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Rethinking Organizations

 How should we rethink our ordering of businesses?

God is infinite and personal, so we do well to personalize this God-man connection. Jesus came to earth and talked more about a new kingdom than anything else, a realm where his will is done, no matter the old modus operandi or political climate of the day. This practically spiritual “shadow government” where people pray daily “Your kingdom come, your will be done” is a better way of thinking and living, a way of obedience and surrender rather than grabbing and power. Also, Jesus said, “follow me” not “do this and that” and kingdom of God people seek to emulate his strategy: “I only do what I see the Father doing.” This is easier said than done, of course, and we would be up the creek called Great Aspirations or Impossible Dreams BUT…

Jesus knew then and knows now that emulating his life without his fuel source is impossible. To make this upside kingdom a reality would require the Holy Spirit indwelling mere men and women enabling us to soar like eagles, stand like lions, and work like oxen while being our whole-self-humans. So when he left planet earth Jesus didn’t: he loosed his non-visible counterpart to reside in those who look to, come to, call on and believe in him. All good so far… but what has this to do with the title of this piece: rethinking organizations?

When we get together

Fast forward some years and this emergent, inclusive, multinational movement is still figuring out how their newfound freedom in Christ plays out in practice. A spirit-inspired luminary gives a group of people in Corinth practical instruction on how to recognize and steward the power of God without religiously neutering a secret ingredient of the kingdom. Today a challenge for anyone who has attended a church and heard teaching on 1 Corinthians 12 is that we have probably stumbled into one of three potholes and it is hard to figure out which is more destructive. 

Pothole #1: “This gifts-of-the-Spirit stuff has come and gone. We are now so knowledgeable about God’s word that we don’t need his power gifts and divine ordering.” 

Pothole #2: “Of course we need the gifts and power of God, and this chapter is all about how we do church with all the crazy stuff staying in order… prophecy, miracles, healings, even speaking in tongues without looking like charis-crackpots.”

Pothole #3: “Our organization structures and job titles, inside and outside the church, are a better version of things than God instructed, so this teaching about gifts of the Holy Spirit and gifts to the body of Christ (apostles, prophets, teachers, etc.) are no longer relevant” for modern organizations.

Situation, Complication, Need, Application

  • Situation: Organizations of a good size have a leadership group and often a leadership structure, so “leadership” is a perennial hot topic. We are always looking for the next silver bullet in a tweet, podcast, book, or guru.
  • Complication: Organizations, including businesses, form around leaders, products, opportunities, and needs; around purpose, calling, passion and enthusiasm. This all sounds good, but…
  • Need: We go in and out of leadership fads because we have not applied a biblical model to organizations in all sectors of society. Consequently, many organizations are weak, fickle, and ineffective. The failure rate of new organizations is ridiculous. This is true for churches, non-profits, and governments (to name a few sectors) but my focus in this article is on businesses, from startups to established corporations. 
  • Application: I am making the case that the structure, giftings, wiring, and order of leadership of our organizations need to be evaluated against the model spelled out in 1 Corinthians 12. We need a spiritual audit of our leadership structure.

Bad thinking has worse consequences

Pothole #1 - Anyone with half a clue of what is happening in the world will admit that you will not reach emerging generations with an ideas-only brand of Christianity where people think their way into heaven. Dogma and doctrine does not have the draw needed to impact the lives of an experiential generation. (People can get inspirational content on YouTube.) Unless the word of God is coupled with the power of God (to deliver, bring change, heal, and set free) it is mere religion. Not only have the gifts of the Holy Spirit not ceased to exist; they are needed more than ever.

Pothole #2 - We have understood “the body of Christ” and “the church of God” to mean what happens on a Sunday morning. We therefore read passages that talk about “church” and we do not apply them to Monday through Saturday. This is a fruit of dichotomized thinking and a failure to see truth in the context of groups, not just individuals. We read “we the people” as “me the person.” We read “all these gifts of the Spirit” as being the domain of religious gatherings not board meetings and factory floors. 

