The Good Insights of Jeff Bezos of Amazon.com

Last week, US News & World Report published brief interviews with those on their list of America’s Best Leaders. I was particularly interested in what Jeff Bezos had to say. He’s the founder and CEO of Amazon.com, a company that Bezos has helped lead to become the largest retailer on the Web. You can read Bezos’ pithy comments here.

But below is my summery of what Bezos believes are the keys to Amazon’s success:

  • Being customer focused rather than competitor focused.
  • Being long-term focused (“getting through the difficult short-term desert by believing in the oasis on the other side”).
  • Being able to ignore the vocal, and often well-meaning, critics who will try to get you off your original course by adopting their agenda for your company.
  • Being willing to repeatedly fail.
  • Being able to be serious and fun at the same time.
  • Being willing to be misunderstood by those who won’t understand your vision.
  • Being willing to have your core leaders create the culture of your business, rather than adjust your culture to new people’s desires.
  • Being committed to gut-decisions more than decisions driven by data.

When I read this, I couldn’t help but find many parallels to the story of The Crossing. I think I recognize within every one of these principles reasons why I like being a part of this church, and why I think a lot of other people like being part of it as well. We want to be a theologically-based, Gospel-driven, Christ-centered, biblically-nourished church where our leadership is not so easily responsive to a new agenda, no matter what form that other agenda may appear in trying to get us off our original track. And as The Crossing gets bigger and more established, it seems like more of a fight to me for us to keep our original course we started out on 8 and a half years ago. Whether by the fairly frequent criticism or advice we receive from new people (sometimes well-meaning), or the pressure for short-term returns at the expense of long-term investments, or our fear of failure and embarrassment before a larger congregation that would increasingly restrict our boldness or creativity, or the inclination to be guided more by financial or statistical data that has the look of certainty while we ignore what our spiritual “gut” is leading us to do (our spiritual guts were pretty strong back in those early days when we first started this church)—there are always so many things that can get us off the course that we believe God marked out for us as a church back in 2000.

Perhaps being “customer-focused” is not the right way to put it in regard to a church. We don’t want to be “consumer-driven,” that’s for sure. But there is a truth here that I think we should keep in mind. The Crossing is not called to meet the wants of the congregation, but we are called to meet people’s true needs. There is a difference. And a good church’s leadership must never confuse the two. As a church, we must be intentional about helping people want what it is that they truly need. Learning to want what we need is what Christian maturity is all about. That’s what God’s Spirit does in our hearts through his Word, through his church, and through the lessons he teaches us along the course he’s marked out for us.

That’s our calling for everything we have and do as a church—everything we teach and every service we plan and every program we implement and every small group we equip and organize and every class we lead and every event we do—helping all of us (me included) to want more and more what we truly need—to move the hearts and minds of more and more people to believe the gospel and treasure Christ in greater and deeper ways.

That’s our calling as a church. And I think Jeff Bezos has some wisdom we can garner in order to keep on this course.

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