NPR Whiners

Usually for me, when NPR and church occur in the same thought, it has to do with frustration around stewardship campaigns at church which are run using similar language to the NPR membership drive (“Think of the benefits you get from our church: and because of our wonderful service to you, you should give!!!”) That just doesn’t work for me. Church is not a service, nor is it a radio station.

But here’s another angle I never thought about. I agree completely with Farhad Manjoo about the letters to NPR from whiners: the ones that berate the newscast for bringing up anything too “frivolous” which usually means anything related to pop culture, interests of people under the age of 40, or anything that is simply not deemed as “serious” as whatever crisis the listener thinks is more important.

And think about how this relates to church life. First off, the tendency sometimes to take everything way too seriously. Jesus did, in fact, have a sense of humor.

Second, the idea that engaging with popular culture is not important. In the words of Abraham Kuyper, “every square inch” belongs to God. That includes things we might be quick to deem frivolous. We need to give everything a good look before we discard it.

Third, the chasm between young and old. NPR, like the church, is facing the challenge of “marketing” to younger people (although, I hate to use the term marketing with the church: maybe we should be talking about relevance!) Notice that there are even some similar tactics…like the idea about NPR creating separate stations in certain markets that go after younger listeners. Sounds like some church planting strategies to me!

And, finally, that question of who complains the loudest and who we respond to. Notice that the harsher letters of criticism come in to NPR first. Then come the words of affirmation. This also sounds familiar. A good reminder that we need to sit calmly when criticism arrives and wait to react, to see what others are saying, and then to evaluate the situation before immediately changing course!

Does this make sense to you? Do you see any other similarities, differences, equivalents?

Does it make you feel any better to know that other organizations face similar challenges to the challenges we face in the church?