Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Hedgehog Concept

Last summer I read Jim Collins newest book How the Mighty Fall. It was a fascinating reprise to his marvelous earlier works Built to Last and Good to Great (including the added monograph Good to Great for Social Sectors). Recently I had the opportunity to revisit this work with others. In Collins’ work he talks about the “Hedgehog Principle.” In a summary he writes: “Greatness comes about by a series of good decisions consistent with a simple, coherent concept – a ‘hedgehog’. The hedgehog concept is an operating model that reflects understanding of three intersecting circles: what you can be the best in the world at, what you are deeply passionate about, and what best drives your economic or resource engine.” (Jim Collins, How the Mighty Fall, p. 181)

I am mindful that churches are very different from businesses. Our mission is biblically and theologically defined. The power and presence of the Holy Spirit cannot be over estimated. At the same time (and not in contradiction), business models are helpful tools. They can guide the clarity of our thinking about our divinely called mission.

Bearing the above in mind, I am convinced that a significant question to ask is – what is our Hedgehog Concept? This applies to churches and conferences. It is also important to separate what we think our current Hedgehog Concept is versus what our Hedgehog Concept ought to be (reality verses aspiration). While I wrestle with both, I think at our best Methodism has lived with some version (you can argue about exact phrasing until the cows come home!) of the following Hedgehog Concept.

1. We are best at being (originally) at intentional Christian discipleship development (hence the name Methodist coming from being “methodical” about discipleship growth and development). 2. Our passion is to transform people and the world. 3. Our economic or resource engine (meaning more than just where does the money comes from but rather what drives our best development and transformational efforts) is the local church.

Now the big question is how big is the gap between reality and aspiration?


  1. I am interested in the gap between reality and aspiration specifically in point #3.

    In my experience with the local church many ministers see the congregation primarily as the economic resource engine. There seems to be more emphasis from the pulpit about financial giving than there is to, say on, other ways we develop as Disciples.

    For instance each year there is always going to be a month long stewardship campaign with a strong emphasis on monetary giving (pledge cards and the like). But I have not had the experience that a church will take a month long investment in prayer or fasting. We have stewardship campaign committees and finance committees but few prayer committees.

    I could be wrong, but it is just a thought.

  2. When reflecting on the three legs of the Methodist hedgehog (hee hee - couldn't resist), I cannot help but think we sound a lot more like a University than a church: Disciple development and people/world transformation. In fact, I think this might be a TCU billboard somewhere here in Fort Worth. Where some churches start to look a lot like country clubs or fitness centers, do we look like a center for academia? I find myself VERY attracted to the academic model - a bit of a school snob - it lures me in and I can get very comfortable in this environment. But, I think we are best at more than this.

    I have a limited scope in viewing the Methodist Church - pretty much Texas Methodist. But I think we are the best at being open to ideas, people and letting people think within their faith, allowing people to find their faith in the gray - not the rigid black and white, strict road maps others require.

    I guess believing we are the best at more than one thing is something to celebrate!

  3. I believe we get entirely too wrapped up in labels and get diverted with opinion polls and too wide a horizon. We try to be all things to all people, and often as a result, are no good to anyone. I think a focus on the close-at-hand is a better way to spread God's word, despite the fact that we are to go out and be the scattered church (and send our money out there as well).

  4. I found Colins', How the Mighty Fall fascinating because of the emphasis on asking the right questions, at the right time. The CEO that asked Collins how to know when the movement goes from Good to Great to Great to Good is doing that. I believe that the constant tension between the institution and the movement provides us with the questions that keep the church "honest". Barna's book Revolution, asks the question about the need to embrace the new "church without walls" and what some may call spirituality without structure. I know that the institution can enable the outreach to new things or stifle it. We may strive to be the church of Acts, but have grown structurally to need more organized efforts. Jesus did not say that the sheep should never be brought into the fold or that there should not be a place of safety for His followers. Yet, the shepherd is urged to go find that one that is lost. I believe that one question to ask is, "How do we cause the ones safely in the fold to join the Shepherd in the search?"

  5. We would like to think that we are doing these three things and maybe doing them well.

    However, if the United Methodist Church truly had a passion to transform people and the world we would not be the struggling denomination that we are. If we have an intentional Christian discipleship development program in place we have the opportunity to transform disciples into tithers resulting the resources needed for building the kingdom. Teaching someone to give is teaching them to be obedient to the Lord's Word.

  6. I have been a member of the Methodist church since I was 12 years old (actually in the same location) and my parents made sure I was active even before that. However, it was not until I was 32 yrs. old that someone introduced me to the Holy Spirit. A person can believe in God, accept Jesus Christ as personal Savior but until we are taught Who the Holy Spirit is, we have little or NO power to live the Christian Life! Since my encounter with Him, I have been teaching God's Word (40 plus years) and making sure believers understand John 7:37-39 as one of the BASICS of Christian Discipleship.

    Iris W.

  7. Something to think about, maybe. I really like Jim Collins and the Hedgehog Principle. If we were good about being intentional discipleship we wouldn't be a declining denomination. Look at the numbers for Sunday school attendance juxiposed to worship attendanc3. I would argue that we are really good at forming comminuties of friendships and supporting one another. Tend toward people like us. Thats not evil, its human. Life is too full for too much diversity these days. Unless your getting paid to advocate for diversity all the time.

    I would argue that "our transforamtion of the world" tends to be about physical transformation, like eliminating poverty for the entire world, providing for the needs and wants of the entire world, meanwhile evangelism in terms of salvific stories and supernatural miracles from our missionaries is never heard of.

    We are really good about being "nice" but not changing the spiritual atmosphere in the world. We don't confront "personalized evil". When is the last time any one every speaks about casting out "demons" from people.

    You talk about Holy Spirit encounters. In the book of Acts, believers were challanged to recieve the Holy Spirit and after prayer the scriptures says there was a sign or a witness that seemed to satisfy the disciples that, in fact, the Holy Spirit came upon them. I don't know if there are a lot of signs here. We are not even nice to charismatice in this conference.

    What we are good at is a very "nice" nonconfrontational traditional worship service, unless its about giving money to feed and clothe who knows. So spiritual transformation is about feeding and clothing people.

    As far as discipling goes, we are "divided" over "issues" we don't have any authority to "disciple". Discipling Authority" becomes just your opinion and your subjective interpretation of the scriptures.

    I have told by good church members that the reason they come to the Methodist Church is because they can smoke, drink, and curse every now and then and still go to heaven. They tell me that they can have an abortion and fell good about coming to church. We don't preach that this is wrong. I get all kinds of crazy reasons.

    Hedgehog Principle: I work really to provide a worship environment in services. I don't know about the world, but I work really hard to disciple those around me. I know that our history and theology allows us to teach about experiencig the Holy Spirit. I encourage praying in tongues. It not the only sign, but it is a sign of the presence of the Holy Spirit and a comfort in troubled times.

    Hedgehog Principle: We are really good at the Peter Principle.

  8. I need to apologize for thenonhelpful attitude of my response yeterday. I really want what the Holy Spirit and John Wesley started to succeed. I love the Methodist Church. My struggle is always the adverse politics I watch and the effects it has on good people.

    My spirit filled home church was basically shut down and scattered, so I'm probably still recovering from that. The work of the Holy Spirit and the Conference is something I am always hopeful for and prayerful for.

    Thank you for writing and being open to people writing back in this blog. I do pray for you and thank God for you and the Cabinet.