The Postmodern Coke Machine

Postmodern vending machine

Recently, I went to a burger joint that used the new Coke Freestyle vending machine to dispense my beverage. Instead of giving my drink order to the guys behind the counter or filling it up my cup at the fountain nozzles, the Freestyle vending machine presented me with a touch screen. After stabbing away few menus, and I had a drink made exactly to my individual tastes. It hit me that Freestyle had a few things to teach the church about our new postmodern world:


1) The machine offered many options – tailoring the experience to each person.  Not only could I choose to add cherry, orange, or lemon to my drink, the machine also gave me control over carbonation and sweetness. Each drink is customized.


Apply this to your church and outreach:

Congregations need to offer more options to their participants for hands-on mission work and individually designed spiritual formation experiences. Churches are no longer free to offer the same religious experience to every member. People are demanding more freedom in designating where the mission part of their offering goes. It may even be time to offer more than one form of membership, that is, providing a way to recognize and affirm the people who participate in more than one congregation (snow birds, college students, mixed marriages, etc) and people who are in different places on their spiritual journey. 


2) The machine calls home every night to tell Coke what people are buying.  Not only is Coke able to keep the machine well stocked, their marketing department is given real-time information on the tastes of their customers. With this information, Coke knows to bottle sweeter  products in one region for its stores or whether a new flavor will be popular. Note that knowledge has become a two way street in the postmodern world. Gone are the days when Coke had a secret recipe that it developed in its labs. Now, people tell Coke what to bottle. 


Apply this to your church and outreach:

Today, knowledge flows uphill. Don’t look to your denominational office to teach you how to be in mission. Use the web. Form personal networks with people who are making a difference in your community. Build your own, local, partnerships. Become agile, fluid, and ready to change to meet new opportunities.  


3) The machine uses its LCD panel to teach the local burger joint employees how to maintain and repair it. 


Apply this to your church and outreach:

The church needs to stop being in the institution building business and renew its commitment to making disciples. Instead putting all of our resources into equipping a few ordained leaders (who are like the specialized vending machine repairmen of old) we need to teach all Christians how to pray, witness, and do the mission work of the church. The postmodern world is decentralized. Knowledge is available to whoever wants it. 


4) The Freestyle Coke Machine comes global ready. Because all of the text on the machine is displayed on the LCD panel, the machine’s software can easily translate its information into any language and currency. 


Apply this to your church and outreach:

Don’t be afraid to be Global. Find ways to overcome boundaries. Don’t be constrained by the language and policy structure of your denomination. Music is a form of language. Instead of arguing about whether you like country western or contemporary or Bach, seek for new ways to translate the gospel into the musical language of those people you wish to reach.