If Toyota Took Over the Church

by Feb 15, 2007

102032_00mg_thumbnail.jpgImagine showing up for church one Sunday, and seeing a big bar-graph posted on the front wall. “Oh no, the church is in the red again,” you think to yourself, “we’re in for another sermon about laying up our treasure in heaven.”

But as you walk closer, you realize that the bar-graph isn’t indicating income and expense. It’s labeled “Personal Holiness.” And to your absolute shock, one of the bars on the graph (shoots, it’s a short one) has your name under it.

According to this article, Toyota has run its company this way since its early days, regularly posting individual performance records for everyone in the company to see:

This is part of the Toyota Way. The idea is not to humiliate, but to alert co-workers and enlist their help in finding solutions. It took a while for Ms. Newton, a general manager at Toyota’s North American manufacturing subsidiary, to take this fully to heart. But now she is a convert.

“For Americans and anyone, it can be a shock to the system to be actually expected to make problems visible,” said Ms. Newton, a 38-year-old Indiana native who joined Toyota after college 15 years ago and now works at the North American headquarters in Erlanger, Ky. “Other corporate environments tend to hide problems from bosses.”

As Americans, we’re jealous guards of our inalienable right to privacy. At least until we decide to expose ourselves on YouTube or Jerry Springer. But maybe Toyota is on to something here. After all, what has privacy and anonymity really done for our society? Look at the violent crime rates in urban areas where everyone’s anonymous, compared to small towns where everybody knows everyone, and you’ll see exactly what it’s done. The picture’s not pretty.

Since Christians are born with the same sinful nature as violent criminals, the picture’s not much better in the church. The more our churches grow into big, anonymous Wal-Marts, the less distinct we become from the world around us in terms of holiness. That’s because you won’t find any right to privacy mentioned anywhere in Scripture.

God’s design was for Christians to be intimately involved in each other’s lives, bearing one another’s burdens (Galatians 6:1-5) and sharing with each other when we have need (Acts 4:32-35). And that can’t happen unless we stop hiding our struggles and needs from each other.

Of course this ideal is strictly voluntary, so I’m not ready to start advocating the Toyota Way in our church and posting personal holiness evaluations on the front wall. But I am ready for Christians to transcend our disconnected and anonymous culture.