Sunday, November 19, 2006

Economics, Church, and Scarcity

Simple economics tells us that people will value anything that is scarce; scarcity drives prices up and, for those who can afford scarcity, it drives personal status up. We live in a supply and demand culture that demands much more then most in our culture are ready to supply.

Some examples of the supply and demand culture we live in:
The powers that be that control the Middles Eastern oil sands have driven the price of oil up significantly simply by limiting the amount of oil taken from the earth. The result has been a world wide jump in prices at the pump, a renewed search for more oil in other parts of the world, grain fuels, and ‘wars on terrorism.’

Gmail. When gmail was first introduced the only way that anyone could sign up for a gmail account was through a personal invite from a friend who only had a limited number of invites. It was a great bit of marketing that allowed new gmail users to, at least for a while, feel a sense of status in ‘the next big thing.’ Early adopters of gmail had a superior service that gave a personal sense of superiority and insider knowledge. Everyone wanted to at least get the invite so they could check it out!

Now let’s transition this to ideas, actions, emotions, and spirituality. To do this, keep this key thought in your mind: “Familiarity breeds depreciation.” When something, anything, is too familiar, it looses its value.

Ideas – Which ideas get the most play time in your thoughts? The ideas that are surprising, arouse curiosity, and are counter-intuitive to what you normally think. Right?

Actions – I have a sneaking little suspicion that sex is talked about, joked about, thought about, viewed online, and highly valued because sex, for most people, is a scarcity. Again, supply and demand.

– Imagine if everyone was accepted. Imagine if no one ever felt like the outsider, rejected, or lonely. Imagine what would happen to acceptance! No one would care anymore and it obviously wouldn’t be something that people see counselors about, cry in bathroom stalls about, or jump off bridges for. Acceptance is a scarce feeling because so many are not accepted. Now consider this; most strong emotions have something to do with a scarcity.

Spirituality – Have you heard a statement like this before, “We live in a culture that is very interested in spirituality but not interested in the church or Jesus.” I’m sure you have. Have you ever thought why that statement is made?

I think it might have something to do with scarcity. Bible-believing Christ-centered spirituality is no longer sacred in its ideas, actions, and emotions because it is no longer scarce. There is too much of it. Think about that for a moment…

Familiarity breeds depreciation. People don’t care because we’re not sexy or, as Jesus put it, salt and light.

Could it be that the large majority of our current Canadian society does not appreciate or has a growing depreciation of the church simply because they already know what they are going to get? I’ve heard it said over and over that the church needs to be known in culture but maybe we need to be less known? Are we too familiar? Maybe. Could we somehow surprise culture with something they don’t know, feel, or see?

There might be room for scarcity in your church. Scarcity drives market.
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Markimus said...

Great Post. Are we not in a world that has little knowledge of God... A world that 'God is Dead'?

Josh said...

yeah Jer, great post... I wonder if scarcity could happen if we created new culture that's different, appealing, sexy if you will, etc... instead of just adapting the already existing culture around us that will be outdated anyways by the time we get our hands on it. What would it take to do that?

Anonymous said...

You and that brain of yours...always thinking. I should take a few lessons! haha...dude I fully agree with this...from my observation people just don't care about Jesus/church because we don't really care if they know about us or not. As long as we're happy.

I think to be scarce all we gotta do is sit down with people who are disconnected from Jesus and hear their stories. It's revolutionary, I know, but maybe we need to listen to where people are at instead of answering the question with "think" is being asked. Possibly to be scarce we need to stop giving one line answers (i.e., "Jesus is the answer") That statement is true but from the point where someone asks the question to the point where Jesus is the answer could be a long journey for some and I think they are looking for someone to walk through the question with them, not just give them an answer/solution.

I could be drifting here but I think scarcity isn't a hard thing to be accomplished if we would simply slow down and think about what we are doing and the results that we are getting in light of that.

M. A. Hawkins said...

Awesome post.
Some concerns pop up right away. Ones that I find in Christian bookstores all the time.
What if we make things so scarce that only those people who have it are the ones that get excited about it? What if it just becomes a mass marketing ploy to encourage spiritual incest?

On the other side of things, I think you're right that people just have heard or seen enough of it and have just lost any or all interest. Maybe the church needs to tease a little more? Or, perhaps if persecution were to happen in Canada it would be a better thing for all believers in order to be more effective followers of Jesus.
For most people when they get given a whole day to do something they wait until the very end or some time close to it. What if you only had 10 minutes?

Junah said...

good post, very thought provoking. Now I have more questions after reading this than before.

There is a huge generation gap between my generation and that of my parents(the 60s generation). In my hometown in Central BC, the vast majority of us know absolutely nothing about church or the Bible. We only know the church from the news (which gives me the impression that all Christians are pedophils, sex offenders, and extorters). I was talking with some well educated friends last summer and they had never heard of Bible stories like Noah's Ark.

