I once worked in the high-tech industry, for a company called Nortel.
The company only exists on paper now, it was once one of the biggest tech giants in the world. The Toronto Stock Exchange rose and fell on the value of Nortel’s stock. I was there when it peaked at over $140/share and everyone was jumping on board for a piece of the action in this great Canadian company.
I was there when the tech bubble burst, and I’m starting to feel like I’m watching another bubble burst. A much smaller bubble, yet a very important bubble.
As I’ve been reflecting on my time at the company along side a shift in the church, I’ve been drawing some parallels.
1. “Right-Angle Turn”
This was a huge buzz-phrase in the company. Then CEO, John Roth, declared the company was making a huge shift to focus on the exploding digital networks. But there was a problem. Over 50% of the company was dedicated to telephone and voice-related technology. This was the profitable side of the company. This was the bread-and-butter side of the company. Would it be so willing to give up so much in funding to support new products? And with the decline in demand for this technology, how much longer could it be profitable while we sought to build new product lines.
2. An end-to-end solution
The company began to expand rapidly into digital networks, going head-to-head with Cisco and other major players. We already had some successful products in this field, but we wanted to dominate, so we expanded to offer a full-line of products aimed to completely shut out any other company in the digital network field. We bought other companies in search of the right combination to tools and products to do this. We made some bad, over priced acquisitions, we didn’t integrate them very well, and profitability and productivity fell.
Seeking to be a one-stop-shop for all your digital network needs wasn’t going over as well as planned. We, in my opinion, spread ourselves too thin instead of just focusing on our strengths.
Nortel took great pride in itself as an industry leader. But, when it things began to fall apart as the old technology was no longer in demand, and new technology was not yet profitable, there were no signs of admitting mistakes and attempting to reign in product lines.
In the end, it was shown that key figures in the company had cooked the books to make the numbers look better than they really were, and took home huge bonuses for their deceit.
Pride did not allow the company to learn from mistakes.
What Of The Church?
I said I saw parallels and I do.
I see people calling for huge changes in the church (locally, nationally and beyond). But we need to realize who is in our pews. The vast majority of our churches are full of seniors who give a lot of money to the church. They won’t be there forever, but they are those who build our churches, or are the children of those who built them. Whatever we do, we need to remember and respect them as we move forward.
I also see churches trying to be all things for all people. This is, of course, a very noble thing to do. But we just don’t have the resources, gifts, or ability to do this. Especially if you are a small church. We can be some things to all people, but we also need to realize where our gifts are and use them to the best of our ability.
I see our churches living like they are still the centre of the community, even though this hasn’t been true for decades (in some cases). I see our churches unwilling to admit mistakes, and I see them unwilling to accept their share of the blame.
We all have a part to play in the dramatic decline of Christianity in our communities. Sure, not all of it is our fault, but a good part of it is because of our inability to look beyond our walls.
We have been unwilling to see how our actions have pushed people away from the church. We have been unwilling to engage in the community around us to find out just what people need. We have not been willing to step out in faith to focus on the gifts we do have in order to connect with those around us.
Change needs to happen. It needs to be balanced, it needs to be in cooperation, it needs to be humble.
I’m not seeing this in many of our churches. Instead, I feel like I’m watching another bubble burst. This one with very different consequences.
So let’s put down our pride, our anxieties, our fears, whatever it is that is holding us back from realizing just what it is God is calling us to be. Let us let God show us what it is we have to offer the world around us, and let us let Him lead us on a journey of hope, life and joy as we serve in the name of Jesus Christ.