Pothole #3 – We have replaced biblical order with Deming, Drucker and industrial revolution organization charts. We have titles like CEO, President, COO and CFO and have relegated apostle, prophet, evangelist and others to the realm of religion. The consequent disorder in companies is a fruit of dichotomy that devalues the gifts God has given to his people. If you have taken spiritual counsel from those gifted in wisdom, discernment and prophetic insight and not compensated them because “that’s their spiritual thing” then you are most likely trapped in dichotomy. Apostles and prophets have made companies millions and not been honored, and we wonder why we lack the resources to complete our mandate on planet earth?

Unpacking 1 Corinthians 12

Don’t skip this part saying, “I know my bible.” You may, but have you applied these truths to your business or the organization which you lead? Do you see miracles, healings, and more? Who is the apostle, prophet, or healer in your org structure?

“Now about the gifts of the Spirit, brothers and sisters, I do not want you to be uninformed.”

“There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.”

There are different innovations, ideas and inventions; there are disruptive, transformative technologies. There are solutions others only dreamed of 100 years ago… “but the same Spirit distributes them.”

Everything a business does should be directed toward serving Jesus. You may have competitors, but they should be competition to serve God and mankind better. All goods and services are intended to bless “the same Lord” and this is not the lord of Wall Street.

You might think you are working for God; you might be tackling giants and BHAGs, setting stretch goals and aiming for Mars, “but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.” You are not just working for God, he is inspiring your work and working through and with you. Whatever your work or business, it is all from and for God: the gifts, the service, the working.

Why are we experiencing the Great Resignation? About 50 million and counting have said, “Enough is enough. I am tired of being a cog in the machine. I want work on purpose.” What the quitters are really saying is, “1 Corinthians 12 is true: I have a gift and I want it to be honored. I am made in the image of God and, through Jesus, gifts that were once the domain of the religious elite have been democratized, and I therefore have a contribution to make.”

Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines. 

There is a “new” move to encourage people to bring their whole selves to work, including their spiritual selves. This is not so much altruistic as self-interest on the part of companies who observe the cost of dichotomy as evidenced by job-hopping and resignations. As gig workers have greater work portability they are voting with their feet. While companies from Apple to Google to Meta to Salesforce are going after faith-inclusion, and that is good, there is more to be had. Faith-driven entrepreneurs and businesses should do even better, but I don’t yet see enough of “words of wisdom” and “words of knowledge” and extraordinary faith and healing, etc. etc. in their workplaces. Businesses are being robbed by the absence of prophecy, discernment and cross-cultural grace-enablements (tongues and interpretations). Why do we still exclude these from the workplace?

In addition to having their gifts appreciated, people want to be honored for who they are, especially if they do not have a fancy title on the org chart. With finely tuned fake-meters people are able to see through the talk of values and vision and know inherently whether they are being honored as people.

12 Just as a body, though one, has many parts, but all its many parts form one body, so it is with Christ. 13 For we were all baptized by one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink. 14 Even so the body is not made up of one part but of many.

NewGen workers are saying, “Hey guys, we are all part of the same business. You are not more elite than me because of your title, education or ethnicity. We are all in this together.” They are agreeing with 1 Corinthians 12, not the Sunday version, but the work-week interpretation. “I am a key part of this organization and want to be recognized as such… and this goes beyond free coffee and cool offices. I want to be honored.” Why?

You can easily enough see how this kind of thing works by looking no further than your own body. Your body has many parts—limbs, organs, cells—but no matter how many parts you can name, you’re still one body. It’s exactly the same with Christ. By means of his one Spirit, we all said good-bye to our partial and piecemeal lives. We each used to independently call our own shots, but then we entered into a large and integrated life in which he has the final say in everything. (This is what we proclaimed in word and action when we were baptized.) Each of us is now a part of his resurrection body, refreshed and sustained at one fountain—his Spirit—where we all come to drink. The old labels we once used to identify ourselves—labels like Jew or Greek, slave or free—are no longer useful. We need something larger, more comprehensive.

