Jesus, Inc.?

These words come from Frank Viola (via Subversive Influence):

Organizational leadership, as a model for facilitating church (as a living life-force entity), is inadequate at best and detrimental at worst.  Our business/organizational/ leadership models are simply not up to the task for facilitating a living, God-directed process.

By definition, our organizational leadership models are about human control: set understandable goals, develop mechanized strategies to reach those goals, implement, evaluate.  If you look at this clearly, you can see that we are in trouble right from the start.  How can one set understandable goals for something as beyond-this-world as the living church?  I am not suggesting that a believer must never set goals.  We do live in a world that requires a certain amount of control and order.  I am simply saying that using these tools as a primary way to bring leadership to God’s church is wholly unsatisfactory.

NeverendingboyThis is something that has been on my mind lately. Are business models the best way to orgainize a “living, God-directed process?” Do management models, in particular, have any bearing on the way the family of God relates to itself?

Frank, of course, has the advantage of coming from a house church environment. He’s not dealing with the management problems that come with larger church organizations. Still, even in that environment, I squirm when people start using too much “business” and “leadership” language to talk about the way things are organized….

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4 Responses to Jesus, Inc.?

  1. Jonathan Sharp says:

    Over 15 years ago, a man told me of his belief that every Christian organization should be structured in such a way that if the Holy Spirit were taken from it, then it would immediately crumble. That stuck with me.

    On the other hand, God gives people gifts of administration and leadership, and often when those gifts are exercised they look pretty similar in both the secular and spiritual worlds; in both instances goals and vision will reach far into the future (as the quote above concedes).

    Maybe the truth is somewhere in the middle…

    I just want to stay away from an a priori assumption that if something works in the secular world, it is to be avoided in the spiritual realm. I think God is big enough and near enough to guide us in this if we seek his face in it.

  2. toby says:

    I agree with Jonathan. The Lord has provided gifts to the church for things like administration and leadership. However, these are spiritual gifts and therefore are designed to be guided by the Spirit of God. The problem is when a person tries to control his or her own gift. I have a close friend with a powerful gift of administration. When he controls it, the people are miserable, he is abusive and little is productive. When he gives his gift to the leadership of the Spirit, amazing things happen. Systems run smoothly, people are inspired, things get done, ministry happens, and God is glorified. These results, both good and bad, take place with this person in the business world and in the church.
    The other problem is church leaders who do not even believe that there is a Spirit of God or, if there is, they do not believe it is possible to hear his voice or sense his guiding. In other words, the sheep do not believe that the shepherd is talking. That is the real challenge.

  3. Matt says:

    Toby and Jonathan – great thoughts on both counts.

    I’m 100% with you both that some are gifted with administrative talents. I also recognize the necessity of organizational structure in larger churches, especially. I think what we are all struggling with (Viola included) is: how do you find a way to ensure that what is happening is a God-directed process? And can too much influence from the “ways” of the corporate/business world hamper that process? To put it another way: can someone with no business organization or management background still have the gift of administration in his spiritual community?

  4. toby says:

    One way to know if the process is God-directed is by the fruits. God-less direction will eventually show itself through its lack of good fruit (ie, salvations, helping the poor, captives set free, etc). Another way to know if the process is God-directed can best be seen in the movie Terminator. Remember when the hero (conner?) was flashing back to his age when humans were in hiding? He came into the bunker and allowed the dogs to sniff him because they could “discern” if he was human or not. God has provided some Christians with the gift of spiritual discernment. In a spiritual way, these people have a sense of what spirit is behind people’s actions and motivations. These people are needed to discern leadership as well as faith healers, evangelists, etc. The challenge though, is that like so much in the Kingdom of God, the Spirit and his gifts cannot be controled by us and they force us to live by faith.

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