Association vs. Action

Long gone are the days when eventgoers were content with being captivated by sheer crowd energy and connecting with like-minded peers. Events and conferences are a dime a dozen now, and the plethora of options is causing little distinction between purpose, preachers or participants.

Our need for gathering will always be intertwined with the natural desire to be included, noticed and celebrated. However, in a generation in which FaceMyTwitterBookSpace is the connector du jour, we no longer need monstrous gatherings to meet people around the world or fulfill these internal needs. We can do that with a mouse click or a text message.

I recently attended a gathering of 3,500 students coming around three ambitious causes: fighting poverty, caring for orphans and ending modern-day slavery. Despite lower-than-hoped-for attendance, it proved to me that our reasons for getting together are changing. I wonder if ...

•Students and young adults want less of the self-esteem boosting events from the past and more moments of shared energy that fuels action.

•Weekend churchgoers would prefer to spend less time in service and more time in service to others.

•Denominations struggle to grow because rallying around good doctrine seems a lot less important than rallying around good deeds.

In our pursuit to assemble people, may we all consider why we're bringing them together in the first place. Jesus never gathered a crowd. The crowds always gathered around Him. What are you doing that's worth gathering around?

Brad Abare is the director of communications for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel, founder of the Center for Church Communication, and president of Personality, a communication and marketing consultancy.

What if church marketing materials were communal? At the Center for Church Communication ( , they are. Far from just an open-source online community, the Web site also offers fresh resources, ideas, networking, ministry "labs" and more.

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