I was reading through the Economist yesterday over lunch. I am a couple of weeks behind from all the things I have had going on this month. The issue I was reading had quite a bit about IBM at 100 years old and the lessons learned to survive a century as a company based in technology.
As you know, I am always seeking to analogize to church life and Kingdom of God matters, and IBM has a couple of lines of thought going that I’d like to pursue this week. Today, though, I’m under the gun on a couple of other matters, so I will start with this tangent.
My first actual job was at a McDonald’s in Spring, Texas. It was the late 1970’s. Fast food had less options in those days and the main two were McDonald’s and Burger King. McDonald’s was, in my humble opinion (at the time) far superior a product. Part of the reason was that I worked for McDonald’s. Most of the reason was that I worked for a very well run McDonald’s.
Along the way I learned that one of the main differences between the two chains was a matter of franchising. McDonald’s, I was told, held franchisees tight to the corporate model and policy, whereas Burger King gave owner-operators more freedom.
The most obvious consequence of this difference was that wherever in the world one entered a McDonald’s, the menu, as well as the overall experience was very similar. Burger King’s menu varied more widely from region to region, and sometimes from store to store.
The 1970s being what it was, customers found comfort in the reliability of expectation.
Though I don’t really know why I didn’t make the connection until yesterday, I wonder what this might mean for The United Methodist Church, the denomination of which I am a part, or, for that matter, for the Christian Church as a whole.
What difference might it make if the unchurched had a reasonable idea of what to expect from any church (or any United Methodist Church) no matter where or under what circumstances they found it?
Of course, this level of expectation is part of our problem, as Dave Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons have pointed out in unChristian. They surveyed thousands of unchurched young people and found that the common perception of christians was that we are:
- too involved with politics
Fortunately, we are (it seems, at last) moving away from the expectation that churches ought to be merely trying to figure out how to receive guests and visitors and moving towards taking Jesus’ message into the world.
Now, if only we could teach the world to expect that from all who purport to follow Jesus….