Tuesday, November 25, 2008

What the Church Can Learn From General Motors

The irony of the recent magazine cover celebrating GM's One Hundred Years of Greatness was not lost on this subscriber to Classic Cars Magazine. A more accurate title for the article might be:

One Hundred Years of Occasional Greatness Punctuated by Several Periods of Not Getting it Right in a Big Way which has Now Brought This Benchmark Auto Maker to its Knees Before Washington to Beg For its Very Survival. Or, something like that.

For a Baby Boomer who hit town the same year as GM launched the enduring automotive icons that are the '55 - '57 Chevys, it's mind boggling to witness this industry giant on life support. Sure, they folded up Oldsmobile's tent a few years ago, but what of it? Every corporation goes through changes, sometimes big changes, in the course of keeping ever-responsive to the demands of the market. But if the old saying is true that "as goes GM so goes the nation", then the nation is in trouble (which, by the way, it manifestly is). But what does this have to do with the Church in the West? Read on...

Christendom is like GM, only with far more than 100 years of greatness to its credit. In Europe, it grew so powerful that generations of Europeans could not imagine a lives -- or even the very State itself -- apart from it. Now, like GM, Christendom is wheezing -- barely alive. Its cathedrals, monasteries and other remnants of influence are scattered about the countryside like old Oldsmobiles and the State Churches are ornamental references to a time that will never come again.

In America, the Church looks alive and well to the casual observer. One can turn on their TV, their radio or their computer and see what appears to be evidence of a thriving spiritual community with money, influence and a bright future. Drive down the street in your Chevy and you can see church after church standing on corners with invitations to "come grow with us"! But this is as deceptive as the rows and rows of gleaming new GM products lined up on a local car lot. The fact is that the traditional church in America is, by and large, about as relevant to emerging generations of Americans as the latest Buick. Like The General, The Church got suckered into thinking that it didn't have to do anything differently in order to command respect and buy-in. Like The General, the time has come for The Church to learn a lesson... fast.

Of course, the Holy Spirit is committed to The Church in a far different way than He may be committed to GM. That means there is hope. But if the plan of the Church is business as usual until the next Great Awakening hits, the road ahead will be more than rocky, it will be like trying to negotiate the Pike's Peak classic on a riding lawnmower. "I know your deeds," Jesus said to the church at Sardis, "you have a reputation of being alive, but you are dead. Wake up! Strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your deeds complete in the sight of my God" (Revelation 3: 1, 2). Those are words that could be applied to General Motors, but they were written to a Church in trouble. We who love The Bride cannot afford to ignore them.

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