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Churches Need to Fail

CHurch turned clubI am guilty of it. I sometimes get so excited and ride such emotional highs that I want to do everything at once. I hear a topic that interests me or see a book looks great and I’m hooked. I start thinking I’ve got the next great idea stewing.

What I’ve really got is lack of focus and misplaced energy. But the more I focus and work hard on something I already do well, the more it becomes a service that is of more use to someone else. I also feel better and more fulfilled at the same time. Win-win.

Think of the difference between a flood light and a laser. A flood light is spread out and diffuse for the purpose of illuminating a large area. A laser is of extreme focus and can cut through all the noise and light pollution to hit a target.

Do you want to hit a target with your expertise or just add to the already amassed diffusion of moderately good ideas? One will help you get noticed and build expertise. The other will give you a little bit of knowledge about a lot, but the effect will probably be minimal. You can’t be all things to all people and expect to move an organization in a given direction. If you want to hit a goal, you need to know what that goal is and become a laser not a floodlight.

Rather than focus on what you don’t do well, how about finding what you already do well and work hard to become the best at it. Capitalize on strengths and people will start coming to you for that.

The world has changed. Like David Harvey theorized about the film Blade Runner, our society is now built on small companies of experts. These small companies focus on one idea or process and sell a small niche of expertise to other industries that need it. In education small companies are focusing on tasks like grading papers, retention analysis, registration systems, and packaged course content for online education. A big company with all these little companies working for it is the wave of what happening now.

Why should your group be any different? In this all that bad?

Think of this in terms of a religious organization. There are plenty of them out there competing with your own. If you are dwindling in size you are no longer meeting any need of the public at large. Something is missing. Your message is too diffuse. You need to be a laser. Stop spending a disproportionate amount of time discussing definitions of “ecclesia” or “koinonia” or which theologian said what in reference to some other abstract idea. Focus on what it is that makes your own flavor of the faith add to the soup to rather than make it blander. What spice do you have to offer to make Christianity more flavorful?

It’s silly to dream up success as we sit around and bitch and whine about what we’re doing wrong and resent other religious organizations for being successful. We resent them because they are mirrors to our failures and fears. We envy them. Failing churches maybe should fail just like a student who isn’t meeting course objectives. There is a standard for what church should be and Paul spent an enormous amount of time talking about it in his letters. If a church does not meet the standards there, it needs to fail.

What are you doing right? What standards are you meeting? What are you doing well? If your organization is in crisis, and most religious organizations are, then you need to realign or die. Start with a strength and be the best at it. The alternative is that someone else surely will.

About Andrew Tatusko

Secularization, critical pedagogy, sometimes agnostic, politics, and a ton of running. Penn State is definitely not responsible for what I say.


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