Both General Motors and Chrysler have announced that up to 25% of their dealerships will not have their franchises renewed. Reasons cited were:
- Some dealers did not carry the full brand lineup. Chrysler wants dealers who carry their entire line from trucks to cars to Jeeps.
- Some dealers also carried competitors’ brands. That’s pretty common in smaller communities where one dealership might carry brands and models most suited to their market.
- Most of these dealers under-performed. Chrysler said that 25% accounted for only 15% of its total sales.
- Some brands are being discontinued. Wouldn’t want to be a Pontiac dealer right now, would you? Also, Saturn, Hummer, and Saab are on the chopping block one way or another at GM.
But what if we applied that same criteria to churches? Would your church be in business next week?
Some churches don’t carry the full lineup. Many prefer to emphasize only the spiritual side of the faith, while leaving off any attempt at physical ministry. Others are just the opposite, with lots of social programs, but little in the way of evangelism and discipleship. You get the picture. Should these churches keep their doors open?
Some churches carry the competitor’s brands, too. Okay, we’ve got to tread carefully here, but I’m thinking particularly about Fred Phelps’ church, Westboro Baptist. They spew hate and venom towards any and everyone at any opportunity they can get. They would be the extreme example, but other churches also help the “competition” by either not living the difference Christ makes or by taking a stand in an unloving manner.
Some churches under-perform. GM and Chrysler use an objective criteria to weed out the under-performing dealers — sales numbers. But, some churches also under-perform in attendance, missions, programs, and outreach. What should happen to these churches? I have often contended here that we need to measure more than attendance, especially in small churches; but, even when measuring other factors some churches aren’t cutting it. What should they do?
Some brands are being discontinued. Denominational identity is fading, as are a host of other emphases that once were very popular. Remember the 1970s charismatic movement, or spiritual gifts surveys? Lots of “brands” come and go, and if a church is heavily invested in one narrow perspective, it may find itself out of business in a changing culture.
Fortunately, God is not GM or Chrsyler and churches aren’t dealerships. Churches tend to rise and decline in an organizational life cycle which can be accelerated by forces outside the church. But even if we aren’t automotive dealership managers, it might help us to take an inventory of effectiveness periodically. We might be either surprised or horrified at the result. What do you think?