There is No Such Thing as a Christian Organization
It can be shocking when the supposed light of the world burns us.
Some businesses are guided by Christian principles in their official documents and are staffed by Christians. Other businesses are not. Both are filled with ordinary people who have flaws and who try to work together in order to provide a service.
“Christian organizations” are often trusted based on their identity as “Christian” rather than their track record.
But I’ve known plenty of artists, pastors, writers and teachers burned by Christian organizations that failed to respect boundaries, to treat them fairly, or to reconcile with them. A Christian organization may have more followers of Jesus on staff, but this higher concentration of believers may not produce the results we sometimes expect.
Whether it’s a church, ministry, school, publisher, charity, or some other business associated with the word “Christian,” there is a huge difference between people imitating Jesus and an organization imitating Jesus. To be honest, I don’t think the latter is possible.
An organization exists to provide a service, period. Christians may use an organization to accomplish particular goals. However, at a certain point the survival and goals of that organization may put Christians in situations that may call for actions we wouldn’t expect from Christ-like individuals, which is the point.
How can an organization carry its cross? In fact, a self-sacrificing organization won’t last long.
Toss imperfect people into an organization’s mix and, whether or not an organization has a Christian mission or Christians on staff, we’ll find all of the same problems:
People will be hurt.
Leaders will be cut loose.
Promises will be broken.
Money will be mishandled.
In other words, a Christian organization is a lot like any other organization out there. The formula is the same. Bring imperfect people together, they’ll accomplish certain goals, and failures will happen.
I say all of this not by way of advocating for the dismantling of Christian organizations. Rather, I want to put Christian organizations into proper perspective. They aren’t necessarily any worse than a secular one, and often function better. However, an organization is only Christian so far as the people within it. We only have organizations guided by Christians, not Christian organizations.
If the Christians in an organization cheat someone, there’s nothing about the organization that will keep it in line with the ethics of Jesus. If the leaders stray, then the organization will stray. In fact, even those committed to the ethics of Jesus may find that the needs of an organization will force them to make choices they’d rather not make for the organization’s benefit.
Whether or not we work in a secular or Christian business, our responsibilities and opportunities remain virtually the same.
I attend a church and work with “Christian” organizations. However, I put my faith in the individuals I know in the organizations and try to prevent myself from becoming too attached to the organization itself.
As I work in my church and with Christian businesses, I’m mindful that God must work through us in order for our work to be Christian. A cross on the letterhead doesn’t make anything sacred.
Image by Damon Styler. Used with permission via Flickr. Post by Ed Cyzewski.