The Long Tail is a term used to describe the idea that there are more people who don’t buy into the majority position than those that do. This is used in varying areas ranging from sales & marketing to military threat assessment. While reading the Wiki article on The Long Tail, I thought to myself, “How does this apply to the church?”
One former Amazon employee put it this way: “We sold more books today that didn’t sell at all yesterday than we sold today of all the books that did sell yesterday.”(1) According to Chris Anderson, who coined the term, “”The Long Tail is about the economics of abundance—what happens when the bottlenecks that stand between supply and demand in our culture start to disappear and everything becomes available to everyone”(2)
This sure does sound like something every church (and believer) should desire in regards to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we spend all our time trying to reach the people who have already been reached, we actually succeed less than if we go after those in the majority (i.e., the “lost). This concept is exactly in line with what Scripture teaches us God did.
In the Old Testament, we see God select one person to start a new nation, a people who would eventually be named Israel. They were His chosen. Through them, He intended to save the entire world.
In the New Testament, Jesus was born of a virgin into that group of people. When the time came, he began his earthly ministry and he targeted 12 men to teach and train in his ways. After his death and resurrection, they in turn obeyed His instruction to “go into all the world” with the Good News of rescue from sin for all sinners.
Humans would have chosen to bring a majority influencer to the world to reach the world. Not God; He chose obscurity and made the obscure one the Famous One. What can we learn from this?
It is in the daily living out of our beliefs that we most affect the world for Jesus Christ. Big names and big ministries don’t have near the impact that the many smaller, seemingly less significant, ones. For all who wonder if what you do matters, remember this - it does. More people will be reached today through the small ministries and “nobodies” of the church than all the big ones combined. That is the lesson of the Long Tail for the Church.