Companies like Uber, SquareSpace, and Airbnb have been very successful lately. Their business model works. And yet I have to be honest….I’m not all that impressed. I mean, as a Church, we have been doing the same thing for over 2,000 years. Yes, we have had limited success in Europe and North America lately. Yes there are other times in history we have struggled. Yes, we have made some serious missteps. But our “brand” has endured. Let me explain.
Take Uber, for instance. At the end of the day, their company model is very simple – connect up people with things they need. These days it is way more than a peer-to-peer ridesharing platform connecting up passengers with drivers. There is UberEats, and also a bicycle-sharing program in many urban areas. In almost 800 metropolitan areas all over the globe, they have spread like wild fire!
Uber has employed this very simple model with amazing success. In 2019 Uber is estimated to have over 110 million users. Its platform is through a simple mobile app, which in an organic way using algorithms and fixed prices, has a way of spreading itself.
This company has been in the news lately. What better company to study the gender pay gap than with a company that in so many ways is gender-blind, using only algorithms and mobile GPS tracking? Anyone can drive. Anyone can ride. But part of the news is how companies like this are struggling with liabilities, with reaching people with disabilities effectively, etc.
But back to the Church. When you think of it, is the Church not a vehicle to connect up people to God? Our whole trajectory is spiritual growth and connections, and despite the goals of some local churches, the overall trajectory of the Church is to get out of the way of the Holy Spirit and let God’s community flourish. We, like Uber, connect people up (w/ God and each other).
Oh yes, it is messy and lacks centralized organizational structure. But I am going to stand by our metrics, and our companies’ organizational structures. With over 2.4 Billion followers of Jesus of Nazareth, we are the world’s largest religion. The structures also have amazing redundancy and seem unstoppable. Not even tyrannical regimes or governments can stop us.
Our model is simple: Connect up congregants with one another, and churches to churches, and with God, so that the Holy Spirit can transform lives.
I work for a presbytery. This means my job on a daily basis is proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ who saves, redeems, and reconciles the world to Godself through ministries of witness, justice, and mercy. But I get the privilege of seeing this on a larger scale, connecting ministers to ministers, churches to churches, and seeing a different way of “proclaiming” than when I was in a pulpit weekly and a local church daily. I spend my time building and equipping vital congregations so that they can reach seekers and those in need, nurture disciples, and send apostles of our Lord into the world.
And unlike Uber, whose platforms can only be accessed through websites or mobile apps, I follow the CEO Jesus of Nazareth who can be accessed through Prayer. It is a free app that doesn’t even require a cell phone. This has allowed us to reach even rural communities, communities that struggle with poverty, and places Uber doesn’t dare go. In fact, our great power is that often these are the places where our “brand” is the strongest.
We are an unstoppable force in places like the rural parts of Africa and South America, and other places in the Global South. The Holy Spirit infrastructure is strong even in places where the country’s infrastructure is faltering.
We need to stop panicking in North America. We spend so much time and energy worrying about church growth and bottom lines that we have forgotten that God is in charge – in fact has always been in charge. We don’t need to worry. We need to follow.
It would also benefit us, if rather than going off our separate ways, trying to follow the competitor, that we stay the course and come to realize that our God endures through all generations, and that our power comes not from following the bright lights and allure of money, but by following the bright Light of Jesus of Nazareth, who gave his life that others may live.
So sorry, Uber. I’m not that impressed. When you have endured and flourished for thousands of years give me a call, and I will be sure to be impressed. Let me know when using your app leads to radical cultural transformations of justice and mercy, when it combats racism, oppression, and violence, when it gives new life. Top that, Uber.