The New Missional Paradigm - Part 3: Church as Community, Work as Church

plowshares.jpg

This post is the final in a 3-part series called "The New Missional Paradigm"; it's something of a manifesto on the intersection of church, community and business management. Please see the first part for a thorough introduction, and for an introduction to the concept of spiritual community: what it is, and why it's God's plan. In the second part we examined some radical experiments in business management, which we'll refer back to in this final part, where I’ll do my best to show how these business initiatives give us insight into church as community. We'll then look at the incredible opportunity, and I believe the invitation, that is being offered to what I call missional organizations. Reading the first 2 articles isn't 100% necessary but will give you a much fuller picture of what I want you to see. In writing this I stand on the shoulders of countless spiritual giants, genius authors, business & marketing gurus, and many others so I’ve done my best to footnote sources where possible. If I've written about your ideas and not sourced you, please let me know and I'll rectify it.

Part 3:

The Body of Christ: True Spiritual Community

The Morning Star company is the worlds largest processor of tomatoes, and when I first read about them and their management practices, I almost fell off my chair. Morning Star is an every-member-functioning organic community of people united by one belief. They’re a picture of the restored church! Each person is responsible for each other, they all walk in empowerment and authority, their resources are shared so no one is in want; the similarities go on and on. The Morning Star colleague letter of understanding (CLOU) is nothing other than a covenant! And these guys process tomatoes!

Check this out, taken from Morning Star’s Colleague Principles[1]:

To the degree colleagues care about themselves,,their friends and relatives, fellow colleagues, suppliers, customers, the environment, the Mission, Principles and facilities, etc., each of us will come closer to achieving our personal goals. In caring for others, each colleague commits to (1) sharing relevant information with others, and (2) taking the initiative to forward information which they believe may be helpful to others' activities, even if it is not asked for.

While Morning Star doesn’t have a typical hierarchy, their distributed nature gives rise to a collection of naturally dynamic hierarchies. Can you find better language for the nature of relationship between the Gifts of the Spirit, and the (unpolluted) Five Fold Ministry, than “a collection of naturally dynamic hierarchies?”

In true spiritual community, each of us are our brother's keeper. There are no appointed or elected offices, but there are giftings and anointings, and older men and women who have become wise. There are mothers and fathers. In true spiritual community, each of us are united by the shared indwelling of Christ. Christ has given us a command and a commission. In true spiritual community, brothers and sisters lay down their lives for one another, they eschew their own desires for the sake of the other, they give and give and give, pouring themselves out into one another. They are radical in their love for one another. So radical, that their love is an identifying factor; that alone, their outrageousness in loving one another marks them as a follower of Jesus Christ. I long for the day when my unbelieving friends comment on the way they see me loving a brother, and respond "He must be a follower of the Way!"

Morning Star are similarly outrageous in their self-management. And I’d suggest that at least among regular HBR[2] readers, Morning Star are identifiable by their self-management. That gives us a good challenge. I recently heard someone suggest that true spiritual community would be more radical and counter-cultural in our world today, than the Sex Pistols were in the 70s. Unfortunately, I would add to that that true spiritual community is equally counter-cultural in most of the western church today.

The new school of marketing is also of great use to us here in our dreaming together about the Body of Christ. The gospel itself is good news! We have the best story to tell, it’s an epic, romantic tale that spans the ages. It puts Shakespeare to shame, every time outrageous lovers of Christ put pen to paper. Our story is also true to an other-worldly level; all of creation is stamped with the imprint of Christ (all things created by and through Him, remember?) This provides us with the greatest capacity for communicative truth of any story. Sadly, the truth that so many of us have communicated over the centuries is anything but the fundamental truth of God’s goodness and love.

But true spiritual community communicates with incredible clarity the undeniable supremacy of Christ. It communicates the good news of the gospel of peace. And not good news because I'm telling you you need to like it... but genuinely, solidly, good. And true spiritual community is the most generous community there is.

