I cannot remember when I last used a Kodak product. On the occasions when I get photos printed from a memory stick at the local drug store (which seems less and less frequently), I have found that they do not use Kodak photographic paper but a Japanese product. Even so, it came as something of a surprise when I heard the National Public Radio story stating that the Eastman Kodak Company was selling off its patents to produce revenue and was contemplating Chapter 11 bankruptcy filling.
The 131- year-old company was such an American icon that it gave us a phrase that we have all used—“This is a Kodak moment.” I can remember when my folks bought me a simple Kodak black and white camera for me when I was in elementary school so I can take pictures of family and friends. I moved on to an 8 millimeter Kodak movie camera and created my own masterpieces. I used Kodak film to take 35 mm slides while I was in Vietnam and still have a dozen metal cases containing hundreds of those little pasteboard squares emblazoned with the Kodak logo. But things changed.
The company faced significant changes in the marketplace--Instant photography, cut rate film from Japan, digital photography—and failed to respond or adapt to these challenges. Was it hubris, bad choices, or ignorance that did the photographic giant in? Perhaps a combination of all three and more.
Many commentators are asking if the Kodak debacle might have lessons for the church. Will people wake up one day and realize that they can’t remember the last time they have walked into a church and it has not really made any difference to them? Will those of us who love the church come to realize that we are no longer connected to the real needs of the world around us? Is there a danger that we may come to the point that we think that what we do is indispensable and that there will always be a “market” for the Christian faith, so why change?
I won’t try to answer those questions, but they do give me reason to stop and reflect.