Tesco’s Great Commisison


I went to Tesco’s yesterday, twice in fact.

“No big deal,” I hear you say.  “So did I.”

 But to say I visited Tesco’s doesn’t tell you very much.  I could have been anywhere in the country  –  except for Harrogate.  For your information this Yorkshire spa town is the only postcode in the country without a Tesco store – but Tesco’s are working on that.  

 In fact, I could have been anywhere in the world, such is the internationalisation of this supermarket superpower upon which the sun never sets. 

 Talking about the sun, I could have gone to Tesco’s anytime of the day – or night.  Many stores are now open 24 hours. 

 Moreover, you have no idea what I bought. It could have been petrol or pet food, shreddies or shoes, fertilizer or photos. 

 And had I chosen to stay at home, no problem.  I could use Tesco.com (online) or Tesco Direct (by phone),  I can insure my cat with Tesco’s or use a Tesco sim card (I did, but not now).  You can bank or borrow with Tesco’s (don’t) .

 Tesco now reigns supreme.  £1 out of every £7 spent in the UK is spent in Tesco’s. So what’s their secret?

 Financial journalist, Hannah Liptrot, has identified the key goals of Tesco’s which interestingly not at all obvious if you visit their corporate website.  

 She writes:

#1           1f you want to be a supermarket superpower, you have to be everywhere.

#2            to be a supermarket superpower you have to sell to everyone.

#3            to be a supermarket superpower, Thou Shalt Sell Everything.

 Tesco’s aims to sell everything to everyone everywhere all of the time. 

 Interestingly, note the language Liptrot uses for #3 – a clear reference to the language of the Bible.  There is almost a religious intensity in this drive to succeed. 

 So how about this quote from Tesco marketing director Tim Mason?   “If anyone wants to get married in their local Tesco store, we’d be all too happy to let them do it.”  Tesco’s are taking us on!

 For Tesco clearly has its version of the Great Commission, echoing the imperative of Jesus just before his ascension. He calls us to make to make disciples from all peoples, in all the world and until the end of time, non stop.

 So we read in Matthew 28:18  “I have been given all authority in heaven and on earth. Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

 But we may learn some important lessons from our Tesco rivals who have risen to the challenge with a single-mindedness which is awesome.

 To sell to everyone, for example, means that there are different types of store as well as online, phone and postal sales.  There is no one-size-fits-all Tesco store; they are carefully differentiated, each geared to that segment of the market.   They do not rely on one single type of outlet – they use them all

 So locally we have Tesco Extra at Kew, Tesco Superstore at Burscough and Tesco Metro here in Ormskirk.  As it happens, there is not Tesco Express in Aughton, not yet. 

 As for the disciples of Jesus, similarly we need to have different expressions of church in order to reach different types of people, all of whom need Christ.   The Gospel demands no less. 

 One of the main contributions of Archbishop Rowan is his vision for what he calls the mixed economy church,   As far as I am aware, he does not refer to Tesco’s but this supermarket superstar is as good as any illustration for this new move of the Holy Spirit.  Notice how he uses the language of economics as a metaphor for the Gospel task. 

 This needs a radical shift in the way we think church. 

 Later this month I will be visiting with Dorothy Harrison Somewhere Else in the centre of Liverpool.   This is a fresh expression of being church so as to make contact with those people who feel unwelcome and unwanted by traditional church setups.  Not a normal church.  What they do is make bread.  That’s it – every day.  And everyone is welcome to knead the dough.  I’ve been reading the book – “I am somewhere else” by Barbara Glasson.  Inspiring. 

 In our own Diocese Phil Potter is overseeing this development of new forms of being church alongside the more traditional – this is what mixed economy means, not either/or but both/and.  Fresh expressions alongside the more traditional – just like Tesco’s.   Upto four years ago Phil was the vicar of the rapidly growing St Mark’s Haydock – which led the way in using new forms of ministry.   We were inspired first by their carpet (remember our two coach visit in 1999?) and then by their successful church bistro.  And a lot more

 The good news is that Phil will be leading our church Vision Day on Saturday, 1 October, at Lakeside in Southport (another new expression of being church).   The aim of this day away is to allow the Holy Spirit to prepare us for the next phase of ministry, the culmination of the 2020 consultation exercise. 

 Phil is the man we need.  He has been where we are now at a church, as we move on from a successful building project.   Christ Church is Christ’s church – we need to look to him for his guidance, the Jesus who reached out to everyone.