“But we’ve always done it that way!’ I wonder how many countless groups, companies, institutions even churches if they were honest should have this engraved on their tombstones.
Jesus calling Levi to ‘come follow me’ Levi had thrown a banquet inviting all his friends, fellow tax collectors and religious outsiders; considered sinners by the Pharisees. The Pharisees had grumbled about it and questioned Jesus disciples… why does Jesus eat with tax collectors and sinners. Jesus had replied with a parable that the well don’t need a doctor only the sick, and the son of man has come not for the righteous but to call sinner to repentance.
It seems quite natural that eating or not eating food as a sign of piety should come up in conversation. In the Old Testament fasting was associated with a discontent for the present, and a longing for a better world. For the Jews it was a way of looking forward to the coming of the messianic age, for God to act on their behalf and send God’s salvation. But fasting twice a week had become a ritual, it had become one of the ways they showed their commitment to God, that they were righteous people, hoping because of it that God would act. John the Baptist had bought with him a renewal movement within Judaism, one that the Pharisees could relate to, a call to repentance and separation from sin. In this verse we see that John’s disciples had fasted, it fits in very well with the preaching and teaching of John, looking forward to the coming of the messiah, preparing the way.
These parables continue to be relevant for us today.
|the Life Cycle of an organisation.|
When it comes to the church I wonder if it’s not the difference between seeing the church as a movement and the church as an institution, on its way to being a museum. In the book by Tim Keller I’m reading at the moment he talks about the difference between an institution and a movement. Both are groups and organisations that spring up round and because of a compelling vision. A movement is the way in which that compelling vision becomes a reality and an institution is usually established to protect and guard the gains made by a movement. Keller list four al mark differences between a movement and an institution.
Firstly, a movement has a compelling vision. A clear picture of what its leaders are seeking to bring about. Jesus ministry starts with the reading from the scroll of Isaiah, this revolution of grace and forgiveness and release. The leaders invite people to come and follow that vision, if this is where you want to go come along with us. Institutions on the other hand will normally have a vision statement somewhere but what holds it together are rules and regulations and procedures. In a movement what guides the day to day choices are that vision, in an institution it is typically the rules and established patterns.
Secondly, the unifying vision is so compelling that it leads to a culture of sacrificial commitment and intrinsic rewards. The vision is put ahead of personal comfort and rewards come from seeing the vision being made a reality, in doing good things in and of themselves. Jesus disciples it tells us left everything to follow him. In an institution every position and participant has a set of defined rights and privileges and rules with clear understanding of compensation and benefits. The Pharisees had a set understanding of what God should do in response to their prescribed display of piety. Movements focus on the benefits for others out there and the focus of an institution is within.
Thirdly, Movements and characterised by a generous flexibility to achieve the compelling vision, they are more likely to make sacrifices, make allies and cooperate with those outside to achieve their vision. Institutions are concerned with intentional practices, right procedures, areas of responsibility; they are all about ‘turf conscious silos”.
Fourthly, movements tend to spontaneously produce new ideas and leaders grow from within, they will focus on leaders who get things done. Institutions don’t like taking risks and are in maintaining things for the long term.
We have a new elder being ordained this morning and this is a challenge and an encouragement and a call to you as you step into leadership. To all of us who have been in leadership it is a call to renewal and a rediscovery of the compelling vision of Jesus revolution of grace, and for all of us as a church I hope it is inspiration to be on the move… to follow his footsteps.