[Note of thanks: My three go-to sources for inspiration about The Church these days – besides the Bible of course – are: 1) The Atlantic – which is the best periodical in the world, 2- Fast Company – which I have to read with a highlighter so I won’t forget any of the sparks, and 3- one of my clergy colleagues. He knows who he is. Thanks to all.]
The cover story for the September issue of Fast Company is “Apple’s Moment of Truth.” While some Apple people are freaking out over stagnation in iPhone sales and a slide in revenue, Tim Cook is a believer. The article declares that “Apple’s future may look very different from it’s past.”
Oh. My. God.
The past was pretty great. What does this mean?
In a nutshell Apple (Tim Cook) has decided:
- To make more mistakes than they used to make.
- To admit it when they make mistakes and then change.
- To make innovation incremental – but steadily so.
- To “learn on the fly.” To learn from every detail of a project – not just from the end result.
- To get over your embarrassed self. (It’s more embarrassing never to try anything new than to fail after trying.)
- To ask – always – before making a decision, “How important is this?”
- To be less secretive. (We become blind in the thick of our own decision-making processes. We need feedback from people who are not at the table.)
- To embrace the fact that he is not Steve Jobs (and that’s a good thing.)
We in Church World are facing a moment of truth. I won’t go there today in terms of sweeping, institutional thoughts. But I would like to address our individual congregations.
Church Leaders: you are facing Moments of Truth.
Some of you faced those moments years ago, as I wrote here, and you did not choose wisely. You unwittingly voted to close your church – maybe not immediately but probably sooner than later.
Here’s what I mean:
- Your congregation received an enormous bequest and you choose to depend on that money rather than pledged financial support from church members.
- Your congregation has several choices for your new pastor and you choose the safe one.
- Your congregation has a stockpile of money in the bank and you chose not to invest it in building improvements so that your ministry could expand or create a new ministry someplace else.
- Your congregation is diminished in size and you chose to allow every possible group willing to pay rent regardless of their deeper purpose to use your church building.
- Your congregation has the opportunity to house a ministry that would have positively impacted a new and different group of neighbors and you chose not to because you don’t want strangers in the building.
Any worthwhile meeting of your church’s governing board includes A Moment of Truth that defines who you are. Are you – as a church – actually a social club? Are you God’s hands in the neighborhood? Are you directed by what is holy and life-giving? Or are you directed by fear and pain-avoidance? Are you more interested in pleasing the crankiest members or in pleasing God?