My smartphone is practically a Transformer. Freaks me out. If I program it correctly, it will get up before I do, put on a pot of coffee, and whip me up a nice plate of Eggs Bene (with scrambled eggs… poached eggs are gross) and a side of Hash Browns.
But with all that my phone can do, and all of it’s multi-media functionality, I still hold on to my trusty 3rd Gen clickwheel iPod to listen to music.
Why? Because Apple flat out dominates the market when it comes to well-designed, high quality, easy to use, techno-magical user interface driven music players. My Smartphone can play music. It could crank out U2’s “Beautiful Day” as it gently browned my morning potatoes if it wanted to. But it does so many other things that it is a little clumsy to use as a music player. For music, my iPod is magic. It does exactly what it is designed to do very well.
Today the long awaited new Kindle from Amazon is slated to be released. When specs for this next generation of the Kindle were released last month, technofiles watched closely for signs of video capabilities and a flashier, more interactive e-book experience. In an online article from engadget.com, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos responded, “For the vast majority of books, adding video and animation is not going to be helpful. It is distracting rather than enhancing. You are not going to improve Hemingway by adding video snippets,” adding later, “there are going to be 100 companies making LCD [screen] tablets… why would we want to be 101? I like building a purpose-built reading device. I think that is where we can make a real contribution.”
I love that. A clear, focused purpose. A device designed to fulfill a specific mission. We don’t need more bells and whistles. We want to produce the best electronic device for reading e-books. Ever. That’s it. There is no “cook me breakfast” app. Streaming video, shmeaming video. But if you want to read an e-book, let me tell you why this baby is the cat’s pajamas.
(As a side note, what does that MEAN? Cat’s pajamas?)
But this post isn’t really about e-readers or music players. It is about church. It is about the value of a clear, focused purpose.
I think most churches would say they agree on WHAT we are called to do as a local church… and it probably sounds something like “Helping build a community of people who used to be far from God and now are growing into fully devoted disciples of Jesus.” Basically, local churches look at the “big ones” from Jesus about our mission here on earth in Matthew 22 (“Love God. Love people.”) and Matthew 28 (“Go and make disciples…”), and try to word it in a unique way that fits on a t-shirt.
But God has uniquely wired your church, and my church, to reach specific people… in a specific way. If you go to church, and your church family and leaders love Jesus, we probably agree on 99% of the WHAT. But your church and my church NEED to listen to God on the SPECIFIC mission we are called to, in the community we are placed, with the specific mix of personalities and gifts that God unites in our congregation.
Without a clear, specific, focused purpose, many churches simply rely on what has been done before. Others are innovation junkies, trying to stay just a step ahead of the Church of the Joneses across the street. Others think the best way to accomplish the WHAT of Matthew 22 and Matthew 28 is to do more and offer more and be more… They run the risk of becoming a “menu-of-ministries” church, driven either by the felt needs of the community, the whims of the crowd, or the personality of the pastor. There’s nothing wrong, per se, with offering a long list of ministries, groups, events, etc… But when a local church UNITES around a common, God-given vision for accomplishing the big WHAT, there is energy in our synergy, there is clarity in our purpose, there is intention in our action, and there is a deep sense of community in the process.
When Jeff Bezos was asked about whether the new Kindle would offer more bells and whistles, he said no.
Does your church or ministry have a clear, focused purpose? It will help you decide what God-stuff to embrace, and what good-stuff to say “no” to.
[For much more on this general theme, I highly recommend the book Simple Church by Thom Rainer and Eric Grieger. You could read it on your Kindle…]