Much as the music industry and the information/printing industry is changing, the church is going open-source.

How prepared is your church for this revolution? Please pass the link to this essay on to all the leaders, elders, pastors, etc. in your church. Discuss it together.

Christine Peterson coined the phrase “open source” in Palo Alto, California in 1998 during the Netscape Navigator discussions, but the principles go all the way back to Henry Ford, who succeeded in getting all the early US car makers to share patents which made parallel production of (very similar) automobiles possible.

In the broadest sense of the concept, Microsoft’s MS-DOS, not being wholly controlled by its host, IBM, launched a creativity revolution in software back in the 80’s. iTunes has changed the way music is bought and sold. Wikipedia has more or less replaced Britannica. The proliferation of free smart phone “apps” (a word no one used a president or two ago) is virtually infinite.

The world is going open source.

This has implications for the church:

1) All of your members have access to free Bible teaching and sermons from all over the world. It used to be that you, as a local pastor, had a monopoly on reaching and teaching them. Our church, Robinwood, reaches 100 times more people on its podcast than in person on Sunday mornings. Sample it at: http://tinyurl.com/ycgxvva

2) Open source is a challenge to monetize. Making money in an open source world is an uphill battle. Churches will need to look at creative income streams (we’ve done it before!) and church staff numbers will decrease vis-a-vis the size of the congregation. More and more pastors will be bi-vocational.

3) Christian denominations will not be able to maintain closed systems with solid lists of member churches and will not be able to control their clergy rosters. People in the open source world are getting used to an “opt in” mentality and can “friend” or “follow” you with a click. Peer relationships will matter more. Having your name on an official roster will matter less. The “name brand” denominations are currently raging against this revolution (even with record-company-like lawsuits!), but the ones who embrace it will survive. Their control over client congregations and pastors is evaporating. It will have to be replaced with attractive “opt in” branding and mentality. Denominations will have to earn and keep followings. And they won’t get to vote on this being the truth.

4) Seminaries will not be able to maintain monopolies on training new leaders. The ones that succeed are those that will go open source. Open source is cheaper, but it also attracts less money. Seminaries will have to become more trans-local and interactive. Those with an attractive branding and “opt in” vibe will thrive.

5) The monopolies on resources (remember that standard-issue icon: the official denominational hymnbook?) will disappear. Books will always be with us, but they will be produced POD (print on demand) and new media will proliferate.

6) Pastors who cannot attract large followings in social media will need to look for something else to do vocationally. They won’t have the chops to make it in the brave new world. If you can’t attract sheep, you’re probably not a shepherd.

7) Volunteers will become more important. Volunteers built Wikipedia. They are motivated, not by money, but by mastery and freedom. Click on the link for an amazing overview of this.

8  Your church’s media and branding will have to be integrated. One ping should activate and energize all of your media expressions. The good news: All of your social media and open source presence put together is cheaper than putting out a weekly church bulletin.

9) You will have to earn a following in a whole new way. But the human relational side will not go away. In fact, it will become more important.

Bless you. Follow me on Twitter @RobinwoodChurch

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