The long tail of Christianity

the-long-tail.jpgI’ve been mulling over something recently. Have you read the book “The long tail” yet by Chris Anderson. It’s TREMENDOUS. Here is the wiki link to the long tail.

Apparently all things (commerce, chain reactions and chemistry) operates on a long tail. Lots of action dwindling down to a long tail of very little action.

long_tail.PNGThis is the long tail – in yellow. The long tail is 35%+ of the whole value of the whole graph.

So basically the normal shop in a shopping mall only focusses on the tall/big end – the big selling items – because it can’t host the long tail, it doesn’t have the floor space for so many items. But Amazon has both the big end and the long tail.

Wikipedia says:

The Long Tail has possible implications for culture and politics.

but I’ve recently that it has exciting implications for Christianity too. You see, churches are in the big end (thousands of people can support a big building) and emergent is in the middle of the tail (reusing existing homes for informal gatherings) and blogs are the long tail! Millions of the suckers servicing 10-200 visitors.

It is so well described by that book. Just think, 35%+ of believers might be served by the long tail (emergent and blogs) and probably would never have felt comfortable in traditional churches – it’s their own personal preference.

Profound changes are upon us, no doubt. But if we reshape the conversation to be a long-tail conversation (instead of an emergent vs church conversation) then we can expect two big improvements:

  1. we will see that the churches have a place (they are not going anywhere) and
  2. the churches can see how they can support and encourage the long tail (emergent and blogs) to reach the people who would never otherwise come to church

Hallelujah, it’s not a falling away from church that we are seeing, it’s not even an erosion of the church at all… it’s a gathering up and into the body of previously uncatered for people! That is what we are seeing.

5 responses to “The long tail of Christianity

  1. Pingback: The Long Tails of Kingdom Living « What God Taught Me Today·

  2. Mark,

    Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I’m leaving Hong Kong soon and had the opportunity talk to people quite a bit about the emerging church and blogging. Like you mention, it seems that the emerging church and blogging are currently involving a much smaller amount of Christians. Though I suspect both will have increased numbers growing into mainstream movements over time.

  3. Right now my biggest Christian fellowship comes through blogs and email. And I DO ATTEND a local church. Now, I’ve thought that perhaps it is my fault, that I am not more social in church, but blogs and email and online Christian fellowship does meet my needs for encouragement from brothers and sisters in Christ, and plus that I have had opportunities to serve other people online that I would NEVER have been able to serve otherwise. Indeed, we are a new church, … yet still the same Body of Jesus Christ. Excellent post, by the way… you put into words some thoughts that have been clanging around in my head for a while. Thank you. Mike

  4. Mark,

    What’s interesting is the role that traditional church workers will play in the new community of believers. You’re right, we’re observing something very big and requiring very significant change. I wrote a similar post about this yesterday – what will the role of the worship leader or pastor be in this brave new world?

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