Dangerous Change

Dangerous Change
Churcha-Cola Revisited (Original publication 2012)
Robert Wurtz II

And be not conformed to this world… (Romans 12:2a)


Our exposition of the text, be not conformed could be translated, “be not fashioned” (Greek mē sunschēmatizesthe μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε). This is the present passive imperative with mē; that is, stop being fashioned or do not have the habit of being fashioned to this world. Our Greek verb is suschēmatizō (συσχηματίζεσθε) and it means to conform to another’s pattern. And then… according to this world (tōi aiōni toutōi τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ). That is to say, do not take this age as your fashion plate. To understand why this command is in the imperative, we will look at an example of how one of the most successful corporations in history tried to “conform” to their enemy, and with disastrous results. 


The World’s “Success”


When the late Roberto Goizueta took over as CEO of Coca Cola in 1980, he held a meeting to tell managers and employees that there would be no sacred cows in how the company did its business, including how it formulated its drinks. He told the employees that no one should “feel safe.” He then went on to fire (sack) several managers and workers. The strategy is as old as human civilization; try to appear intelligent and capable by looking around to see what you can criticize; try to make as many people nervous and fearful as you possibly can; all the while knowing absolutely nothing about what’s truly going on. Probably never in the history of Coca Cola had the corporation been so foolishly put at risk as when Roberto Goizueta took over and started making these changes. Is there any wonder Jesus said so adamantly that “It Shall Not Be So Among You.” (Mark 10:42-43, Matthew 20:25-26)


What happened in 1980 and in the years to come, proved Warren Buffet’s (and Fred Lynch’s) theory of buying companies. They invest in corporations that are so good that, in their words, “an idiot (pardon the expression) could run them; because the day may come when an idiot is running it.” Nevertheless, Goizueta was no idiot. He was a man who learned from his mistakes. Keep that in mind as we explore one of his severe missteps. 

Coca Cola is, and has always been, a very strong product and company. This is why Warren Buffet is the largest stockholder and has never sold a stock. Understand that $100,000 worth of stock in 1919 is worth $2,000,000,000 today; that is how successful the company has been over the years. Every indicator is that Coca Cola will continue to grow in consumption globally so it is without a doubt one of the most stable companies in the world. So what do you do with a product that is in demand (albeit not everyone likes it) to increase sales; or more pointedly, try to beat out your competition in marketing to young people?

Keep in mind that by 1985 Coca Cola had been an icon in America and around the world for a century. It had gained tremendous exposure and market share in WWII because Coca Cola was given exclusive access to sugar, that was rationed at that time. Soldiers in the field were drinking Coca Cola as “a small taste of home.” This, among many other reasons, made Coca Cola the dominant cola for many years. 


Nevertheless, Pepsi began marketing to the younger generation and in time closed the gap in sales. You may recall that in 1984 Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire on stage filming a Pepsi commercial. He was part of the marketing team that was trying to “reach the youth.” Pepsi obviously wanted kids to associate drinking Pepsi with “being cool,” so they targeted popular culture with their product. Their slogan? “Pepsi, the choice of a new generation!” There is just one problem with that; pop-culture is about change, and a product like Pepsi needs to be “for all times” and “for all people” if it was to survive. Today Coca-Cola enjoys more than twice the soft drink revenues as Pepsi and holds the #1 (Coke) and #2 (Diet Coke) position with Pepsi #3. What happened? They made a very critical mistake in associating their product with one main demographic. 


The Unthinkable Happens at Coke


As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If Coca Cola knew they would rise to the top as they have, it is likely they would not have made a critical mistake in 1985 that nearly destroyed the company. With Roberto Goizueta at the helm, and in a panic over Pepsi’s growing market share to the youth, on the 100th anniversary of John Pemberton’s first introduction of what would eventually come to be known as Coca Cola, the corporation decided they would alter the formula to taste “a bit more like Pepsi Cola.” They called it, “New Coke.” 

