12.15.2006

A ROSE by any other name?

Business Week has a fascinating article on Best Buy's efforts to transform organizational culture through a program called Results-Only Work Environment. (ht: SBSDiva) Basically, the idea is that in an age of ubiquitous wireless, transcontinental contacts, and increasing stress, employees can have more control and thus be more productive by working when and where they need to. The company describes a ROWE as "one where people do whatever they want whenever they want as long as the work gets done." Best Buy claims significant improvements in productivity in their formerly seat- and face-time dependent culture. They've even formed a subsidiary called CultureRx to evangelize this concept with other corporations.

Their website summarizes the imperative on their website:

"Stop thinking of work as someplace you go... Start thinking of work as something you do."

Hmmm. This sounds suspiciously like the missional church movement to be less "attractional" than "incarnational," to focus less on getting people into our (God's?) house and getting God, through us, into their house.

Imagine if we stopped thinking of church as someplace we go, and instead lived it out as something we are. What if we focused on Relationship-Oriented Spiritual Environments (sm), where we stopped worrying about people's pew time and valued their relationship time with Christ, with their families, with people at the margins, with each other in environments that allow for life-changing spiritual conversation and growth. What if we figured out, like Best Buy, how to relate not just as a group of people occupying the same sanctuary on the same day and time, but as interrelated networks of people on a mission? Could e-mail exchanges and coffeeshop conversations have the impact of "a service?" (Many people, even church people, I think, would already say 'yes.') Can meals, or serving meals, be as sacramental as the official Meal? Can we focus on being part of God's mission rather than just putting in time?

How can we make the faith community's power to form and inform its people something that is available 24/7, at the cabin or soccer field or fellowship hall, rather than an hour a week in the sanctuary? (I've written about this before.) How can we empower each other to have more to say to a neighbor or co-worker who is seeking other than, 'You should come to my church?'

There's nothing really new here other than a language and a perspective that tweaks our conventional wisdom. Given that the church is not a business but is, as is Best Buy, an organization of individuals working together on a mission, there might be something to listen to here. The church's mission -- God's mission -- is a far better thing to devote one's time and energy to, IMHO. But if we looked honestly at our performance in being part of that mission, would we say we're doing better than Best Buy?

This is, according to BW, ROWE's commandment number 1 (there are 13): "People at all levels stop doing any activity that is a waste of their time, the customer's time, or the company's money."

What would it look like if we structured the church so that Christians, "professional" and non, stopped any activity that didn't bring people into a deeper relationship with Christ and God's people, and wasted money that could change the lives of people at the margins?

6 comments:

Tim said...

Love this post. My dad was a minister for years and finally got kicked to the curb and now delivers pizza: he didn't get it, but now he slowly does: you cannot serve the electric bill and people; let's get out of the building business and find church in the streets and in our homes.

Bob said...

ex pastor's kid: I'm sorry for your dad's experience, and for yours. The pressures of lighting the lights and paying benefits will continue to grow for many congregations, I'm afraid. I don't think that the brick and mortar church will -- or should -- go away, anymore than physical stores will. But along side it we need ways for groups that are traveling light (with lower fixed costs) to be church, too.

Mike said...

Interesting post, Bob... but not surprising. I don't want a 9 to 5 job, or a 9 to 5 church/faith.

And I'm not surprised at how the workplace is looking "missional". (In fact, I think the workplace beat the church to it, but that's a matter for historians to settle.) It all goes back to a desire we have for significance, or meaning. I think its built into the fabric of our souls.

7K said...

I wonder if Lutherans don't have an easier time adjusting to the post-modern culture around them. I never encountered a lot of legalism in that church: there is a looser, freer feeling and a greater reliance on faith and grace than I got used to coming up Pentecostal/Charismatic. (My parents were Lutheran).

Church is not somewhere we go, it is something we are. I think that gets to the essence of what we mean by "emerging." My evangelical brothers knee-jerk about this. They tend to be modernists who cling to their absolute security-blanket. They are afraid of relativism. But the battle they are waging is already lost. They just are in denial about it.

I'm not into conflict if it isn't necessary. I say my piece and let it go. Sooner or later the impact will be felt. The steamroller of the post-modern world is already flattening the foundations of the past.

Bob said...

Mike, I agree it's not surprising. The 9-to-5 life disappeared a long time ago. The church is often beaten to the punch noticing trends like this, mainly because we spend so much time looking at ourselves and not enough looking at the world around us. Stories like this, as maybe atypical examples that show the underlying societal trends, can help us get more up to speed with how the culture is changing...

Bob said...

7K -- I believe that the Lutheran DNA -- the theology of the cross, an embrace of paradox, the priesthood of all believers, entirely grounded in grace -- is well-suited to the post-modern culture. We view the law as a means of awakening us to the fact that we need grace. This is generally a good thing, although some of our difficulty engaging people in discipleship is rooted in our fear of requiring much, lest they be viewed as "works." There are certainly modern Lutherans, too, and there are plenty of Lutherans who fear relativism. I like what you say about the Church being in denial about the battle it has already lost. A lot of the modern church has gone into hyper-drive trying to reverse the postmodern shift, and it works, too, for a while, for some. Over the long life of this shift there will always be people with modern and postmodern firmware in varying proportions, and a good number of us who have both but tend toward one or the other. I'm not sure there is a steamroller; instead I see a natural, even gentle, yet relentless shift that we can get in front of -- but we have to move.