The Real Thing


Today’s readings (click below to open in new tab/window):
Psalms 103; 150, 1 Kings 12:21-33, Acts 4:18-31, John 10:31-42

Do you remember New Coke? It has a reputation as a huge marketing miscalculation. In 1985, to address a decrease in market share, Coca-Cola rolled out New Coke, a product closer in taste to rival Pepsi. Consumer enthusiasm was lackluster. Within three months the company reintroduced the longstanding previous formula as Coca-Cola Classic. By the end of 2002 New Coke was off the market, and in 2009 the “Classic” tag was dropped. Essentially, Coca-Cola spent nearly 25 years reestablishing a product that didn’t need a change.

New Coke’s biggest problem wasn’t its taste – it was brand identification and loyalty. Unlike iPhone customers who expect innovation, Coke drinkers valued consistency. In other words, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

Jeroboam, who became king of Israel after the Lord – and an army of dissidents – deposed  Solomon’s son Rehoboam, subscribed to the “fix it anyway” school of marketing. Jeroboam had support from ten of Israel’s twelve tribes. But because Rehoboam still ruled Judah, home of the temple, Jeroboam feared the people would abandon him. He commissioned two golden calves and established places of worship in competition with all the Lord had ordained.

Like New Coke, Rehoboam’s rebranding was an impulsive, fear-driven change no one – particularly the Lord – had asked for. Unsurprisingly, it ended poorly.

When we plan to change something people are used to – be it a product, worship style, family recipe, or tradition – we should make sure the change is necessary and, if possible, welcome. Change for the sake of change is confusing and even frightening to some people. Like the taste of New Coke, it doesn’t necessarily matter whether it’s a change they will like if the process itself puts them off.

Some traditions – like great hymns – are classic for a reason. Others – like excluding women from full participation in the church – are best retired. When we are called to lead change, let’s seek first the will of the Lord, and then seek to understand how best to help people accept it. When we are faced with change, the Lord’s will – not our own comfort – is still the first priority.

Comfort: During periods of change, the Lord remains constant. 

Challenge: Look at your daily routine. Pick one thing that needs to change, and make it happen.

Prayer: God of Life, I will follow where you lead. Amen. 

Discussion: Are you comfortable or uncomfortable with change? A mix of both? What helps you handle change?

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