TBC 1: A Platform for Regional Transformation?

February 4, 2015 § 5 Comments

[his is the first in a series of posts to help me clarify my thoughts about Transforming the Bay with Christ (TBC). The opinions expressed are my own, as of February 2015. They are based on very superficial observations, and will likely change as I learn more. Your assistance and feedback in that journey is appreciated!

Possibly the most exciting thing to happen to local Christianity in over a decade, Transforming the Bay with Christ is a coalition of business and church leaders who appear to be simultaneously pursuing:

  • Service to the community
  • Church growth and unity
  • Society-wide revival

When I first heard about it, I was rather conflicted. On the one hand, I am a big fan of “meta-church” movements that — unlike the parachurch movements of my younger years — seek to work through churches rather than alongside them. On the other, I have been in the technology industry long enough to have become cynical about grand alliances…

That said, I was deeply impressed by the character and caliber of the people I met and saw during the first meeting in September. There appears to be a deep commitment to humility and directly confronting the hard problems, rather than glossing over them. I particularly liked the focus on prayerful relationships, which I agree are the essential building blocks of any larger movement.

While TBC draws inspiration and leaders from city reaching movements in Portland and Boulder, the scope of what they are attempting here seems vastly greater:

  • Nine geographically and ethnically diverse counties
  • Multiple major anchor cities
  • A population of “Wealthy Influential Miserly Pagans”

For that reason, I was very encouraged to hear that, instead of a series of programs, they are considering a platform approach. The key distinction is similar to how my buddy King Anderson describes his ministry with the Church Resource Network:

  • program enlists you to implement my dream, while
  • platform enables you to pursue your dream

Successful platforms are generative systems, which enable experimentation and innovation in ways that the platform owner could not, would not, or should not attempt on their own! They are the only mechanism for tackling markets or problems too big for a single individual or organization to conceptualize. In particular, a scalable platform is probably the only way for a single entity to make a noticeable dent in the culture and spiritual climate of the Bay Area.

That said, it is considerably more difficult to create a platform than to implement a series of programs, since it is a market with at least three sides:

  • Platform sponsor(s)
  • Service providers
  • Consumers

The platform owner has to continually evolve the platform infrastructure and policies to respond to internal stresses and external threats — while still preserving the integrity of the platform and existing trust relationships. If they fail, the system will at best stagnate, and at worst implode.

Very few organizations have successfully created sustainable global platforms. However, the technology industry is rife with examples of micro-platforms that endure for decades. These offer some intriguing hints about how best to design platforms, which I plan to explore in future installments. Stay tuned!

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