There is a story that goes around in business books about a company that made drill bits. The story goes, and I have no idea if its based on fact or apocryphal, that a new chief executive looking at the plans the company had for new products asked the board what business they were in. The story relates how the executives gave the common sense reply, “making drill bits,” to which the new boss replied “NO, we are in the business of making holes.” The story continues that this key insight allowed the company to be at the forefront of developing laser drilling.
I am pretty sure that some executives at Kodak are wishing they had spent more time reflecting on that story. This week the once dominant company in photography has gone to the wall. It looks like they believed they were in the business of making cameras and films and never realised that their core business was in fact producing images, or perhaps helping people preserve and relive experiences. Younger tech companies grasped that reality and developed digital photography while Kodak, which had pioneered digital photography, was left with a product line which looked like a museum catalogue.
Now all of that is very interesting but what does it have to do with us as a small group of Christ followers in Edinburgh? Well, I think for me it has reminded me of the key task that confronts us at the moment. We need to emulate the drill company and avoid the pitfall that Kodak fell right into. We need to spend time over the next few months and perhaps the next year, thinking long, hard, clearly and wisely what business we are really in.
Using theological language what I mean by that is we need to think seriously about missiology and ecclesiology. Just like that chief executive we need to avoid accepting the long accepted wisdom. We need to do the hard work of thinking for ourselves. Informed by the wisdom of the past, the culture we live in and the teaching of Scripture, we need to clarify what we believe God calls us to be and to do as His people.
I don’t know about you but I am excited and daunted by that prospect. I am excited because so few communities of God’s people have either opportunity or the courage to do that. Too many churches are either imprisoned by their past or too connected to their present success to think seriously about what it means to be church. I wonder how many of those church buildings which are derelict or used as pubs and shops are monuments to the Kodaks of the ecclesiastical world? I wonder how many of today’s mega churches which have, like Kodak, been so innovative, will eventually become victims of their own success? As wedded to the past as much as the churches they thought they were replacing. Yet we as Mosaic Edinburgh have this unique opportunity and if I can say so, a unique group of people who are able to grasp it, it is little wonder I am excited. I hope you are too.
Yet I am also daunted. I am daunted by the enormity of the task, by its importance, by its potential implications, for us as a community, for our city, for me personally. I am daunted about the process how exactly do we do it? It would be so much easier just to photocopy someone else’s six point plan to becoming a missional church but it would forever be their plan and therefore not our church. I am daunted because I doubt my own ability to lead this.
Perhaps being daunted is no bad thing? Being daunted by a task strips us of self-confidence and throws us back on God and if ever there was task that we needed God to be involved in, it is this one. I hope you are as excited as I am about the journey in discovery that God is taking us on.