It’s eerie sometimes how the flow of things manages to curl in on itself. While I often enjoy surfing the ‘Net, I’m not a surfer in the true sense of the word, but I have watched many hours of Hawaii 5-O and plenty of Gidget movies. What I’ve observed about the incoming tide is that sometimes it comes so fast that it curls in on itself—then the expert daddy-o can ride the pipeline. Well today, I’ve been riding a pipeline in conversation. While I was enjoying my weekly visit with other preacher-types over a local McCoffee, we started talking about brands and brand loyalty. Then I saw this guest post over at Ken Hall’s Buckner Prez. It’s well worth your time.

I’ve been noticing over some great amount of time that branding and brand loyalty are not what they used to be.

For instance, during my seminary days I heard the story from one of our faithful church members how he had given A&P almost thirty years of his life. He’d built a career. He’d been faithful to his company. Then, just as his stability seemed to be with him, the company began selling out (this was the early 80s). He lost his job at a time when getting another would be difficult to impossible. When he thought he had been loyal to the company that would be loyal to him, he was disappointed.

I’ve watched as professional athletes went from being part of the team to developing a free-agent society, as record labels moved from being the house for an artist to picking new voices and bidding for winners, as actors signed on for a movie because of the box-office prospect instead of signing onto a studio contract for the long-haul. Businesses have begun to think only of the business and not of the employees or the people the business is supposed to serve. The new business centered around the “head hunter” has developed as a big business—finding the best and brightest and stealing them away from one company to another. Our society has become a free-agent society right in step with the sports, music, movie, and business arena.

This is not to say that branding is either good or bad, but there is a question as to whether or not there is something to be loyal to. Fifty years ago we could characterize the typical family or teenager. Then 25 years ago as I began serving churches in the capacity of Youth Minister, we were told by the experts that there was no “traditional” example of the teenager, but that the typical teenager was to rebel against typicality. The result was that all the teens looked the same without being the same: a same uniqueness or a unique sameness. Now we are told that the typical young person is one who questions anything and typically commits to no brand at all.

I wonder if the SBC will still be around in the years to come. My personal observation (as I made it this morning) is that the convention will be here 100 years from now, but will bear a strong resemblance to the churches that have plateaued or died over recent years. Partly because of the lack of brand loyalty, partly because newer generations will examine the genuineness of Christ in the practice of the people and will move to where they see more reality in the people.

I wonder also, if other “brands” of Christianity are seeing the same trends, making non-tradition the new tradition.

What do you see?