To the people who were alive back then and can remember this event, it was paramount to blasphemy in the eyes of true Coke drinkers. I recall working in a convenience store during this historic event — having to listen to the complaints of customers who were completely disillusioned. I wondered what could possibly have possessed these people to change something that was so successful and so beloved around the world? If you think about it, this was an act of arrogance that has no real parallel in modern sales and marketing. To think that a company could arbitrarily decide for 10s of millions of people that they were eliminating the drink that these people had come to enjoy with everything from their lunches to dinners — is such a flagrant disregard of others that it’s a wonder the company didn’t go belly up.   


Imagine waking up one day and your favorite tea would now be made to taste like something totally different. You were used to that drink and liked it the way it was. What are you going to drink now? You don’t want anything else. “Coke spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where it had made a mistake, ultimately concluding that it had underestimated the public impact of the portion of the customer base that would be alienated by the switch.” (wiki) Obviously, the powers at be at Coca Cola were living on another planet. Common sense would tell a person it would not work. 



We Won the Cola War!


At the risk of oversimplifying the scope of the issues at the time, let me just say that Coca Cola had   done the unthinkable; because they obviously were not thinking clearly. They changed the long-standing  formula of their beloved soft drink to taste like their enemies (competitions) — thinking it would increase sales to ” the new generation. ” Pepsi then declared themselves the winner of the cola wars! The backlash from loyal Coca Cola drinkers was bad enough, but now you are being mocked by your enemy, because you have conceded that what they have to offer is better and we need to try to be like them. 


Churcha-Cola





Do you see a clear parallel? Whether we realize it or not, every time we change up or compromise in the churches of God to identify with ” the flavor ” of the world, the kingdom of darkness declares a victory. How embarrassing! Not only that, but we alienate all those faithful believers who refuse to settle for anything less than the real thing. The sad thing is that no sooner did Coke release “Coke Classic” that their sales went through the roof    and Pepsi’s steadily started dropping. Coca Cola went back to what made them great — back to their heritage and identity. It was not long, and the so-called “New Coke” was ancient history. 


The Real Thing


At some point the management at Coca Cola became obsessed with market share and forgot that what they were dealing with was more than a tweak in flavor. They had made their product, that transcended cultures and time frames, taste like their enemies. Amazing! Likewise, we have lived long enough to see that the “new” way of conducting meetings and identifying ourselves with the world has not worked in the churches of God. In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that Bible-based sermons, hymns and books are now nearly unintelligible to an entire generation of professing Christians. By flavoring Christianity like the world, we have sabotaged our own flavor. That is to say, we have caused the salt to lose it’s savor by destroying our contrast with the world. 


Understand also that it’s not the music genre that many can’t relate to today; it’s the lack of depth of experience in God that makes the lyrics sound alien. Bible based sermons bore people who have no experience in God. What happens? Some resort to more of what Coke did in 1985. The trouble is that it has gone on for so long that many professing Christians have almost no concept of Bible based Christianity and have no appetite for “the real thing.” The time to return to Bible based Christianity is now — before it’s too late. 


 Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 2:2 ESV)   

Churcha-Cola

Churcha-Cola
Robert Wurtz II

And be not conformed to this world… (Romans 12:2a)


Our exposition of the text is simple, be not conformed could be translated, ‘be not fashioned’ (Greek mē sunschēmatizesthe μὴ συσχηματίζεσθε). This is the present passive imperative with mē; that is, stop being fashioned or do not have the habit of being fashioned to this world. Our Greek verb is suschēmatizō (συσχηματίζεσθε) and it means to conform to another’s pattern. And then… according to this world (tōi aiōni toutōi τῷ αἰῶνι τούτῳ). Do not take this age as your fashion plate. To understand why this command is in the imperative, we need to look at an example of how one of the most successful corporations in history has been operated in recent times and how they tried to ‘conform’ to their enemy with disastrous results. 

The world’s means of ‘success’


When the late Roberto Goizueta took over as CEO of Coca Cola in 1980, he held a meeting to tell managers and employees that there would be no sacred cows in how the company did its business, including how it formulated its drinks. He told the employees that no one should ‘feel safe’.  He then went on to fire (sack) multiple managers and workers. With power comes the desire to change and establish ones self within the organization. The strategy is as old as human civilization; try to appear intelligent and capable by looking around to see what you can criticize, try to make as many people nervous and fearful as you possibly can; all the while knowing absolutely nothing about what’s truly going on. I mention this because Jesus said, It Shall Not Be So Among You.

