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distinctionCreate Distinction by Scott McKain was recommended to me by our son Ben, who has a real knack for business.  In our family, lots of books circulate. I love it that our grown kids still search our bookshelves—because I do the same when I go to their houses!

I don’t read very many business books because that’s not the world I live in, but I do find that when one comes highly recommended, it often has salient information for . . . life as a Christian and especially life as a church leader.  Create Distinction really spoke to some of my own questions!

McKain’s basic premise is that being “great” (as in Good to Great by Jim Collins) is not really what makes your business grow; rather you must differentiate yourself, but then take differentiation to the level of distinction!

I’ve talked in earlier posts about some of my concerns in the church world that differentiation has become a bad word synonymous with sectarian. Our current cultural worship of tolerance has its good side, but it also has a gene that tends toward mediocrity, the worship of that which doesn’t rise above anybody or anything else, of that which does not claim to be true or holy, especially in the sense of set apart. The result in the American church world is lots of lots of churches and fewer and fewer Christians.

McKain offers three differentiation destroyers.  Let’s try these on in church clothes instead of business suits and see if any of them fit.

Differentiation Destroyer #1: Copycat Competition and Incremental Advancement

As happens in the business world, if we see a church growing when we are not, one of our first responses  is to look for ways to copy the successful church.  If they play rock praise songs on a smoke-filled stage, we think we need to do the same. If they don’t have Sunday school, then we do the same.  If their preacher wears jeans and flipflops, then we want our preacher to also.

McKain would say that when we copy other churches, we are focusing on those other churches rather than on the people that we are trying to speak Jesus to. We are exchanging the goal of speaking Jesus into the hearts of people for the goal of growing as big as that other church!  Pretty subtle temptation, isn’t it!

And even scarier, apparently in the business world, when “customers” can’t tell the difference between businesses, they buy less from all of them.  This translates into “all churches are pretty much alike—and none of them really offers me something that I’m really looking for” in the Christian world.

Differentiation Destroyer #2: Change That Creates Tougher Competition

McKain’s main example was that the development of the Interstate system created a new world of opportunity for something different—fast food, cheaper and predictable—and put lots of local retailers out of business because they tried, but could not compete with McDonalds.  They did not differentiate themselves enough to make their customers want to slow down and pay more for their “better” hamburgers. Having a better product was not good enough to keep them in business.

Don’t lots of our churches depend on the fact that they have a better “product” (the Truth) to attract people!  Either that or they try to become McDonalds—you’ve heard of the “honk and pray” churches. Both are losing strategies for growth.  McKain argues for differentiation and distinction instead.

Differentiation Destroyer #3: Familiarity Breeds Complacency

“When we have become familiar with something, and it is boundlessly available, we do not scorn it, hate it, or hold it in contempt. Instead, we take it for granted” (33)

How many of our members take church for granted? It’s comfortable, predictable, and there every Sunday morning.  Isn’t this a good thing?  You won’t lose anyone this way—except anyone who is not already there!  And those who are looking for a passionate commitment! And those who don’t want to be taken for granted themselves.

Familiar churches are probably not growing churches.  Where does that thought lead you?

Perhaps this very brief suggestion of what the book contains will lead you to read Create Distinction.  McKain does go on to talk about how to differentiate and become distinct. And it’s not by trying to be like everyone else!

We’ll look at some of those ideas later.

 

 

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