About Jesus   Steve Sweetman

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Research In Motion


After Nortel bottomed out into bankruptcy, Research In Motion, (RIM) maker of the blackberry smart phone, replaced Nortel as the pride of the Canadian corporate world.  RIM's stock price rose rapidly, and until recently, it was one of Canada's most valued companies.  In the last 20 months RIM's stock price has fallen by 75%.  Pressure from frustrated stockholders finally forced co-founders and co-CEOs Jim Balsillie and Mike Lazaridis to step down from their posts. 


RIM employs more than 11,000 people in Canada, and thousands more around the world.  Blackberries are seen in the hands of millions world-wide.  So why is RIM in trouble?  One financial analyst says it's Balsillie's and Lazaridis' management style that is bringing RIM down.  They run the company as if it was a "start-up" company when it's not.  


This analyst says there are start-up companies and there are well established companies, each having a distinct management style.  Start-up companies are small, making it relevtively easy for managers to come together and agree on a strategic plan for future development.  Well established and large companies can't afford the time and energy it takes to bring top and mid level executives together to form a common consensus concerning their future.  The strategic plan is just issued from head office.  Executives comply or move on.      


RIM hasn't been around all that long, but it has become a well established large company.  This analyst said that  Balsillie and Lazaridis would gather all their top and mid level executives, reach a common consensus concerning strategic plans, and then move forward.  Despite everyone feeling good knowing they had input into the company's future, RIM lost valuable time in the process of finding a common consensus.  In the meantime, Apple left RIM in a cloud of corporate dust.  


What Balsillie and Lazaridis should have done according to the analyst was to simply hand their executives the business plan.  They could comply or move on.  That struck my interest.     


I think you'd agree that church as most of us know it, is large and well established.  If this analyst is right, we're managing the business of church just fine.  We have our corporate head offices, CEOs, boards of directors, top and mid level managers, all of whom are called by various names.  Strategic plans are issued from head office to local affiliates who comply or move on. 


Church does have a head office, but it's not on earth. It's in heaven.  Some suggest that Jerusalem was the headquarters of the early church, but I don't see it that way.  I don't see evidence of "translocal authority" based in Jerusalem.  The Jerusalem leaders didn't dictate strategic plans to the outlying communities of believers.  They did send men like Barnabas to places like Antioch to make sure the gospel was kept pure.  I don't see that as a translocal hierarchal chain of authority that dictates strategic plans to each community. (Acts 8:14, 11:22 ) 


The apostles, especially Paul. taught a simple framework for  church.  A caring body of elders, with helpers called deacons, would shepherd God's flock in any given locality. (1 Timothy 3 and elsewhere)  Each community of believers was autonomous.  Each community's elders would come to a common strategic consensus after hearing from the Holy Spirit and those they cared for. (Acts 13:1-3)  Communities of believers were joined to one another only by the Holy Spirit, a common faith, and functional relationships between individuals in these communities. 


If you think "apostolic authority" as seen in the New Testament is translocal and hierarchical, you should carefully read Paul's second letter to the Corinthians.  It clearly shows that Paul's authority did not stem from a hierarchal chain of authority based in Jerusalem or Antioch.  His authority was given him by Jesus (Galatians 1:1,11 and,12) and was demonstrated in a spirit of humble servitude.  Apostolic authority had more to do with doctrinal purity than dictating strategic plans to local autonomous communities of believers.    


Beyond all this, the New Testament teaches that church is the Body of Christ.  It's a living organism, not a static organization.  Like cells in our physical bodies that divide and multiply for the health of our bodies, so it is with individuals and communities in the Body of Christ.  From street to street, town to town, region to region, this living organism divided and crept its way across the landscape, creating new communities of believers along the way.  The fact that the Body of Christ is meant to be a living organism, in constant cellular division, tells me that church should always be in "start-up mode".  Church was never meant to be cemented into well established self serving institutions. 


As with start-up companies this analyst spoke of, strategic plans for church comes from a common consensus among a plurality of local elders who hear from the Holy Spirit and those they care for.   It might be a slower process than simply dictating orders from head office, but that's the way cell division works; the way living organism spread.  It takes 7 years for every cell to reproduce itself in our physical bodies.      

I admit the first generation church was just getting off the ground, so it had to be in "start-up mode".  I still ask, as I've done for 4 decades now, "does the New Testament teach church to be evolutionary in nature or does it set forth a specific ecclesiastical framework for us to emplement"?  If the New Testament permits church to evolve beyond what Paul, Peter, and the rest taught, then what we have today is fine, but if it doesn't, we must rethink church in light of the Biblical mandate.  I see a clear framework for church in the pages of the New Testament, a framework that is seldom taken seriously. 



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