Contrast this with my parent's generation (that have not gone to church for 40 years) did grew up in the church.

My generation does not understand Christians telling us we need Jesus.

Some questions for you:

I am confused as to why there a large amount of Muslims in South Asia converting to Christianity where it is punishable by death? Maybe we should hang Canadians that convert to Christianity too?

I don't understand you linking the price of oil with "wars on terrorism"?

Why do we need to church to take care of the poor and broken hearted when we have the government to do that?

deeper said...

This is a very scary post for the simple reason that you may talk about Jesus but you have taken him out of the equation by asking should we use a type of manipulation to get people to understand and I think thoughts like this are more dangerous than you might understand. People don't know what there going to get with church, they see a negative narrow minded group that seems to show hypocrisy through there actions (and some are aka church leaders touching little boys or "getting massages" from gay prostitutes as an anti gay marriage rep, while buying meth) that tells me that people know nothing about the church (some how the hope of the world is supposed to be scarce a synonym for that word is meager and rare so as Christian community your suggesting that we become meager or rare?) so to be less known is not a good thing we just need to known for the right things! not tuck are tails between our legs and run away saying I wish they never knew me like a fourteen year old who just wet his pants in class.

junag said...

Wow. Sorry sorry, sorry!! The comment above attributed to me is not my opion nor one that anyone should find acceptable.

Once again. I am very sorry that such a comment was posted. :-(

Markimus said...

Scarcity does not actually drive market ... And if a person were to apply econimic marketing principles to spiritual journey there might be some serious holes. Marketing is important but in most cases the approach that the church has taken to this has really sucked. Scarcity is actually where most churches tend to live and think ... So I would seriously wonder if this approach would eally have any effect... I would say it is already happening. For those who maybe have attanded Church all their lives might appreciate scarcity and to be frank I think some churches should just quit and go hime because they are causing thier own demise with their approach.
But today there is a 'demand' [marketing word] for a spirituality that 'works' not an atherial one.

Markimus said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Markimus said...

'And if a person were to apply economic marketing principles to spiritual journey there might be some serious holes.' This statement can be applied as well to Ideas, Actions, and emotions.

Andy said...

when I read the blog the first thing that popped in my mind is "mystery". it seems to me that you (Jeremy) might be getting at the fact that we need more of the mystery of Christ and the kingdom of heaven in our church experience and personal Spirituality. I took a shot I could be way off tho.

Jeremy Postal said...

Hey yo. Thanks for stopping by and adding some thoughts - lots of good ones have shown up along with a few great questions!

I am going and to try and respond to a few of them over the next few days. Until then...

I suppose the key thought that I really want to re-state is this: "Familiarity breeds depreciation." People don't care about or think about the things that are just common. The familiar, the its-always-there, the average, and the same-as-it-was-yesterday-stuff just doesn't seem to grab people's attention or, at very least, hold it for too long.

What I am really trying to say is that if the church doesn't inspire wonder, mystery, or curiosity then we've probably lost sight of Jesus and what Jesus believed in. Thanks for picking that up Andy!

Here is another thought: Your church can be a mile wide and an inch deep OR an inch wide and a mile deep. One of these, in my opinion is better, but whichever one you choose is the one you are marketing.

It takes an awful lot of scarcity to be an inch wide and mile deep with people. You could throw out a huge net and catch a hundred fish but completely miss the fight of bringing that one fish in on a rod and reel.

Deep - why do you think that marketing is manipulation? Should we stop doing follow up, printing flyers, building websites, etc.?

Jeremy Postal said...

Matt - "Maybe the church needs to tease a little more?"

What do you mean by this?

deeper said...

I didn't say that marketing was a manitpulation. I think that scarcity marketing is a manipulation which would be the opposite of follow up, website, etc. Your saying that we shouldn't do those things I think we should. But the marketing we do is only really to our people in our church and word of mouth so it's scarcity marketing already.
I think I agree with Mark maybe I just see some seriously scary holes.

Anonymous said...

I think a lot could be said about genuine people.
If you talk about marketing you could talk baout the types/ styles of marketing- one being you let the product and service sell it self. A cheesy line, sure. I think you can 'sell' a lifestyle, people need to slow down and think about life and themselves- a little introspection. You know being zen without the zen.
It is cool to be spiritual now, but not christian.

Jeremy Postal said...

Deep and Mark - you are both missing my point somewhat....of which I don't have time to discuss right now (i'm off to bed in a minute!). But, maybe try and read from a different angle that allows the 'scary holes' to be 'pathways to deeper spirituality.'

