As a rule, the laws of management as taught in management schools are well researched and grounded in common sense. We can also find many of the principles of the Bible converted into principles at the management institutes. For example the advice given by Jethro to his son-in-law Moses about delegation in Exodus chapter 18 is now taught in business schools as the “Jethro principle”. Management books have many expanded versions of the same.
However, there are several laws that are taught in management institutes that are good but it is important to know the mind of God on whether we should follow them or not.
For example when there was famine in the land, it seems right for someone to move to another place till the famine was over. Abraham did it (Genesis 12:10) as did Naomi and her family (Ruth 1:1). But God told Isaac to stay in the land and plant. Although God’s instructions were contrary to conventional wisdom, Isaac obeyed and amazingly he prospered. In fact, his economic power improved so much that he became a threat to the local King Abimelech who asked him to leave the area.
After the miracle of five loaves and two fish, crowds followed Jesus. At that time Jesus taught on a controversial subject (John 6). It irritated the people and masses left him. From several thousand followers he was left with only 12 people. A marketing department would probably say Jesus had mass appeal but he also committed mass blunder. Their counsel would be to avoid controversial subjects and hire a PR firm to apply damage control and get the crowds back. But Jesus was unrelenting. Jesus was keen to obey his Father rather than the laws of the management school.
He also performed a miracle on the Sabbath day, where He healed a lady who was crippled, thereby upsetting a lot of people (Luke 13:10-17). It was on account of that, that His opponents plotted to kill Him. Perhaps the consultant from the school of management would have rebuked Him saying, “Why not heal on a Monday or on Friday, instead of the Sabbath Day?” They, perhaps would have argued, “We have enough days in a week to heal the sick but why heal on the Sabbath?” But Jesus’ purpose was not merely to heal the sick but to break the ‘tradition of men’ that was built around the Sabbath. To Jesus people were more important than the Sabbath. Although Jesus was ‘seeker-friendly’, He was definitely not ‘seeker-driven’. He was a ‘Father-pleaser’ rather than ‘system-pleaser’.
He used strong language when he spoke about Herod (called him “old fox”) or about the Pharisees (called them ‘white-washed tombstones’). That would not be considered “politically-correct” language. It seemed like Jesus was poor at making sure that people of influence were on His side. PR departments would probably recommend a refresher course in flattery or buttering-up.
There are seasons when we should follow these so-called common sense principles, but it is more important to vet them to see what the Spirit is saying to the churches.
The danger is that church leadership can be keener to be led by principles from the management books and management institutes rather than being led by the Spirit. The prayer sessions are reducing but brain-storming or consultations are on the rise. We rely more on the ‘mind’ than on the ‘Spirit’. We do not wait for a ‘time of the prophetic’ but rush into the ‘season of the planned’. Do we say it was a ‘great’ meeting even when there was very little of the supernatural? We must fight against the pressures to be church managers and be Spirit-followers.
There are numerous occasions in the life of the Bombay Baptist Church (BBC) that we have had to fight against the temptation to follow conventional, management ‘wisdom’.
In 1985 Coca-Cola tried to change the taste of their well-loved Coke drink. Big mistake. There was a huge public outcry. How very dare they change something that we were all familiar and comfortable with? Management wisdom says it is very dangerous to change a product or service that customers are used to and cherish. At BBC, God told us to rearrange the pews to express the priesthood of ALL believers. It was a big change from what people were familiar with and we risked losing members of the congregation. We did not backtrack on the change and God has blessed us with a much larger congregation.
When large companies are thinking of a brand, they will often do endless market research to get people’s opinions. Fortunately we didn’t have to do that. Both ‘Gateway’ and ‘Antioch Training Centre’ came through prophetic words. God didn’t consult us, and we didn’t need to do any ‘market research’ in the hope that more people would come to our church because it had a ‘cool’ brand.
Anyone who has even glanced at a management book will be familiar with the word ‘synergies’– the centralisation of a business so that many business units benefit from increased efficiencies, utilising common resources and so on. You see it particularly with airlines using each others’ check-in software and the car companies – Skoda and Volkswagen using the same factories. However, in the past few years, we have heard the opposite from God. He wants us to decentralise. He wants that all the churches stand strong on their own feet and rely on the One resource that they need – Him.
Management books would say that a leader must be in control, know where things are heading and never abdicate their leadership to anyone else. Well, if we followed that ‘wisdom’, we would never have spent hours asking for the Spirit to have free reign in our churches.
Would be to God that we are spirit-led, prophetically-inspired, constantly experiencing the presence of God, not just following the wisdom of the day.
Where is the wise person? Where is the teacher of the law? Where is the philosopher of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since in the wisdom of God the world through its wisdom did not know him, God was pleased through the foolishness of what was preached to save those who believe. – 1 Cor 1:20-21