Why churches fail…loss of focus kills.

Jim Collins wrote a series of books that talk about companies that move from “Good to Great,” sustain their performance because they are “Built to Last” and sometimes lose that greatness and implode while we are stuck to consider “How the Mighty Fall.” To give a VERY BRIEF recap on the process, companies that get the right leadership on board and focus relentlessly on delivering against a simple, crisp vision can become great. When they lose that focus, they are doomed to fail.

The world is littered with once great companies that lost their way and are now shells of their former selves or extinct. Think about Sears. Once a retail giant and leader in its industry, it is now owned by K-Mart and doesn’t stand for anything. Sears & Roebuck once used to be my “wish book” for Christmas. It used to be the place for families to shop. It is where people went to buy Craftsman tools and Kenmore appliances.

Now they are a “has been” that people may shop as a last resort. Why? Take a second and think about Sears. What is their focus? Now think about their competitors.

  • Wal-Mart – Everyday low prices.
  • Target – Cheap Chic
  • Amazon – On-line buying of anything you want.
  • Nordstrom – Amazing customer service
  • Sears – Uhhhhh….I’d like to buy a vowel please because I still don’t have a clue….

Even JC Penny has been able to pull themselves back from oblivion. Several years ago, JC Penny was sitting in the same hole of despair and they were able to pull themselves out by focusing on one thing….cheap fashion. Look at their advertisings, stores they have remodeled and even their sales. It is all about providing the best value fashion to mom who is dragging around two kids around the store. She wants to look good, has a limited budget and wants to find the best look at the best value. Put simply…it is focusing on a young mom with “Too little money…two little kids.”

This change in 2005 reversed over a decade of decline. Is it still successful today? The recession makes it hard to tell and sometimes JC Penny went off strategy and got “too cool” vs. its focus.

Why does this lesson apply to the church? Loss of focus KILLS.

Each of the mainline denominations are suffering. I asked the question on “what is holding the church back?” on both Facebook and Twitter. I received response like “too many rules and regulations”, “don’t want to be the church”, “too focused inside the four walls of the church”, and “fear.”

While we can debate these responses, a simple truth needs to be stated…we (as the church) are so busy staring at our belly buttons inside the four walls of the church that we forgot our calling to “make disciples of the whole world.” Instead, we argue about programming, debate theology or sell out to the world completely and make a “county club” where everyone is comfortable instead of accountable to grow in their faith.

There are bright spots of discipleship out there. Places that a singularly focused to “re-present” Christ to the world through actions, a simple theology and streamlined operations. Places where the community matters more than the church building. Places that hold each other accountable to grow in Christ vs. being a “cultural Christian.”

They are the ones focusing on the footsteps of the Savior instead of worrying about upsetting those (inside or outside the church) who aren’t committed. They are the ones who are willing to end a program because it no longer is effective. They are the ones who are not willing to squabble over a politically argument that will never be settled at General Conference and focus on feeding the hungry children within 5 blocks of their church.

As a Methodist, I pray for a call to focus for our denomination. We need to get back to our focus on reaching our communities and not hiding within our four walls. We need to focus our theology on a single point…Christ called us to transform the world one soul at a time.

This is the one point everything we do much be aligned to. This is the one point we must be held accountable to. This is the one filter we must use to decide what to do.

If not, who are we really focusing on?

 

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