The New Inquiry has a great post today about the decline of the Weather Channel.
Here is a media property that, in the span of the last 5 years, went from a highly respected source of serious weather information to a channel that spent its time, resource, and schedule trying to appeal to a new crop of viewers through entertainment (at one point, they began showing movies such as Misery. You know, cause it had a snowstorm in it…)
The post centers on the long time views of TWC, the hardcore weather fans, the “base.” These are weather aficionados who watch the channel and think about weather, literally, all day. Instead, when NBC took over in 2008, there was a shift to attract viewers who ordinarily did not turn to TWC except to find out if it was raining (if they tuned in at all).
I’ve been reading the Gospel of John a lot lately, and, in it, I notice that Jesus is often very clear that there some people are going to believe and some people aren’t. He’s not bothered by this at all. There is a “base” of people predisposed towards the life he’s invited us to, people who see and understand, and for whom this life becomes of utmost importance.
I fear that, like TWC, the Church has taken a wrong turn (admittedly, many moons ago) towards trying to attract a group of people who don’t really care or even want to care about this thing we’re doing. Regarding us, they don’t care beyond wanting to know whether it’s spiritually raining or not.
Is there “a base” of the Faith? Is that who we should focus on?
I would agree…sort of. What I mean is that I’m always left with Jesus’ command to make disciples and teach them everything. I think part of the ‘making’ is focusing on those who really want to travel this journey. The serious ones. However, just like Jesus experienced, we will have those who will tag along looking to see if something spectacular happens. They just don’t want to have to stick their neck out too far…like fair-weather Christians. Believe me, I understand the desire to be a fair-weather follower. Many times I demonstrate that I am a fair-weather pastor. I think Jesus let these folks tag along anyway, and some of them did make the decision to become genuine disciples. If I read you correctly, you’re not saying to ignore the fair-weather, just put our energies into the followers. I am guilty of pandering to those who aren’t really serious about living a changed life, and that always comes at the expense of ignoring those who are.
Btw…I appreciate your well thought out posts!
TWC is an interesting metaphor. The question is where the line is between the church reaching out in an accessible way to those beyond the “base” and its clouding/abandoning its most authentic and deepest purpose (as TWC did) to try to score higher ratings and winding up with neither. Clearly, Jesus has a “base” that he spends his greatest time and deepest energy with, but what about the crowds? John’s view of them is pretty negative and focuses much more on life of the inner community, but the Synoptics have a broader range of perspectives on them, the kinds of people who make them up, and Jesus’ interactions with them. A biblical theology of the crowds might be good to explore…
The temptation is to want to invest only in the “base” because they’re the low-hanging fruit. But in Matthew 28, Jesus doesn’t command us to go and make disciples of the base, but of “all nations” which is decidedly more challenging and less comfortable. And riddled with rejection and ridicule.
The base shouldn’t be ignored or left to fend for itself, it needs and deserves tending. But often in trying to attract the non-base, the Church does so at the expense of the base. Our job is not to convert the non-base, but to share with them the message of the Gospel. Leading a horse to water, and all that jazz. The Spirit takes over from there.
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