Missional Organization & The Lost Charism
Someone asked me why, after so many years in Winnipeg, our ministry was still relatively small. They assured me they felt we were doing a good and important work, but were surprised that our programs, staff numbers and ministry presence were not more sizable. While there are many reasons for this- some I know of, others I do not- and while my own failings as a leader cannot be ignored, one thing has come to mind after giving the question more thought: organization.
It is not that we lack organization, as I think that is one things we do well. Rather, it is the nature and dynamics of how we organize (and do not organize) that has been significant. I am firm believer that the charism of administration is significant and largely mishandled gift to the Church. While we have much to learn from business models in our modern western context, I think the word and concept of “administration” come loaded with baggage that can ultimately limit our capacity to be ministers/servants of the Gospel.
I recognize the practical and even legal need for boards and governing bodies, but I cannot help but struggle with how often I have seen this approached used in a ministry context to devastating ends. When time and resources are measured as investments and the bottom-line plays the major power card, we have strayed from the guiding vocation given to us. After all, the radical selflessness of Christlikeness seems incompatible with the measures of success that business models set forth.
Further, when lives are at stake- real bodies and souls of eternal consequence- our focus has to shift. Shift away from simple pragmatics, away from territorialism (which can be ideological, political, geographic, etc.), towards the will of the Other and the greater good of others. I am not saying this is impossible with current institutional models, but that I have rarely seen it done well.
Perhaps I am being idealistic and naive. I know some have said just that of me in respect to some of these issues. They have said that, should we want to achieve what needs to get done, we must play the part necessary, filling the roles and jumping through the hoops. To a degree, I know that this is inevitable. However, while some feel we have limited this approach to a fault, I also know that we stand at equal- perhaps even greater risk of the other extreme.
What do you think? Have we relinquished too much to the methods and values of a system that is contrary to the Kingdom? As organization and governance are essential, how could they be conceived of without compromise? And do those approaches cost us some of the “success” the other models seem to provide?