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Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Obedience as Strategy

I recognize that there are some problems with “obedience as the strategy.” There are real questions of trust and control. Allowing the Holy Spirit to run our strategy would require us to trust each person with hearing and understanding God’s call on their life. We might not have control over where we send people. Plus, how do we decide where the money goes if we let God lead? And how would we measure results? Even worse, there would be no subjective way to rate performance. “84% obedient- try to work on that before you fall into the 70s- that calls for probation, you know.” We would have to trust the individual to maintain such a close personal fellowship with God that he or she knows what God wants for them and does it. We’d need to spend less time training our folks about church planting movements and more time teaching them who they are in Christ. We would have to put added emphasis on accountability, where our obedience actually could be measured within the context of relationship. But what a lot of work that would be! Better to make an across-the-board rule against drinking than to trust missionaries to make the right decisions regarding such cultural issues. Would that we had such an organization that associates were hired and fired based on personal accountability and pastoral guidance instead of projected personnel needs and rule book violations.

We depend on the terms "lostness," "unreached," and "the Task" to provide a standard by which we can measure our success. They were invented by strategists to help us get a handle on what we're doing, and to assure the people back home that we're making progress. We recently received a strategy report from the home office, in which our leadership outlined our strategy for the coming year. Basically, it stated that our organization needs X number of missionaries on the field in order to "finish the task." They looked at the number of "unreached" people groups and decided that if we placed missionaries from our organization among those peoples, our job would be done. This plan was passed by the board and sent on to our leadership in the field. But this is a case of the performer dictating the standard by which his own performance should be measured. By sending out brochures and flyers and promotional videos, we teach people that success is possible and tangible and just around the corner. This works well to show that we are professionals who know what we're doing. We're in control, and you can trust us to use your donations well. But it is essentially a human-centered plan. We seem to have forgotten that God sometimes moves in mysterious ways.


steve w said...

If you were a school teacher, everyone would agree that your tests are hard. I take it you're not into easy questions. :)

I would guess that a brochure entitled "Obedience Is Our Strategy," would raise about $6.83. Sadly, in America, we are being taken to increasingly higher levels (or more dazzling levels, and more manipulative levels) of marketing. Most likely, an "Obedience Is Our Strategy" campaign would sadly just elicit yawns. And if "Obedience Is Our Strategy," we can lay-off a lot of our denominational personnel at the home office because they won't constantly have to be coming up with new campaigns and designing new brochures and having more meetings to explain the new campaigns.

I think it's just too unreasonable, for all the reasons you've said and more, to think that employee reviews or objectives reached evaluations can be based solely on obedience. Organizationally, I just don't see how it would work...if we're going to continue following the American corporate model. And yes it is in large part due to the need to justify to contributors that live in the corporate world all week long how their contributions are being used.

But I think Jesus' model is obedience as the strategy. Isn't that the point behind the parable of the talents?

Here's a question for you: (I'm in the States for any readers; so remember that when I say we.) Do we have to jump through the corporate hoops, or become independently wealthy to obey Jesus?

steve w said...

Sorry, that last question isn't very clear. Let me try again.

Can we just obey Jesus, or do we have to jump through corporate hoops? Does jumping through corporate hoops preclude us from obeying Jesus? Do we have to become independently wealthy to obey Jesus, i.e. be able to support ourselves so we don't have to jump through corporate hoops? Or should I act on Luke 10:2-9 literally?

OK, now I'm making myself uncomfortable.

Wes Kenney said...

Give no offense to the Jews or the Greeks or the church of God, just as I also try to please all people in all things, not seeking my own profit, but the profit of many, that they may be saved.
- 1 Cor 10:32-33

It seems Paul did what he had to do, that they may be saved. From what I know of Paul, I think that probably meant doing some things with which he was not entirely comfortable, but he did those things so that he could do the main thing.

Does that make any sense to anyone besides me? I hope so...

stepchild said...

We knew coming into this that the IMB was going to restrict our ministry in some ways. We decided then that it was worth it to jump through the hoops in order to be where God had called us to be. Now, I'm not so sure. More and more it seems like some of the the hoop-jumping is not just limiting, but hindering, distracting, and preventing us from doing what we're called to do.

Wes, I'm not sure what you're getting at with your Paul reference. Are you saying I should just suck it up and pass out the tracts? (If you are, that's ok. I just want to be sure I'm understanding you.) I've always understood that 1 Corinthians passage to refer to us needing to follow those cultural rules that allow us to speak into a culture even if those things aren't comfortable. Passing out tracts definately isn't part of Western European culture. (Or mine, for that matter.) Maybe that's what you were saying...

Anonymous said...

The irony with "obedience as a strategy" is that you can "eat your cake and have it, too". Let's face it...EVEN though we are a part of the IMB 'machine', I have never been limited in the grass-roots-go-out-the-door-obey-God-and-start-a-movement. [be it discipleship, ev, CP, ABC or CNN]. I know , and live with, ideas and strategies and are corporate in nature, but let's face it....when the rubber hits the fan, I know that I am free to the an obedience-oriented life and have an obedience-oriented [shall we say] strategy.

Steve, you're a radical, and being totally obedient to Luke 9&10 scares the pants off me to, but hey, that's the journey, eh?

Stepchild...see you in April. ;)