And as for the Speed of Trust?  There is no person in the world who finds it harder to trust, than the orphan. You and I as Christians have been adopted, and together as the communal Body of Christ we can share the same love that the Trinity of God has shared for all eternity. The Body of Christ trusts exclusively in Jesus, as the Head. Jesus' own model to us was of complete and unerring trust in his Father, and that is now our inheritance. The Lord spoke to me recently in my journaling time saying to the effect "All of the wonderful things you say about me, how you love me, how I am precious to you, how you trust me, how I guide your steps and inform you life... I feel all of those same things about my Father."

I've been studying business management for 2 years, and have been studying and/or participating in organic, restored church for 5 years. I've been involved in charismatic revival for 12 years. Empowerment, authority, trust, honesty, sacrificial love, laid down lives, service, and so on, are fundamentally OUR INHERITANCE. I've spent hours committing months of thought to digital paper because I am so impassioned about the incredible inheritance that is available to us, that the business world is currently experimenting with like a fun science project! We walk in inner healing. We understand the critical role of forgiveness. We know how to extend love and grace to our brothers and sisters (hopefully). We have the best mission, the best story to tell. All of this is our stuff!  For so long the business world has given us CEO Pastors, CEO fathers, and done near irreparable damage to the culture of church. But that is changing. My prayer and my hope is that these particular business management concepts would inspire all of us to gain a further glimpse of the richness of true spiritual community, which can define our church experience.  There should be no greater empowered, non-hierarchical, effective community than the church. Jeremiah 35:13-16 provides us a chilling point of reference:

13 “This is what the Lord of Heaven’s Armies, the God of Israel, says: Go and say to the people in Judah and Jerusalem, ‘Come and learn a lesson about how to obey me. 14 The Recabites do not drink wine to this day because their ancestor Jehonadab told them not to. But I have spoken to you again and again, and you refuse to obey me. 15 Time after time I sent you prophets, who told you, “Turn from your wicked ways, and start doing things right. Stop worshiping other gods so that you might live in peace here in the land I have given to you and your ancestors.” But you would not listen to me or obey me. 16 The descendants of Jehonadab son of Recab have obeyed their ancestor completely, but you have refused to listen to me.’

May we all listen to the Lord, and walk in true unity as the Body of Christ! For He is forever worthy!

The New Paradigm for Missional Organizations

I have tasted of the incredible, refreshing water that comes from unity and the Headship of Christ. But I will not be satisfied until the reality of true spiritual community is experienced within our offices as well. This is the new paradigm for missional organizations; let me unpack it for you.

Gideon Rosenblatt is a speaker and blogger, who writes on the topic of social change within the corporate world. In a recent TEDx Talk he introduced a concept he calls “the soulful company”[3]. Humans have a series of needs that we seek to meet, as do organizations and corporations. The soulful company is one that can create synergy between those entities. Maslow’s hierarchy of needs explains the human requirements as follows[4]:

  • Self-actualization (morality, creativity, problem-solving)
  • Esteem (self-esteem, confidence, trust, achievement, mutual respect)
  • Love/Belonging (friendship, family, sexual intimacy)
  • Safety (security of body, security of resources, morality, health, property)
  • Physiological needs (food, etc.)

As Gideon puts it, corporations have needs as well, many of which can only be met by the human soul; needs such as imagination, creativity, intuition, instincts, empathy for customers and others, even a sense of meaning and purpose. Companies like Google, Southwest Airlines, and Apple, have been able to channel an incredible number of these “human soul aptitudes” into their brand identity, and are sitting on top of their respective games as a result. Research suggests that companies who are able to deeply engage their employees AND their customers in this deeper way see sales growth 85% faster than their competitors.

A “soulful company” creates synergy by not only leveraging the output of the human soul, but by also feeding the needs of the human soul. In the context of work, the single biggest need of the soul is a sense of meaning and purpose; a belief that what you do matters, to yourselves and even to your community. A smart company will seek to address more than just this primary need... but this one is worth looking at. Apple knows this, and so on your first day working at Apple, this is the letter you’ll receive:

There’s work and there’s your life’s work.

The kind of work that has your fingerprints all over it. The kind of work that you’d never compromise on. That you’d sacrifice a weekend for. You can do that kind of work at Apple. People don’t come here to play it safe. They come here to swim in the deep end.

They want their work to add up to something.

Something big. Something that couldn’t happen anywhere else.

Welcome to Apple.