M. A. Hawkins said...

Jer - By being a tease a bit more... what if people weren't chucked into what they think is the whole package right away. Someone first attending a church gets thrown into the mix with music, tithing, prayer, preaching, fellowship, and altar calls all within a span of an hour to two hours. That's a lot to handle.
What if instead, obviously not every church could or would do this, re-creating the way we do church so that it sparks people's curiousity. How many times did people hear Jesus speak in the synagogue? Not many. Where did they hear him or meet him? Common areas. Were they preached at? No. What and how did they learn about who Jesus was and what it meant to follow Him? Looking at the details of events, I think people learned a little bit from Jesus, but with a lot to chew on spiritually.
By being a bit more of tease, why not show there is more to the life of being a Christian then just showing up on a Sunday. Just because a church "has got it" doesn't mean they should flaunt it.

M. A. Hawkins said...

Just to make it clear. Obviously people learned a lot from Jesus, but in many different moments, not all at once. I think it came in pieces, one little bit at a time over many different instances. It's journey and we don't need everything at once.

Anonymous said...

Great post and dialogue going here.

It seems like it has come down to this:

Church is too easy.

It's like the town bike, everyone gets a ride. Because everyone can do it, no one wants to. I guess we might know what we have, when it's gone.

P.S. Jer I've got a new word for you...

ecllection - a collection of random and varied objects

Esther Campbell said...

Jer I like that you try out new ideas and push yourself to think outside the norm. I've gotta say that I don't completely agree with you this time though. You said "Familiarity breeds depreciation" but I don't think thats always true. It's definately true in markets and when it comes to objects or ideas or maybe even actions but in relationships it's the opposite. The more time you spend with someone the more you learn to appreciate them and learn from them and grow from them. This, again is not always the case because some people just don't get along but take your marriage for example. Granted, I'm sure you appreciate being with your wife even more once you've been away for awhile but if you always spent time away from her and you had from the beginning I think you probably wouldn't have as deep a love for each other as you do now.
Someone said earlier "it's as if your taking Jesus out of the equation" and it kinda seems like that a little bit to me. People are familiar with religion and what they think Christianity has to offer but they're not familiar with Jesus. Having a real, growing relationship with Jesus, I believe, is a scarce thing but people still don't go for it because they mistake religion for the relationship and think they know all about it. Andy was talking about mystery, and I think a huge part of the mystery of Christ is the relationship that he has with people like us. Mystery comes with knowing God and wanting to know Him more. I think being an example of that is new and sexy and exciting and shows passion. If we can point people to relationships with Christ by our actions we don't have to worry about making Christianity mysterious because Jesus is the mystery.

Markimus said...

I think my point is that I agree in partial to what your saying but the point you are trying to make is misplaced by using a marketing principle. Again I totally think marketing is important but in reality if we look at effective marketing ... familiarity is key in product awareness and can actually appreciate the value of something. IE ... a Rolex submariner watch - compared to a timex submariner... the familiarity of the rolex name values it at 100X the price of a timex. OR for example again... that little apple with a bite out of it... there is a value to that icon - those with shares in apple would appreciate the value.

My point is this... I woudl think the statement you are trying to make is valid but I think andy may have the best wording 'mystery.'

Jeremy Postal said...

Timex is just as familiar as Rolex. Status drives the price most likely....however, I do see your point here.

Try and think through it this way then: what could the church be more scarce in that would make it more effective? (and sin isn't one of the answers)

deeper said...

Jer man that is a contradiction of what your blog says, your saying that scarcity drives markets, meaning if it is scarce people want it. So if there is something negative like hypocrisy in the church, would the scarcity of it drive people to want it more? "Simple economics tells us that people will value anything that is scarce" (so if we show Jesus less more people will want Him? “Scary holes”) I understand that if hypocrisy was scarce in our churches we would attract more people; but who doesn't know that? So why not just say that. I still think that we should be known, not be scarce, but known for the right things!
P.S I really, really like what M.A. said in his first post.

TheWhiteNinja said...

Scarcity doesn't drive markets, Supply and Demand drive markets.

~ The White Ninja

Anonymous said...

The seems to be a revolt coming. Perhaps it would be better to say the scarcity can, or is a factor in driving the church market. What could the church make more scarce that would make it more marketable?

I think the church could use less desperatness. Not for God, but for people. It is my assessment that the church often comes off desperate for volunteers, new people to fill the seats, and even people to pay the bills. This may be part of the danger in topical preaching.

Anonymous said...

I like the part about spirituality no longer being scarce. I agree, but what I think is really scarce is true religion: Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress. James 1:27.

I think people are familiar with what they will get in church, worhsip, speaking, offering, and dismissal, but what they are not familiar with is the Love for our neighbors that we hear about, but seems like (in some cases) we rarely practice. I think if we would actually shut up and act Christianity would flourish in North America.