Shira Ovide’s recent opinion piece in the New York Times, Big Oil faded. Will Big Tech?, she wrote about the former behemoth of Exxon (formerly known as Standard Oil, a so-called Robber Barron company) is now off the stock market due to the (over) valuation of Apple. It has now been replaced by SalesForce.com
What does this little lesson teach us about the church? It teaches us very little about the Church Universal. It does teach us a lot about the organizational “behemoths” called denominations.
Denominations are struggling to adapt to a new world. Most denominations have already been struggling with the Internet. The only exception would be the SBC (Southern Baptist Conference) as it isn’t, per se, so much a denomination and more an allied collective mind of independent churches.
Other than a few SBC churches (Saddleback being one of them), most of the megachurches are otherwise non-denominational (I’m open to being wrong about that). Not being in a denomination allows megachurches to pour resources (money and people) into initiatives in ways denominations don’t seem able to.
What has been particularly interesting is my growing awareness of just how much our “practical” (i.e., rubber-meets-the-road) theology impacts our denominational theology which then impacts denominations’ abilities to react. This is, even more, the case if there is an attempt to get ahead of the curve (or the culture).
Big Tech is already on the way out. Why not Big Church?
Big Church isn’t (necessarily) megachurches. In many respects, denominations are even bigger. As “Big Blue” (IBM) and GE learned, big often gets in the way. It may be efficient. It may be good at control.
The cost, however, can be huge. If you are too big, you often are too big to respond well and quickly to new situations. You can also develop habits of thinking and doing that end up being about self-preservation and not innovation.
If you are too big, often you succumb to the stereotypical (though perhaps not historically accurate) Ford model. “They can get any color they want…as long as it’s black.”
When you become too big, or so entrenched so your behavior is such, often your model becomes the mission, rather than the mission being the mission.