I know it sounds a little trite, but I think Apple actually means it. The truth is that companies and organizations of all types will work better when they leverage and nourish the souls of their employees, and their customers and constituents. The company that becomes a community can do this. If a company is a piece of owned property then it cannot but serve the interests of its stakeholders, which means it will serve the bottom line. It will inherently focus on maximizing returns and on squeezing some product out of the fewest resources. And this doesn't actually help our markets because we end up racing for the bottom.

But a company that becomes a community has different stakeholders, namely, the employees, the owners, the customers, the donors. Humans, all. Communities exist to meet participants' needs, so the corporation that defines itself by community has a fundamental leg-up on everyone else. It’s been said that you can’t change an organization, you can only change people[5]. A corporation that identifies itself intrinsically as its people (and not as a separate entity, like the law suggests it is) will respond to change immeasurably better than one that does not.

All of the above is what Gideon wants you to picture: an organization that is finely tuned to the powerful human instinct. Now, I think that is an incredible idea, and I love the way Gideon talks about it. But the opportunity here for Christian missional organizations, from Catch The Fire to World Vision, is even more incredible.

Because God is already calling us into true spiritual community. The Body of Christ is intended to be the kind of community that changes the world, and that community is intended to be our reality.

Imagine a workforce who work alongside one another as true brothers and sisters, made family by the spirit of adoption. A workforce that negotiates responsibilities, that helps each other along, and that pours living water into each other’s lives. Imagine a workforce that believes in the purpose God had called their community to, and were entrusted with the authority and freedom to run after it with all their might. A workforce whose veins run hot with the love and passion of Jesus Christ. A workforce who offer up a sweet aroma of praise and worship to their Bridegroom, between the hours of 9-5 each day, and the 24 hours of the 7 day week. A workforce who defeats disunity and strife among themselves so that Christ’s body would be whole, so that Christ would return for a Bride that is more than an amputee. A workforce devoted to the glorification of Christ through their self-managed responsibilities so that the work He has put before them could be accomplished with greater excellence! Imagine a workforce that doesn't call itself a workforce primarily, but a family...

In the Promised Land, God blesses us with success so great that we would be tempted to take the glory for ourselves. I quoted Bill Johnson of Bethel Church in Redding in the first part of this series; here’s the second half of what Bill Johnson shared [6]:

A verse that really pricks my heart is this passage “The horse is prepared for the day of battle, but the victory belongs to the Lord” [Proverbs 21:31]. The horse is prepared; you did everything you’re supposed to do to set yourself up for victory. It’s yours. But when you win, He gets the credit. That’s the challenge, it’s entering into a natural world where suddenly you have favour on your life; there’s the opportunity to think it was actually you. It’s not as hard when you see deaf ears open, to think it’s you. You gotta be stupid to think that’s you... But if you work hard, and God blesses it... it’s easy to think that was me. That’s the biggest challenge, and I feel like what we’re entering into, is that.

Here’s the verse: Turn your plowshares into swords.... Beat your plowshares into swords, your pruning hooks into spears, let the weak say I am strong [Joel 3:10]. Here’s the point. The Lord is about to take your gift as a teacher, your gift as a gardiner, your gift as a politician, a lawyer, an accountant... whatever it is that you do, that’s the plow. And by the grace of God, that is going to become a sword. The very thing that is your work, your point of labour, is going to have a supernatural effect; it’s going to have a cutting effect on the world around you. Not negatively, not destructive, but cutting in a sense,  piercing, as the Lord demonstrates Himself upon you. And the incredible part of his verse is it says, “Let the weak say I am strong”. That decree is not just to make you feel good, the decree changes who you are. The decree changes your circumstances. You confessing, declaring that in the midst of weakness “I am strong,” that changes your condition. It’s not mind over matter, it’s a decree that Heaven is waiting to be made, so that Heaven can back it, and enforce it.

The definition of a Father is one who gives significance. When Paul Manwaring took on the oversight of Bethel’s network of partner churches, he asked the question “How do I father an organization?”. For the leaders or founders of a missional organization, this is the new core leadership paradigm. How do I father this community? How do I give them significance? How can I set them up to surpass me and my achievements in every way?

