Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Old Problem Example

In RealClearPolitics - Commentary - How GM Failed to Meet the Challenge Robert Samuelson gives a perfect example of the old problem.

"In 1921, Ford had 60 percent of U.S. car sales. GM overtook Ford because ``the old master (Henry Ford) had failed to master change,'' Sloan wrote. Ford stuck too long with the Model T, conceived as cheap transportation for everyman. But the advent of used car sales satisfied consumers wanting ``basic transportation,'' while new-car buyers demanded more comfort and performance. GM offered a full line of cars (Chevrolets, Buicks and Cadillacs) at different prices."

The Old Problem

Young organizations with younger people tend to be more innovative, quicker to change and adapt, and more prone to quick failure. Old organizations with older people tend to be more stable, slower to change and adapt, and more prone to slow failure. This is true of political organizations, business organizations, and church organizations. Young organizations have problems assessing the risk associated with specific actions or policies. Risk ignorance sometimes results in great success and sometimes results in great failure. Old organizations have problems taking an action involving any risk. Risk knowledge sometimes results in avoiding mistakes, but often results in missing opportunities.

The United States has always enjoyed an advantage over Europe because we have been a younger country with a higher percentage of younger people and a greater willingness to take calculated risks. However, as more and more baby boomers in America reach retirement and start to prefer stability to innovation, the American advantage over Europe will start to erode. Also, as more and more of India’s, Brazil’s, and China’s younger population start to realize opportunity and achieve success without migrating to America, the United States will cease to be the country of innovation and leadership.

The best hope for the United States would be for our government to allow more legal immigration. America has vast amounts of unused land, resources, infrastructure, and laws, that would allow the process to be transparent to the daily lives of most Americans, but beneficial to the long term prospects of both the immigrants and current Americans. Imagine all of the opportunities if we were to build new schools, hospitals, businesses, churches, parks, sport and activity centers, and communities all with wireless internet access.

There is a big problem though. Our government, our political parties, many of our people, and a lot of our ideas have become old and risk averse. At a time when we need new people, new ideas, and new organizations, the old people in old organizations with old ideas want to slow down and stop immigration.

Wouldn’t it be better for America if new jobs were done by new Americans in America than by Chinese in China? Wouldn’t it be better for democracy and freedom if new businesses were created in America by new Americans than by Socialists in China? Wouldn’t it be better for the Gospel if new Churches were formed in America by new Americans than by Chinese who face imprisonment for conducting a Church service? Wouldn’t it be better for America if a new political party with new ideas gained a little traction?

As much as I like President Bush, and as much as I think the only realistic hope for positive progress in America is with the Republican Party, I sure wish there was another alternative that wasn’t so old.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Quitting Too Soon

I once heard a statement declaring that many people deny themselves a chance for success because they give up too soon. In contrast, there is a contemporary belief that to continue to do what you have always done and expect different results is a sign of idiocy. Both concepts seem to be true on first thought. However, both concepts can’t be completely true because of the conflict between the two. One of these concepts could be mostly true and the other concept mostly false or both concepts could be partially true and partially false.

There seems to be many people who give up before achieving a goal, but there are also many people who die before accomplishing their plans. There are also many people who work and sacrifice most of their life in order to realize a small success while others seem to luck into wealth, success, and achievement early in life without much effort at all.

The conflict in Iraq has attracted the attention of the proponents of the “don’t give up too soon” and the “it’s lunacy to continue” ideas. While the conflict in Iraq is of supreme national and historic importance, it still becomes a decision based on the price America is willing to pay to achieve the results we desire. As long as the results are adequate for the price we are paying, the national consensus will be to continue. When there does not appear to be any results or the results are minimal, the national consensus will be to end the lunacy.

As someone who rarely quits once I establish a goal, I am thankful for the recent good news concerning Abu Musab al Zarqawi. We could use more good news like this because I would hate for the American military to leave Iraq too soon.

Friday, November 18, 2005

Mixed Messages

My little girls aren’t so little anymore. They don’t just hear the things my wife and I tell them anymore, they also interpret what we tell them. One of my themes for them is the importance of being appropriately kind to everyone, not just their friends. On the drive to school a few weeks ago, I was reminding my oldest daughter to remember to consider the feelings of everyone who will be affected by one of her decisions before making a the final decision. Her reply to me was that her mommy told her to quit worrying so much about others. Oh boy, talk about mixed messages.

My wife was trying to teach her to be independent, which is also of extreme importance to me, but the message came across to her as an encouragement to be selfish. My girls can jabber until my ears hurt. Yet, this was a good lesson and a reminder for me to always listen to what they are saying when they are talking. It’s not enough for us to teach our children morals. We need feedback to understand all that we are teaching them, so we can correct our mistakes before a wrong lesson becomes permanent.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Is Wal-Mart a Problem?

