Riddle Me An Experience In the Economy of the Church

I have been listening to Leonard Sweet’s So Beautiful. David Phillips does a good job reviewing the book here. I confess I prefer print and paper. The thought of a Kindle has intrigued me. But, I like paper and print. Bibliophiles love books in their hands, on their shelves, and in their homes. It is the experience. Reading at that level becomes tactile. I rarely read articles of any length on a screen. I prefer to print it. It is the one area where I scuttle concern for my inner carbon footprint.

We all like different experiences. Leaving the hospital last week after a visit I noticed a fellow with his Kindle in tow on his way to visit. He knew he might be there a while. A friend of mine gets so much “windshield time” he prefers audiobooks like the one I have been listening to.

Some feel life is better not reading. To each his own.

I read Mark Riddle’s post titled, “The Downfall of Creating Experiences.” (The link may be dead. I called and chided Mark to get to the heart of the blog problem so you may read the piece.) In the post Mark thinks through the words of something he read,

In the book [The Experience Economy], Pine and Gilmore lay out the four levels of economic value : commodities, goods, services, and experiences. Progression happens by moving from commodity to experience. Think about coffee. Coffee beans are a commodity, ground coffee is a good, a cup of coffee at dinner is a service, and a latte at a trendy cafe is an experience.

Or about birthday parties for kids- a cake is a commodity, a customized cake is a good, a birthday party with friends is a service, and a full fledged laser tag birthday celebration is an experience. Think about Apple stores. Disney World. You get the point.

The question is how are you creating an experience with the product or service that you offer? How are you allowing your customer to be so engaged with your product that they connect emotionally? Does your product or service create memories for your customer? Do they want to tell their friends?

There is also a fifth level of economic value, which is transformation. Incredibly hard to reach this level, but our goal should be to get there.[the context was the church]

When experience represents the move of a commodity towards transformation we must acknowledge that in a culture that amuses itself to death striving to create an experience actually works against transformation. If you follow the progression in the above illustrations – e.g. birthday cake to laser tag birthday party – what has been created is the necessity that the next birthday celebration be equal to if not “better” than the last or it becomes disappointing. What a let down when we trade the lasers for simply cake and ice cream the next year!

In So Beautiful Len describes the MRI church – missional, relational, incarnational. The thrust of his book is to get to the last but not before he says something about missional and relational. Sweet also makes the point that we are not after experiences but after relationships. Friendship transcends experiences. Relationships must endure experiences.

When a church considers the avenue to life transformation anything less than relationship it has shuttered Jesus for something less. For indeed we will offer transformation but it will not be in the trajectory of Jesus but in the direction to  satisfy the individual’s senses. We know in the end there is really no end to satisfying these needs once we head down that path. We also know that we end up creating spiritual addicts who need us to continue to create experiences for them. What an exhausting, fruitless practice.

About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.