What The Church Can Learn From Uber

I just spent a couple of days in London and I can’t say I like it. I wrote this on the train back to Manchester and it already seemed more relaxed and smiley. But if I lived in London I’d have one more cause for complaint quite soon, if and when they lose Uber.

Please don’t get into the rights and wrongs of the situation itself, I admit I’m no expert in the laws and regulations around taxis (anymore), and you’re probably not either. I’m not defending breaches of employment rules, What I’m commenting on is that for me this is really about a clash between what is and what is coming.

When I get to Stockport train station there will be a choice to get me home; black cabs, private hire cars I could call – or Ubers on the app.

I was told recently when my car broke down by a driver for one of the recovery agencies that in his experience many of those iconic Black cabs are very old, breakdown often and have so many miles on the clock he would never get in one. That’s not the case always, but they are also in my experience the most expensive option, by far.

Private hire cars near me are a very mixed bag. I’ve rung for a car and ended up with one turning up that my wife refused to get in because it was so dirty and the driver had just thrown a cigarette out of the window as he approached us, while the newest things on his car were the ‘No Smoking’ signs.

When I use the Uber app, and I do a lot now, I get a nice car, I know when it’s coming – and who. I get an expense report immediately and I can rate the driver. This experience has spoiled me. It’s faster, cheaper, cleaner, and the more I use it, the less I want to use my own car. And the Mayor of London will soon ban it because some drivers don’t get paid less, to the delight of the competition, so now they don’t work at all.

This reminds me a little like the picture of King Canute (though the truth behind that story is that as a Christian monarch he was trying to show that he knew he didn’t have the power to ‘rule the waves’ actually – only God is qualified for that).

This morning I got an Uber from my hotel to the TV studios I was filming in. It was there in 3 minutes. And as we crossed the metropolis, something struck me, about how this could be a picture for the church.

Some churches are like Black Cabs.

They think because they are a ‘British Institution,’ we all should use them. They have been around so long, worked hard and learned enough that the drivers have ‘the knowledge’ so they claim to be an elite. But the city and landscape is changing faster and faster all around them. They are over-regulated. That ‘knowledge’ may be impressive, I remember that cabbie from years ago who won Mastermind and had an incredible memory, but I can’t remember his name because my memory isn’t as good and anyway nowadays, there’s an app for that.

Some churches are like bad private hire cars – you’d never get in one, unless you were really desperate.

Some churches are Uber. Not that I’d want to call my church that (but I bet someone has?).

Uber isn’t perfect, but they’re having a go. They’re making a lot of mistakes and getting some people’s backs up as they try to serve as many people as they can. Pretty much anyone can get involved without lots of additional ‘knowledge’. And yes, because they’re kind of making it up as they go along. They’ll have to say sorry because they didn’t ask for permission or play by the rules of the game they inherited. They have that innovative insensitivity of the true pioneer.

A few years from now, they may be the old thing too, we’ll have gone driverless and electric, or perhaps we’ll all be on hoverboards wearing onepiece shiny silver suits, or going in Elon Musk’s Big Friendly Rocket to Mars.

But when my train arrived, I went Uber.