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Time for the institution to die

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Did that get your attention?

This post is not specifically about the SBC or even the local church trying to hold on to the 1950’s, but it could be. Actually, this post is about… the US Post Office.

The Washington Post has revealed that the Post Office is doing its best, despite laws that prevent it from lobbying, to thwart legislation in several states that would create a “Do Not Mail” list, similar to the “Do Not Call” list(s) that prevent unsolicited sales calls at your home. It’s like a spam filter for your “snail mail” inbox: the mailbox at your house.

What’s the problem? The Post Office has revealed that “standard mail” – or junk mail – has become its life blood. It needs junk mail to survive.

The Post’s story also reveals that environmental groups are not in favor of decreasing junk mail. Why? They are junk mailers.

So let’s review:

  1. Culture no longer operates in the same way it used to because technology has changed the way people think and communicate.
  2. Institution still wants to exist, and fights to keep doing what it has been doing, despite the fact that those it was created to serve no longer need it or want it to do that anymore.
  3. Some people claim to want the betterment of mankind, but stick to an institution that works against their cause because they perceive they need it to exist themselves. Yet if they would progress in their communication style, they could be internally consistent, which would help those they are reaching toward to not think them disconnected and hypocritical.


I forgot to add point four: Thrash about for life as it may, the institution will survive for a while, but will ultimately be something else. Either it will adapt itself to its context, or it will diminish.



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9 Responses to “Time for the institution to die”

  1. Bart Rhea
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 6:35 am

    Wow. Talk about disconnected. Were you talking about the Church?

    And…add “Do not visit” to the “Do not mail and Do not call”. Or how about “Do not leave a flyer on my doornob”, it will go in the trash and add to a mindset that is placing Christians in a bad light already.

    Good stuff!

  2. David Phillips
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 8:04 am


    I don’t know that he’s talking about the church, but I do know of an institution or two he could be talking about…

  3. art rogers
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 9:19 am

    Note that I added a thought to the post.

    In fact, I am talking about the Post Office, but it is clearly such a parallel. It could easily be applied to certain churches as well as certain institutions. Really, the churches that are susceptible to this charge are the ones who have become most like institutions.

    The common symptom (is that the right word?) that all institutions share – the one that opens them to this observation – is that they are slow to change and loath to adapt. Those that do thrive. Those that don’t, don’t.

  4. art rogers
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 9:19 am

    Oh, and great observations, Bart.

  5. Paul
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 1:11 pm

    Reminds me of someone I read recently who said that if the rail road companies had really been in the transportation business they would own all of the airlines today. Instead they were only about rail roads, not transportation.

  6. Joe Ball
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 8:24 pm


    I know you are talking about the Post Office, but it is scary the parallels I see.

  7. art rogers
    on Apr 7th, 2008
    @ 9:45 pm

    How about, perhaps as a subset of point three, the idea that the institution’s internal operators insist that it is viable and necessary because if it were to adapt, a great many people would lose their jobs?

    Not that I take the loss of jobs lightly.

    Nevertheless, the institution that exists for the jobs of its members has become simply something that exists as an end unto itself. The perpetuation of the institution can not be the goal of the institution or it will never be healthy and cannot live.

    Any organization will be healthy and vital who understands its real mission and adapts itself to the success of that mission, relieving itself of those things that do not accomplish its mission.

  8. Papa R
    on Apr 8th, 2008
    @ 2:24 pm

    Art, I know that you are talking about much more than the Post Office but while the federal employees at USPS don’t exactly play fair; direct mail advertising is not properly called “junk mail.” I shouldn’t have to remind you of the source of funds for your college and seminary education. At least most of it.
    I do agree that the USPS is an outdated, self serving group of bureaucrats whose goal is to preserve their own jobs. Don’t be too quick to count the post office out. The strength of this institution backed by a liberal congress shouldn’t be underestimated. They may change, but the “ain’t goin’ anywhere.”


  9. art rogers
    on Apr 8th, 2008
    @ 5:11 pm


    I was wondering how long it would take for you to read that and say something. :)

    As for the USPS, like the “traditional church” and the various religious institutions, adaptation will help them flourish, failure to do so will cause them to diminish…. but not necessarily die. When so many want you to live – expect you to live – then you will live. What type of life it is will yet be determined.

    Oh, and College & Seminary were both funded very much through the direct mailing business. College and the first bit of Seminary through the company you built, and the rest of Seminary through me working at UPS, shoveling great mounds of the stuff from place to place. :)

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