Institutional

Recognizing that Princeton Seminary does not provide good leadership courses, I am reading Max DePree’s Leadership Jazz (also check out his better known “Leadership is an Art.”) DePree was the CEO of Herman Miller, a large furniture company, who successfully introduced a servant leadership mentality into corporate America. Knowing that servant leadership is a popular buzzword in corp.A, many have sought to become nominal servant-leaders. However, if one notices that the insitutional desire of most corporations is not service but profit.

An interesting example came from “Supersize Me.” Pepsi and Coke love to show how they are serving their community by taking the monies earned in school vending machines and giving a percentaging of it back to the school system. When in actuality what they are doing is taking moeny out of the school district, because the sodas being purchased in the schools come from the parent’s wallets and not an outside source. So naturally Pepsi collects the 1.25 (1.50 if you live in NJ) and skims it’s profits off the top and returns a small portion to the school district. Pepsi/Coke are tremendous leaders (their profits are larger than most countries GNP), yet they are not much of a servant. [Side comment: I wonder how much money corporations would donate if the government did not mandate that they spend $X/year in charitable contributions].

Similarly, I believe that the church can easily fall into an institutionally focused drive if it does not listen to the voices in opposition. It is easy to be a servant to those who you like, and who have served you in the past. It is only through God’s grace, though, that we can serve those we do not like–that is the radicalness of the Gospel. Servant-Leadership is not maintaining “us,” it is serving “them” even unto death (e.g. Good Samaritan, The Great Banquet Feast, The Unruly Servants).

Max DePree writes in his book, which is geared towards corp.A but Biblically based: “An institution’s future is fragile…A few questions about the present will give you a good idea of how fragile the future of institutions really is. How hospitable are you to an innovative idea? Do you really welcome and consider contrary opinions and dissenting perceptions? (I don’t mean that patronizing smile and nod of people who have already made up their minds.) How open are you really to the surprise of innovation and the sting of the unfamiliar? How open is your group to new blood? Are you friendly and helpful, or are you out for the kill [insert maybe conversion for Instutional Church]? Add your own quesitons. They are the forms and shapes of the future, each as likely to disappear as to become reality?” (page 46).

As the church, are we open to innovation (Christ and the Spirit are alive)? Are we willing to really listen? How much new blood appears in our pews? At our small group/sunday school classes? At Seminary???

While I believe that the Church–the group of followers of Christ who acknowledge their sin and need for transformation–‘s future may not be fragile. The church-local’s future is certainly in jeopardy if they are not willing to serve the other, rather than the self.

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