Christians are good at drinking in the culture of the day without seeing that the things of the day such as DEI—Diversity, Equity and Inclusion—are attempts to reinstate what Jesus wanted us to live all along. (This is also true for ESG on the investing side.) If we just lived scripture in the marketplace in a non-religious way, Monday through Friday, there would be no need for these things. 

Apply this next passage in your workplace by replacing body parts with titles, departments, salary levels, etc.

14-18 I want you to think about how all this makes you more significant, not less. A body isn’t just a single part blown up into something huge. It’s all the different-but-similar parts arranged and functioning together. If Foot said, “I’m not elegant like Hand, embellished with rings; I guess I don’t belong to this body,” would that make it so? If Ear said, “I’m not beautiful like Eye, transparent and expressive; I don’t deserve a place on the head,” would you want to remove it from the body? If the body was all eye, how could it hear? If all ear, how could it smell? As it is, we see that God has carefully placed each part of the body right where he wanted it. 

19-24 But I also want you to think about how this keeps your significance from getting blown up into self-importance. For no matter how significant you are, it is only because of what you are a part of. An enormous eye or a gigantic hand wouldn’t be a body, but a monster. What we have is one body with many parts, each its proper size and in its proper place. No part is important on its own. Can you imagine Eye telling Hand, “Get lost; I don’t need you”? Or, Head telling Foot, “You’re fired; your job has been phased out”? As a matter of fact, in practice it works the other way—the “lower” the part, the more basic, and therefore necessary. You can live without an eye, for instance, but not without a stomach. When it’s a part of your own body you are concerned with, it makes no difference whether the part is visible or clothed, higher or lower. You give it dignity and honor just as it is, without comparisons. If anything, you have more concern for the lower parts than the higher. If you had to choose, wouldn’t you prefer good digestion to full-bodied hair?

Businesses and leaders focused on honoring each person in the organization and on service, not grandstanding… who could argue with that?

Getting this in order

Business leaders find this next one a tough challenge because they have seldom seen this modeled well in their local churches that are led by pastors and boards of elders. How do you contemplate having apostles and prophets in the marketplace when evangelical pastors have failed to introduce their people on a Sunday to these gifts God has given the church? 

27 Now you [collectively] are Christ’s body, and individually [you are] members of it [each with his own special purpose and function]. 28 So God has appointed and placed in the church [for His own use]: first apostles [chosen by Christ], second prophets [those who foretell the future, those who speak a new message from God to the people], third teachers, then those who work miracles, then those with the gifts of healings, the helpers, the administrators, and speakers in various kinds of [unknown] tongues. (Amplified)

There is a divine order here that applies directly to businesses (and any organization, in fact). If you fail to recognize and have these eight “offices” in your business you do so at your own peril. Many business failures could have been averted if they had:

 

God has placed for his own use:

What they do:

1) First apostles

Set context, define purpose, cast vision, set foundations that others can build upon, frame the business within the picture of what God is doing at any juncture in history. “Non-religious Marketplace Apostle” by whatever title… but an undiluted, biblically grounded and called by Jesus apostle: get one on your team.

2) Second prophets

See future potential, have a gut feel where markets are going, see the problems with the present and the possibility of a better future, speak faith into the team so that they keep going when there are difficulties, call out stumbling blocks and inspire ways to overcome them, with faith. “Corporate Prophet” should be on your team roster.

3) Third teachers

Explain to the whole organization what #1 and #2 meant when they described a better future; equip people with truth that undergirds the prophetic future-casting; empowers the next wave.

4) Then those who work miracles

A God-inspired future cannot be manufactured in your company without miracles; if your dream can happen with best practices and some hard work it is most likely not from God. It is not transformative or redemptive enough to warrant the label of “kingdom business.” The world will pressure you to get by without dependence on God; having “those who work miracles” in your organization structure will prevent you from being a boring, same old same old, workplace. Is “Miracle Working Officer” on your business card?

