The Glorious Disruption of Partnership in the Middle and Why Penney’s is Failing

I think a lot about the future of “church.”  What will churches come to look like?  How do we join that unfolding?  How do we support other churches?  Being in the place where I am more clear about all I don’t know than about what I do know, pushes this question of deeply interested curiosity.

Four years into the experiment known as “NewChurch LIVE”, what do I think I know, today?  It would be something along these line.   The Christian paradigm as a model of self-less service is joyous, jolting and disruptive.  The New Church is a call back to that model.  We need to gather increasingly effective forms of partnership around that core, forms that include a wide variety of humanity who are willing to be disrupted.  From that place, we learn together to ask the right questions.  

A number of weeks ago JC Penney’s Board replaced their CEO Ron Johnson.  Ron came to Penny’s with well polished credentials. Prior to being named CEO, he served as the Senior Vice President of Retail Operations at Apple from January 2000 to November 2011, where he pioneered the concept of the Apple Retail Stores and the Genius Bar.   What did he accomplish at Apple?  Its retail space became the most profitable on a square footage basis of any space in the country.  With much fanfare then he arrives at Penney’s only to flame out in under 2 years.  Why?

Because he knew too much.  He saw knowledge and critical culture in one place … Apple … as completely transferable to another place …. Penney’s.   The evidence accrued through his outrageously successful tenure at Apple pointed that he was right and that he possessed the answers.  Humility tends to contract in that inhospitable environment.  No humility, no partnership.

Partnership may not “know” answers but it does now direction.  Partnership may not be quick or efficient but it is engaging and effective.  Partnership may be messy, but it is beautiful!


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