What happened in 1980 and in the years to come proved Warren Buffet’s (and Fred Lynch) theory of buying companies that were so good that,”an idiot (pardon the expression) could run them; because the day may come when an idiot is running it.” Goizueta  was no idiot. He was a man that learned from his mistakes. Keep that in mind as we explore one of his severe misteps. But Coca Cola is and has always been a very strong product and company; this is why Warren Buffet is the largest stockholder and has never sold a stock. $100,000 worth of stock in 1919 is worth $2 Billion today; that is how successful the company has been over the years. Every indicator is that Coca Cola will continue to grow in consumption globally so it is without a doubt one of the most stable companies in the world as well. So what do you do with a product that is in demand (albeit not everyone likes it) to increase sales or more pointedly try to beat out your competition in marketing to young people? 

Understand that by 1985 Coca Cola had been an icon in America and around the world for a century. It had gained tremendous exposure and market share in WWII because Coca Cola was given exclusive access to sugar, that was rationed at that time. Soldiers in the field were drinking Coca Cola as a small taste of home. This among many other reasons made Coca Cola the dominant cola for many years. But Pepsi began to market to the younger generation and in time closed the gap in sales. You may recall that in 1984 Michael Jackson’s hair caught fire on stage filming a Pepsi commercial; he was part of the marketing team that was trying to reach the youth. Pepsi obviously wanted kids to associate drinking Pepsi with being cool, so they targeted popular culture with their product. Their slogan? “Pepsi, the choice of a new generation!” There is just one problem with that, pop-culture is about change and a product like Pepsi needed to be for all times and for all people if it was to survive. Today Coca-Cola enjoys more than twice the soft drink revenues as Pepsi and holds the #1 (Coke) and #2 (Diet Coke) position with Pepsi #3. What happened? They made a very critical mistake in associating their product with one main demographic. 

The unthinkable happens at Coke

As they say, hindsight is 20/20. If Coca Cola knew they would rise to the top as they have it is likely they would not have made a critical mistake in 1985 that potentially could have destroyed the company. With Roberto Goizueta at the helm and in a panic over Pepsi’s growing market share to the youth, on the 100th anniversary of John Pemberton’s first introduction of what would eventually come to be known as Coca Cola, the corporation decided they would alter the formula of the drink to taste ‘a bit more like Pepsi Cola’. They called it, ‘New Coke’. To those who were alive back then and can remember this event, it was paramount to blasphemy in the eyes of true Coke drinkers. I recall working in a convenience store having to listen to the complaints of customers that were so disillusioned, that I wondered what could possibly have possessed these people to change something that was so successful and so beloved around the world. If you think about it, this was an act of arrogance that has no real parallel in modern sales and marketing. To think that a company would arbitrarily decide for 10’s of millions of people that they were eliminating the drink that they had come to enjoy with their lunches and dinners is such a flagrant disregard of others that it’s a wonder the company did not go belly up. Imagine waking up one day and your favorite tea would now be made to taste like coffee. You were used to that drink and liked it the way it was. What are you going to drink now? You don’t want anything else. Coke spent a considerable amount of time trying to figure out where it had made a mistake, ultimately concluding that it had underestimated the public impact of the portion of the customer base that would be alienated by the switch.” (wiki) Obviously the powers at be at Coca Cola were living on another planet. Common sense would tell a person it would not work. But common sense is to some people non-sense.


We Won the Cola War!

At the risk of oversimplifying the scope of the issues at the time, let me just say that Coca Cola had done the unthinkable; because they obviously were not thinking clearly. They changed the long standing formula of their beloved soft drink to taste like their enemies (competitions) thinking it would increase sales to the ‘new generation’. Pepsi then declared themselves the winner of the cola wars. The backlash from loyal Coca Cola drinkers was bad enough, but now you are being mocked by your enemy because you have conceded that what they have to offer is better and we need to try to be like them.


Churcha-Cola


 Do you see a clear parallel yet? Whether we realize it or not, every time we change up or compromise in the churches of God to more identify with ‘the flavor’ of the world, the kingdom of darkness declares a victory. How embarrassing! Not only that, but we alienate all those faithful believers that refuse to settle for anything less than the real thing. The sad thing is that no sooner did Coke release ‘Coke Classic’ that their sales went through the roof and Pepsi’s steadily started dropping. Coca Cola went back to what made them great- back to their heritage and identity. It was not long and the so-called ‘New Coke’ was ancient history. Amen.

