iTunes, Hype and the Beatles: What Can Churches Learn?

A few days ago Apple set the tech blogs on fire when they replaced the front page of their site with “Tomorrow is just another day…. that you’ll never forget.” By late afternoon Twitter had revealed a story by the WSJ that said at least part of the announcement was that the Beatles albums were coming to the iTunes catalogue. Turns out that was the whole announcement. The songs were even available to download half an hour before the announcement was made official.

The “never forget” stunt garnered a lot of excitement. The actual reveal has gone over like a screen door on a yellow submarine. (OK, maybe not, but I wanted to use a song title.) Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad Apple worked it out to make that music available on iTunes. But every Beatles fan I know already has every song they want in their iTunes library. There’s this function called “import” and most people use that to get music from their CDs into their iPods.

This is a classic example of hype. Apple is one of the best at revealing new products and services. When they say something is going to be big, people listen. A lot of people reacted to this announcement with, “That’s it?” Some of the luster faded off the polished Apple on this one. Plenty of people bought the songs, which was the point. But Apple could have gotten the same results with a more general announcement.

I am reminded of some meetings I have been in. I have sat and listened to ministry leaders wax eloquently on their newest idea, and ask for the maximum publicity I could deliver. As listened I had to figure out how to tell the person that their new idea, while a good one, was never going to be as big of a deal as they wanted it to be. I was not going to be able to give them what they wanted. That isn’t to say I would not be able to give it an appropriate amount of “hype” but I was not going to over do it. We actually established a loose set of guidelines with levels of marketing and publicity based on possible number of people impacted.

When we are in the middle of it, we can lose perspective. I’m sure Apple thought this was a big deal. I know Steve Jobs did. But put in proper perspective, this was a nice thing, not a day I won’t ever forget.

We do not need to lose perspective on the main mission of the local church, making disciples. There’s a whole lot that goes along with that, and many of the programs we may want to hype up might fit right into it. But the program isn’t the big thing. The Gospel is.

The Beatles once said they were bigger than Jesus. Let’s not make the same mistake about our newest ministry idea.