Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Rock Harbor and Urban Outfitters

On Christmas Eve I, and my family, attended Rock Harbor--a large, fast growing church in Costa Mesa, California. We visited the church at the invitation of our son, who attends from time to time, and promised us that the service would be "epic." I was expecting alot. I was not disappointed.
What words would I use to describe Rock Harbor? Vibrant. Warehouse look. Artistic. Young. Honest. Biblical. I would guess the building where the church meets seats some 800 people in tightly-spaced, molded plastic chairs. On Christmas Eve, the church offered multiple services, which, if they were like the one I attended, were full. From all appearances, the church is doing great ministry, reaching thousands of people. And I should quickly add, that the church would want to give all the credit for any good thing that is happening to God.
A couple of days later I found myself in Urban Outfitters in Old Town Pasadena. It was the busiest store store I was in during the entire Holiday Season. In contrast to this store, the Macy's in which I had pursued a plethora of Christmas sales was a morgue. As I walked around Urban Outfitters my time at Rock Harbor came to mind. In fact, I would describe both of them with many of the same words. Vibrant. Warehouse look. Artistic. Young. Honest. Biblical (not).
So what do Rock Harbor and Urban Outfitters have in common? I asked the question on a FB post, and received a couple of amusing answers: "My sister says it is universally free to walk in and $50 to walk out?" Someone else offered, "Both are anxious to close the sale."
Kidding aside, why does this church and this store reach young crowds so effectively? Here's my thinking so far. Both have a very desirable product (although vastly different in their appeal). Rock Harbor offers the gospel, which allows people to know God and his love. Urban Outfitters offers clothing, which allows people to express their unique personality.
But, it's not just "excellence of their product"that makes them effective in their respective fields; it's the way they present their product. Both have a unique ability to connect with their culture. Young people who walk into Rock Harbor or Urban Outfitters will say to themselves, "This is me." Why? Because both lack pretension, and cosmetic cover-up. The warehouse feel and simple, artsy displays both suggest and invite authenticity. In other words: "You ca be who you are and we will tell it like it is."
So what do Rock Harbor and Urban Outfitters have in common? A great product and a "be yourself" authentic environment. I don't care a lot about what happens to Urban Outfitters; I do care great deal about what happens to the church. And if I learned any lesson on my visit to these two places it's this: If you want to reach the next generation present the great news of Jesus in a context where authenticity oozes.