The Real Thing

At some point the management at Coca Cola became obsessed with market share and forgot that what they were dealing with was more than a tweak in flavor. They had made their product, that transcended cultures and time frames, taste like their enemies. Amazing! Likewise, we have lived long enough to see that the ‘new’ way of conducting meetings and identifying ourselves with the world has not worked in the churches of God. In fact, the situation has gotten so bad that Bible-based sermons, hymns and books are now nearly unintelligible to an entire generation of ‘professed’ Christians. By flavoring Christianity like the world we have sabotaged our own salt. That is to say, we have caused it to lose it’s savor by destroying our contrast with the world. 

Understand also that it’s not the music genre that many can’t relate to today; it’s the lack of depth of experience in God that makes the lyrics sound alien. Bible based sermons bore people that have no experience in God. What happens? Some resort to more of what Coke did in 1985, only to find they end up with ‘professed Christians’ that have almost no concept of anything Spiritual and have no appetite for ‘the real thing’. For example, a person cannot sing from the heart a song that sings about realities that they have not experienced. What happened? While trying to emulate the world the Gospel could not be preached. God can’t call people out of the world when ministers are calling them into it or using means that bring a conformity to it. So, multitudes lack the experience in God that is essential to their being able to relate to and appreciate sermons, books and hymns that articulate the wonders of what God has done in the New Covenant. What did Paul say? Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 2:2 ESV)   

Who Exactly is a Fool?

Who Exactly is a Fool? 
Robert Wurtz II

“Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)
I wish to examine a carefully placed account of a man that the Bible defines as ‘a fool.’ I have chosen this text in 1 Samuel 25:17 to introduce an incident that took place just prior to David becoming king of Israel. It happens that David was traveling with about six-hundred mighty men that had been keeping a certain part of the country secure, including the flocks and shepherds of Nabal. Now there was a man in Maon whose business was in Carmel; and the man was very rich, and he had three thousand sheep and a thousand goats. And it came about while he was shearing his sheep in Carmel (now the man’s name was Nabal, and his wife’s name was Abigail. And the woman was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance, but the man was harsh and evil in his dealings, and he was a Calebite (1 Samuel 25:3 NASB)

Nabal is the Hebrew word for fool. You will notice that he is contrasted with his wife that was of good understanding and beautiful in appearance. Nabal was a very rich sheepmaster on the confines of Judea and the desert. His ranch was on the southern Carmel, in the pasture lands of Maon. It was the custom of the shepherds to drive the sheep into the wild downs on the slopes of Carmel; and it was while they were on one of these ‘pastoral excursions’ that they met a David and his mighty men, who showed them unexpected kindness, protecting them by day and night, and never themselves taking anything from them. (1 Samuel 25:7, 15, 18) 

A Love Gift? 

When David heard in the desert (cf. v. 1) that Nabal was shearing his sheep, which was generally accompanied with a festal meal (see at Gen. 38:12), he sent ten young men up to Carmel to him, and bade them wish him peace and prosperity in his name, and having reminded him of the friendly services rendered to his shepherds, solicit a present for himself and his people. (Keil and Delitzsch) Obviously Nabal was a very greedy man, though exceedingly rich, he refused to share anything with David. We read, Then Nabal answered David’s servants, and said, “Who is David, and who is the son of Jesse? There are many servants nowadays who break away each one from his master. Shall I then take my bread and my water and my meat that I have killed for my shearers, and give it to men when I do not know where they are from?” (1 Samuel 25:11 NKJV) This response show the level of madness this man was moving in. In order to justify his own covetousness, he posited David as a vagrant slave who had run away from his master! He had totally ignored what he had been told about David’s protection of his sheep and shepherds. His twisted mind could not see the wisdom of giving David and his men some basic rations for their services. This is yet another example of the noetic effects of sin. He was covetous, therefore an idolator (Colossians 3:5). This was one of the sins that corrupted his thinking processes. Think about it. It would be common sense to give David and his men some gift for the services rendered; but this man could not see the sense of it. He got angry and acted out even for them asking! This is pure unmitigated madness. 

