithfulness, to their family. And that was a sweet moment and we just don’t do stuff like that in church anymore. I think we don’t
JimBo Stewart: do that because we
Keelan Cook: desire a higher production level you’re metal in now.
JimBo Stewart: yes. And so in order to have a good high production level, I need to be able to control all the elements. Right. And so that means I can’t just let anybody have the mic.
Keelan Cook: I think that’s a big piece of it. Uh, you can’t control how long they talk, uh, without telling them to, you know, sit down and you’ve been going too long Suzy.
and you have no idea what’s fixing to come out of their math. Yeah. And so when worship is production, That has no
JimBo Stewart: room. There’s no place for that, which this is a whole other conversation, which I do think is tied into everything we’re talking about. Right. That we’ve what we’ve done is really realized or talked about the fact that Netflix vacation is not a new who concept is just gone.
Digital. Yeah, really. We’ve been breeding this consumeristic spectator production based way of doing church for a while now. And now we’re bearing fruit of that digitally. And so, as [00:26:00] we re, as we have the opportunity to rethink things, one of the things we need to rethink is, is this a production? Or, I mean, what, and this is maybe so listener what you got to figure out, right?
What is church? How do you answer that question? What, what is the purpose of people gathering. Into that building. What, why, why are they doing it? And I think we have to figure out really wrestle biblically and not just with our emotions biblically. We have to wrestle biblically with that question and come to an answer that has biblical convictions and then make sure that every thing we do comes out of that, out of, out of that wrestling and those convictions.
because I, I love the idea of hearing testimonies from people hearing from others. but it’s just, it’s, it, it is hard and scary because I I’ve had some crazy people come through my
Bob Bickford: church
[00:27:00] JimBo Stewart: and I, you know, do I want to give them the microphone? And I, and I don’t know that that’s the answer. I’m not saying that it is the answer, but I do think. The way we’ve been doing things has led to the Netflix vacation and made it go digital.
So now we got to figure out
Bob Bickford: what is true. So, so maybe in here’s the other correlated part for me, maybe the way we’ve been doing our liturgy in the absence of those sorts of things have left people really experiencing something. That’s very easy to explain because it it’s the same thing happens over and over and over again.
And if there’s not this inbreaking of the spirit moving and leading in the worship experience in this public edification, that that takes place, then why, why would I make appointment time for it? Let in for it when it’s happening live, if it’s just going to be something that’s very predictable. So, so [00:28:00] that’s the thing I wrestle with.
And you know, when, when we’re. When Hebrews exhorts us to, um, not give up the meaning of the body, it tells us there’s a specific reason for us not to do that. And the reason is that we might spur one another on towards love and good deeds. Right? Yeah. Well, what is that, that, that has the idea of, of actually of striking of Spurrier, like stimulating and how do, how do we do that?
Corporate law. That verse has a plurality in a corporate aspect of it rather than a singularity. And so I think we’ve missed something maybe in our liturgy and now we’re kind of venturing into territory of like, okay, we, I don’t know that we have a category for this in my experience. I don’t have a category of this Caitlin in your, your background with your, your fundamental, you know, Tennessee folk, uh, Baptist, you have an expression of that, but I think largely that’s pretty absent.
In our gatherings now
Keelan Cook: you’re not, I think that’s increasingly true. I think [00:29:00] it’s absent and in a lot of different traditions at this point, I think that’s the thing that you, you probably saw the testimony more frequently in Southern Baptist churches and most evangelical churches 20 years ago than you do now.
And so much of that, I think is the fact that we have increasingly moved toward us. and we do it under the guise of the word excellence. We love using that word right now, and that was, hear me. I think we should. Work hard to, to do everything well. but that word allows us to cover a multitude of sentence.
If we’re not
Bob Bickford: careful, is it also, maybe it’s an excuse for this, potentially. maybe our discipleship is lacking in the testimony. Time exposes the deficit of our discipleship by the wacky things that people
Keelan Cook: say. Yes, but you’re right.
JimBo Stewart: Yeah.
Bob Bickford: Yeah. That sounds awesome. Jen music. Yes. Chin music.
JimBo Stewart: And on that, that’s a wrap for the Netflix of vacation of the church.
Thank you Caitlin, for being our resident, Missy ologist and coming in and on these couple of episodes here in the hotel and, uh, look forward to future episodes. Thanks guys.