LeaderLines – from Hillcrest Baptist Church, Austin, Texas  Contact Tom Goodman, Pastor
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Hillcrest Church Office
April 29, 2004

LeaderLines is a weekly “e-briefing” providing valuable information and inspiration to those who serve at Hillcrest Baptist Church.

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Here is this week's LeaderLines. . . .

“Good to Great: The Parable of Two Grocers”
by Tom Goodman

Check it out!

Hillcrest can learn a lot from the Parable of Two Grocers.  In the early 1950s, A&P was the largest retail organization in the world while Kroger barely kept pace with the general market.  By 1999, Kroger had become America’s number-one grocery chain while A&P had dwindled to a sad remnant of a once-great institution.

What happened?  Jim Collins tells the tale in his book, Good to Great.  We’re taking a few editions of LeaderLines to learn some lessons from Collins’ best-selling business book where he highlights the common habits and decisions that led eleven companies from average performance to superior performance.  Collins says that A&P had the perfect business model for the first half of the twentieth-century, but failed to adjust to the way that shoppers had changed in the second half of the century.  In fact, the CEO who followed the Hartford brothers who had built the A&P dynasty seemed more interested in maintaining what had made A&P a dynasty instead of what could keep it that way.

It wasn’t that A&P was unable to see the changes in shoppers’ attitudes.  Shoppers were looking for wider variety in products and services all under one roof—a superstore.  A&P obviously saw this trend because they experimented with meeting that need by opening a few select stores called The Golden Key.  The stores proved popular, but executives turned a blind eye to the facts and closed their Golden Key stores because—read this carefully—the success revealed such a different reality from what had made their company successful in the past!  Eventually their declining sales led to desperate price-slashing which led to drab stores and poor service.  “We not only had dirt,” one former store manager confessed, “We had dirty dirt.”  They were caught in a downward spiral of sales declines and diminished quality.

On the other hand, Kroger acknowledged that grocery shoppers had changed, and they proceeded with a long and risky renovation of their entire operation to meet those changes.  Their decisions led to a twenty-five year climb to the number-one spot in the grocery business.  The CEO described the confidence they maintained throughout the whole tough change:  “We had a very strong will to live, the sense that we are Kroger, Kroger was here before and will be here long after we are gone, and we are going to win this thing.”

Both companies had a long history:  At the point Kroger decided to renovate itself, the company had been around for 82 years (A&P for 111 years).  But Kroger adjusted to the facts while A&P wouldn’t face the facts.

We’re halfway through the first decade of the new millennium, so it’s high time God’s churches heed the Parable of Two Grocers.  The tale teaches us that a good church can become great for God by becoming clear-eyed and confident.  In other words, in our aim to awaken our twenty-first century town to Christ’s reign, we have to acknowledge what isn’t working anymore while remaining confident that with God’s help we can discover what will work.  We have to find out how God’s working today rather than preserving the manner in which we saw God work in the past.  One way we make this adjustment is to look at how other churches are following God into ministries that heal the community’s aches, overcome the community’s faulty assumptions about Christianity, attract the community’s families, and stir the community’s heart to worship.

Let’s yield ourselves to what God wants to do with us today!  “Have thine own way, Lord, have thine own way!”


P.S.  Make a special effort to attend the events of “Vision Sunday,” May 16.  During the two services, I will bring a message on what I believe God is calling us to do in the next few years as a church.  During the Sunday School hour (9:30-10:30), all adult classes are encouraged to meet in the MPC for a continental breakfast and a presentation by our Ministry Staff.  Come hear BJ, Jim, Gene and Herb share what God has put on their hearts for their ministry areas.  Then in the evening, from 6:00-7:30, the Ministry Staff will present our recommended Fall schedule and field your questions.  Please note the earlier start time for this evening’s program—6:00 p.m.

If you have internet access, log on to www.HillcrestAustin.org/ScheduleProposal to see the suggested schedule and hear an audio file of my explanation of the proposal.  Spread the word on this item!

We have had a chance to speak to several groups in smaller settings, and if you would like one of the Ministry Staff to speak to your group, please contact us!  We’d like a chance to fellowship in intimate settings with your own department, ministry group, or even your own circle of friends.  Call us!