Saddle Up Boys!

When word gets back to David he is furious, and rightfully so. And David said unto his men, Gird ye on every man his sword. And they girded on every man his sword; and David also girded on his sword: and there went up after David about four hundred men; and two hundred abode by the stuff. (1 Samuel 25:13) Good times are about to go bad for Nabal. David could slay this man and his whole house as if it were a light thing. A wise man feareth, and departeth from evil: but the fool rages, and is confident. (Proverbs 14:16) Nabal went running headlong into mortal danger. A wise man would have had the good sense to know David deserved something, especially in light of how nicely he asked for it. Had he been a common thug he would have just taken what he wanted and defied anyone to say something. Moreover, a wise man would have been careful, thoughtful, self-mistrusting and reserved; a disposition which flows from the reverential awe of God (fear of the Lord). The fool, on the contrary, is self-confident, regardless and secure. While a wise man will avoid evil and carefully goes out of its way, the fool has no sense of the situation he/she is in. 

The Wilted Mind

“Now therefore, know and consider what you should do, for evil is plotted against our master and against all his household; and he is such a worthless man that no one can speak to him.” (1 Samuel 25:17 NASB)

Talking to a fool is like talking to the wall, but why? They cannot reason rightly about moral and spiritual issues and will even act out so that no one can speak to him. But why? We have a few clues from the Psalmist, The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. (Psalm 14:1 KJV) Here is our word Nabal again, only it is translated as fool. The word in Hebrew comes from a root nabel and it means ‘to wilt.’ We have this word used concerning those that delight in the law of the Lord, And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper. (Psalm 1:3) Here wither is nebal. The law is the revelation of God; that is to say, it is light. Those that walk in the light as He is in the light will not wither. This implies that what withers was once healthy. Wilting in plants can be caused by either lack of water or sunlight. If this condition progresses wilting becomes withering. This is explained on a spiritual level in Romans 1:22, professing themselves to be wise they became foolsBecame vain (emataiōthēsan). Ingressive first aorist passive indicative of mataioō from mataios (empty). Empty reasonings as often today. Became fools (emōranthēsan). Ingressive first aorist passive of mōrainō, to be a fool, old word from mōros, a fool. (This means he had entered into a state of being a fool). An oxymoron or sharp saying, true and one that cuts to the bone. (Robertson)
Evil for Good

Now David had said, Surely in vain have I kept all that this fellow hath in the wilderness, so that nothing was missed of all that pertained unto him: and he hath repaid me evil for good. (1 Samuel 25:21)

 Let us observe the mentality of a fool, they reward evil for good. Such dastardly behavior ought to smite the conscience, but not Nabal. His mind had been darkened until he could not make even the most obvious moral judgment. What caused it? Obviously he was not born a fool. The word Nabal implies wilting from a state of health. This is the pattern for the Noetic effect of sin. Sin has a direct effect on a persons moral reasoning. However, Nabal’s wife Abagail went to David and brought a large gift and pleaded with him to have mercy on the ‘scoundrel’ (as she called him 1 Samuel 25:17). Though he had not the good sense to see the danger he was in, his wife interceded with the soon to be king for him. David spared Nabal for her sake. 


The Finality of the Fool

But that was not all. So it was, in the morning, when the wine had gone from Nabal, and his wife had told him these things, that his heart died within him, and he became like a stone. (1 Samuel 25:37) Nabal was not only drunk, but he was in a state of moral intoxication. But somehow in the morning he sobered up in both cases. Once he realized that he narrowly escaped death for himself and his whole house, his heart died. Matthew Henry comments, His heart overnight merry with wine, next morning heavy as a stone; so deceitful are carnal pleasures, so soon passes the laughter of the fool; the end of that mirth is heaviness. Drunkards are sad, when they reflect upon their own folly. About ten days after, the Lord smote Nabal, that he died. David blessed God that he had been kept from killing Nabal. Worldly sorrow, mortified pride, and an affrighted conscience, sometimes end the joys of the sensualist, and separate the covetous man from his wealth; but, whatever the weapon, the Lord smites men with death when it pleases him.