In a healthy family, a Father is not a ruler or a CEO, a Father honours his children, lays down his life for them. Sound backwards? There can be no healthier family than the Trinity of God, and the Father eternally exalts his Son. He created existence out of nothing so that his Son might have a Bride to lavish his love upon. He is the Father that is pleased to have all his fullness dwell within his Son (Colossians 1:19).

In The Culture of Honour, Danny Silk shows us that as sons and daughters of the King of Kings, we can take our identity not from what we have or have not done, but from what our Father says about us. The God who has given all things to his Son, also saw fit to father you and I. True spiritual community relates this way; not with earned respect or disrespect, but with honour and deference due to what God has said. They call each other to the highest of standards, not by preaching or shaming, but by actions that affirm and make manifest what God has said about us. One of the reasons I meet with other believers the way I do is that it reinforces the truth that I am a son, that I can trust my Father, and that I am not dependent on any institution. You know the name for an institution that is filled with children? An orphanage.

Imagine the organizational father who says “Good morning church!” to his colleagues every day. He's got the same right as the pastor, if not more-so! Imagine a community of people who have had trust and respect planted into them like a seed, by their organizational father. Who respect their organizational father by allowing him to exalt them, so that he would not be alone on a mountain but would be part of a rich family. A rich family who trust each other intrinsically. See, while Moses was called to lead Egypt, he wasn't called to stand alone on the mountain with God. The whole nation was given the opportunity to stand on the mountain. But since they were all still slaves at heart, they couldn't handle the nature of community that God was offering them; community where Moses, and even GOD, lived among them. A truly healthy family knows that their father lives in the same house as them, lays down his life for them, and imputes authority into each of them every day. One of the core needs of the human soul is significance and identity, and that's what true fathers give.

Imagine a workforce,, each member secure in their God-given identities, employed towards a God given purpose. A purpose that is corporate because it is communally shared, not because it is legally incorporated. Imagine a leader who is not enforcing a corporate direction upon them, but whose role it is to affirm and validate what God has said and is saying to each of them. Imagine an organization that was finely tuned to the will of God! If a free, empowered, transparent, self-managed workforce (like the Morning Star Company[2]) can operate smoothly at high efficiency with fewer errors than a traditionally managed company, how much more could a free, empowered, transparent, every-member-functioning, non-hierarchical community of believers follow the leading of God together! For the sake of Christ’s glory!

Christ has been given all authority in Heaven and on Earth. And by dwelling within us individually, and by enfleshing Himself in us corporately, that authority is available to us.  I believe that we must make this parallel from the spiritual authority given to sons of God to corporate authority given to empowered employees.

If missional organizations can change from the owned-property corporate paradigm into the communal, empowered paradigm, running on trust, honour, transparency, and infused with the Spirit of God; if they can enter the Promised Land of true spiritual community in radical pursuit of their magnificent Christ; then I believe they will be unprecedentedly successful at everything the Lord gives them to do. They will beat their plowshares into swords and be mighty for the Kingdom, their God given missions will be outrageously successful, their office spaces will be heavy with the presence of God, their supporters will be abundantly blessed, their message will be believed and trusted and will spread infectiously around the world, and their souls and spirits will be nourished to such an extent that on Sunday morning could never hope to provide. And they will be identifiable by their love.

Such a shift will take time, and will offend and scare many people. As much as Moses loved the Lord, as much as David loved the Lord, it wasn't until Solomon’s time that Israel was ready for the Temple. And like the Temple, this shift will be incredibly costly. True spiritual community will by definition cost you everything. But you will find more than you ever knew or could have hoped for, in the richness of Christ and His Body.  We must claim our full inheritance, as sons and daughters of the King of Kings. If you work for a missional organization, there needs be no distinction between that reality in your personal life and in your professional life.

If you are a leader in a missional organization, then I give you permission to make that the defining reality for your employees (your family). I give you permission to let Christ be the head of that portion of his church that you interact with between 9am and 5pm.


[2] Harvard Business Review.

[4] Some of Maslow’s needs are receptive needs, and others are needs of expression.

[5] I heard Phil Cooke say that, I think.


The picture of the plowshare and fields is from http://www.flickr.com/photos/dbjorn/205747992

Related Posts