John Stossel is one of the few clear thinkers in Big Media.

In "RealClearPolitics - Commentary - Is Wal-Mart a Problem? by John Stossel" he makes the case for Wal-Mart and simple economics.

Thursday, November 10, 2005


It seems to me that there are many Christian writers and leaders who use the words “community” and “relationships” interchangeably. I don’t think the meanings of the words are the same. The more I hear and read the word “relationship”, the more I am convinced it is a word that doesn’t have a meaning, or at least a clear meaning. I have a relationship with God, a relationship with my wife, and a relationship with the chair I am sitting on, but the three have very little in common and how I relate to each of the three is very different. If I had my way, the word “relationship” would be stricken from the Christian vocabulary along with the word “just”.

Communities are groups of individuals and organizations who voluntarily cooperate in a way that is mutually beneficial. When an individual chooses to purchase bread from a baker instead of baking his or her own bread, the baker and the buyer are both rewarded; the buyer saves time and usually money, and the baker earns additional income. The baker and the buyers form a community of dependence, where both are giving and both are getting. Healthy Churches are very similar. In a healthy Church community, there is a balance between giving and getting.

Unfortunately, many Churches struggle to achieve a balance between giving and getting. These Churches usually have a small percentage of givers trying to serve a larger percentage of getters. Eventually, some form of temporary balance is achieved, but the constant struggle to maintain the balance always remains. Churches with the highest percentage of independent individuals will have less trouble achieving the balance because of the lower percentage of needy individuals who are a burden to others. One of the goals of ministry should be to minister in a way that moves individuals from a position of dependence on others to a position of independence so they will no longer be a burden, but become a servant and a contributing member of a community.

Each of us have a different quotient for how much individuality we can sustain, just as we each have a different quotient for how much compromise and cooperation we can sustain. Within a healthy Church community there is room for those with high individuality quotient, a low individuality quotient, a high cooperation quotient, and a low cooperation quotient. Those with no individuality quotient or no cooperation quotient are the burdens to a healthy Church community. I know there are many today who look at Church and society and see too much individualism. I’m not one of them. I look at Church and society today and see way too much dependence on others in ways that are unnecessarily burdensome. In my view, this is an unhealthy trend.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005


Most Christians consider fundamentalism to be a slightly warped or extreme form of Christian belief. However, fifty years ago the fundamentalists were mainstream American Christians. Nowadays, they seem odd because they have diligently preserved the cultural Christianity of 1950 and refused to adapt to an evolving culture. By holding on to a fading culture, fundamentalists have almost completely lost the ability to influence our present culture.

Every Church in America has it’s own culture. Churches that experience growth in early years are usually able to appeal to a cultural segment of seekers and believers who are not being served by traditional Churches. However, as Churches age, they tend to preserve their original culture, sometimes becoming mainstream and then eventually passé. The fundamentalists are an obvious example of this process, but the process is not limited to the fundamentalists; all Churches go through these stages. Churches that invest in timeless architecture might be a slight exception, but it is still rare to find a thriving older Church even when the Church buildings are able to attract new members.

Christian principles and beliefs are timeless truths that are not dependent upon a cultural setting. Sacrifice, charity, forgiveness, prayer, worship, discipleship, discipline, faithfulness, honesty, love, study, thought, and maybe a few others will be important to a Christian in any culture. Music, clothes, expressions, activities, and accessories are always changing and have nothing to do with Christianity. Hate, murder, thievery, lust, selfishness, cruelty, deceit, bitterness, prejudice, sloth, and maybe a few others are the eternal enemies of the Christian regardless of the culture.

There have always been and there will always be believers and non-believers including myself who mistake culture for principle. I try to get it right, but I also realize I am a product of my genes, my upbringing, my experiences, and my God. There are also some beliefs that aren’t quite culture and aren’t quite Biblical principle. I have written before about how over done and over emphasized relationships have become in our Churches. Relationships with God and others is important, but the over-emphasis on relationships is more cultural than Biblical.

Another aspect of relationships that may be more cultural than Biblical is the claim that God created us to be dependent upon each other and that individualism is sinful. Paul White at reluctant but faithful claims, “Independence leads to unaccountability, and unaccountability leads to all manner of sin, and sin, as C.S. Lewis wrote, causes us to curve inward upon ourselves, eventually, independently, dying.” Hammer left a comment stating, “The American cultural image of rugged individualism is not supposed to fit into the church.”

While there is some truth to both of these statements, neither is completely true. Dependence and conformity can also lead to sin and often do lead to sin. It is selfish to be dependent to a point of being an unnecessary burden on someone else and it is lazy for Church members to conform to an arbitrary or even negotiated standard. I have no doubt, God created us to have a dependent relationship with him. I also believe we serve best as part of a Church community. However, the best community is not a group of dependent conformists; the best community is a Church comprised of individual and independent believers.