5) Those with the gifts of healing

What is a product or service but a way to bring good news and healing to a customer or market? What is a business if it is not a way to build relationship with the hurting, downtrodden and brokenhearted? Yes, physical healing is needed, and so is emotional, social, mental, relational healing, and more. Millions need their relationship with work healed. What if you had a “Chief Healing Officer”?

6) The helpers, “helps”

The company should have a “Helps Officer” focused on upliftment, finding where people need someone to come alongside them and lighten their load, being in touch with their needs in a personal way. Some companies are rediscovering corporate chaplaincy, which is good.

7) The administrators 

Administrators know how to scale-up, sustain, continuously improve and make evergreen. This is a gift from God to an organization. Putting COO on a business card does not make someone a biblical administrator. This is a calling, a commissioning, and mandate from God.

8) And speakers in various kinds of unknown tongues.

This reminds us of the purpose of God’s business which includes people from “every tongue, tribe and nation.” This person on the organization has the ability to transcend local and national boundaries. They have the gift of celebrating cultural diversity while being a proponent of the bigger, kingdom culture. They see potential global markets and know how to make your goods and services adaptable to serve the broadest audience possible. They help the business speak the heart language of your God-intended audience.

 

What should you do?

Remember the problem I mentioned earlier: most churches would not recognize an apostle or prophet if they walked in with a sign around their neck. Businesses can suffer from the same anemia as local churches that do not properly recognize and relate to “trans-local” ministers who usually operate more broadly than the sphere of influence of one local church. If you have a smaller business, supplement these eight key offices with outsiders. Your board, if you have one, should be replete with them. If you can, get an apostle and prophet on your payroll. If you are an investor and your investment team and investee team does not have these key offices your risk will go through the roof (which it already is for many angels, VCs and private equity people) and perpetuate the “few winners take all” fallacy of modern investing. (Would you be happy if only 30% of your children succeeded?)

Therefore, engage someone to specifically conduct a spiritual audit of your organization structure. How are these eight offices represented? They don’t need spiritual lingo, but they must be there. PS: If the person who does this audit is not a marketplace apostle the result may be flawed. You don’t send in the wallpaper team to inspect foundations.

Second, consider a prophetic-vision-evaluation. Are you as sharp as you could be, seeing opportunities, and seizing the future? What’s your aptitude to “hear God” as a leadership team? An apostle/prophet combination is needed for this project together with the culture-crossing, boundary-breaking (tongues speaking) leadership gift.

Third, get a culture audit that looks at the three areas covered in 1 Corinthians 12: Democratization of Gifts, Culture of Honor, and Unity in Diversity. Get the Teacher, Administrator, Helps team on this.

Finally… do your reconciliations

In his next missive to the people in Corinth the apostle Paul tells them that they have a ministry of reconciliation. Each one of us is expected to reconcile that with which we are involved 2 these standards and patterns laid out in scripture. “God has given us a ministry of reconciliation”

How reconciled is your organization structure? Are the gifts all there, is the culture a Kingdom culture, and have you recognized and installed the office-bearers God has ordained? You can do it all without religious language, but you cannot afford to compromise your company by failing to see how biblical gifts, culture and offices work out practically on a Monday. If you think this instruction is just for Sundays, think again. It is a recipe for making your organization a world-reaching, nation-blessing, powerful, fruitful and sustainable entity that serves people and honors God.

What I want to talk about now is the various ways God’s Spirit gets worked into our lives. This is complex and often misunderstood, but I want you to be informed and knowledgeable. Remember how you were when you didn’t know God, led from one phony god to another, never knowing what you were doing, just doing it because everybody else did it? It’s different in this life. God wants us to use our intelligence, to seek to understand as well as we can.

 

End Note:

If these concepts resonate with you and you would like to engage in further application, I would be happy to discuss how the recommended actions could happen in your business or organization. You can reach me at [email protected]

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