I have commented before on the challenge of being distinctively Christian in an environment which requires certain legal and administrative practices of us.
Not only do we find ourselves forced to comply with legislative practices (often good) imposed on us by secular authorities, but in order to be seen to be delivering on that we often adopt secular business practices. This is all too easy for those of us who were trained in management in secular employment before we joined the mission field. And those of us who are already equipped with management and administrative skills are the ones most likely to be selected for senior leadership, which then reinforces further the use of secular practices in our organisations.
Not that those practices are necessarily wrong. But they do diminish our distinctives. Although we may have a distinctively Christian vision and ethos, the way in which we go about our day-to-day tasks often would have little to distinguish it from someone working (say) in a solicitor’s or a bank.
An example would be a typical Christian meeting, which will generally start with a prayer, and possibly a devotional. It will then continue with a discussion which will probably include little formal acknowledgement of God’s presence with us, or seeking God’s advice and direction.
So let’s take a look at some of the practices of the early church which we might want to consider using:
- They drew lots to select senior leadership from a shortlist (Acts 1:23-26)
- They followed instructions given in dreams (Acts 16:9-10)
- Corporate worship was part of the leadership practice (Acts 13:1-2)
- They had discussions to decide policy but clearly understood that the Holy Spirit was involved in the conversation (Acts 15:28)
- Disagreement was frank and public (Galatians 2:11-14) but apparently led to reconciliation (1 Peter 3:16)
- They gave generously to the common cause (Acts 2:44-45)
- Some organisational roles were filled by the choice of the people, not the leadership (Acts 6:3).
- Lack of personal integrity was punished with termination (Acts 5:5, 10)!
- They prioritised their spiritual activity (Acts 2:42)
- People’s ‘private’ lives were clearly considered part of the person spec for leaders (1 Timothy 3:2-12, Titus 1:7-9)
You can probably think of more. While some of these practices may not be an ideal fit for today’s society, it does for me raise the question of where we draw inspiration for our practices. Yes, we have to keep accounts (and I’m sure Paul kept tabs on the money donated for Jerusalem) in a systematic and compliant manner, but the bottom line is (literally!) are we trusting God for the funds, or our fundraisers? What is the role of prayer not only in our regular prayer meetings but in our routine practices? How do we ensure that everything we do is ethical and faith-driven?
Let us determine to run our organisations in such a way that anyone coming in from outside will be struck by the distinctives not merely of our vision and ethos but also of our practices and routines.
Blog post first published on 15 January 2018 on www.syzygy.org.uk.