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Is a Christian Organization a Family? (Is Right On Mission a Family?)

It has long been the practice of corporations in America to refer to themselves as a type of family. The practice of doing this, at least in modern times, traces back to John Locke’s Second Treatise in which he, as a political philosopher, talked about the challenge of persuading adult workers to submit to their boss at work within the context of a young democracy.

Let’s think through this slowly. In a democracy, equality of persons is the stated priority; what then, is there to motivate people (who are perfectly capable of making up their own minds) to make the free choice of conforming their will routinely to a boss who is not their slavemaster or king? In past times people submitted because they lived in a monarchy in which royalty was determined by birth. Blue blood determined who the boss was. Likewise, when slavery was legal, the master unquestioningly ruled. But how could society function if democracy were the norm and all persons were regarded as equals? Which equal person could operationally serve as the boss?

In order to have a boss in a society of equals, there has to be a way to legitimize power. And the usual way that happens is READ ON by appealing to traditional family roles. In other words, the boss of the business is somehow seen by workers as their parent.

Hypothetically, for example, we might say Jeff Bezos is the father of the Amazon family and Mark Zuckerberg the father of Facebook. Lower-ranked supervisors at Amazon and FB are thus tacitly regarded as a type of mom or dad. Nota bene: I have no idea personally of what it’s like to work at either of these two companies. My point here is to illustrate the idea of conceiving of a shareholder business, not in terms of democratic equality of persons, but rather as a family clan.

The metaphor of family in corporations and the marketplace legitimizes the power of the father-mother-boss. Because all of us were kids for the first segment of our lives, almost all of us grew up relying on “parental” authority. As kids, it was not our place to question that authority, but instead to submit to it passively with gratitude and respect.

Everybody knows, if you ask them pointblank, that Jeff Bezos is a founder, not a patriarch. But functionally I imagine that he probably is treated as if he were the parent of the company.

The same phenomenon happens in Christian organizations: the founder is regarded as a parent, not an equal who is equally accountable to God. So with RZIM, for instance, it seems to me from the outside that Ravi Zacharias became RZIM’s dad, perhaps even the father figure of the board. Same thing with Bill Hybels. Willow Creek Community Church (where I used to serve on staff) became known as “Bill Hybels’ church,” not as Jesus’ church that Hybels planted.

Dear Friends, I feel compelled to steward my founder role by saying to you plainly: Right On Mission is not a family. It is a Christian ministry. It’s a school, a forerunner in Christian higher education with a business model that pays for itself without anyone incurring any government student debt. It’s a consulting firm that offers governance board training and graduate-level job training and pre-college opportunities that teach students how to think Christianly in their lives and on the job. Right On Mission is a place to heal and find your wings (Isaiah 40:31) by doing Strategic Futuring and learning to be a disciple in every stage of life. Right On Mission is unique. Uniquely all our Services help people to be mission statement based. Right On Mission is a mission-statement-writing entity that fosters a listening culture, so that people like you are heard, affirmed, cheered on, and validated to live your life on mission with moral courage. Right On Mission is a movement for moral courage! Structurally, at a legal level, Right On Mission is an LLC, a business that serves God, not mammon.

So I ask rhetorically: Is Right On Mission comprised of members of the family of Christ? Yes, indeed. We, as Jesus’ disciples, are God’s family. But family is defined by blood. Covenantal marriage and blood. God asks us to be His Bride and adopts us to be His children – not literally, but truly. Not physically, but spiritually. I will say more about this in Controversial Issues In Theology this summer.

For now, I’m trying to say in no uncertain terms: Right On Mission does not have power to form a new family.

Let’s think Christianly about this: We all have blood families biologically whether we know our blood family or not. And, as Christians, we are a blood family because of the spilled blood of Jesus Christ

(I Peter 1:18-19; John 1:12, I John 3:1). Right On Mission does not offer a third bloodline.

We must be oh, so careful to anchor our identity in Christ (Galatians 2:20).

Today this is my prayer: that you yourself will grow in stature in the Lord and mature to be a father in the Church, a mother in the Church who gives credit to Jesus Christ for making us a family. We are lovingly connected by the Son of God Himself. We are brothers and sisters “in Christ.” Right On Mission does not make us brothers and sisters. All glory goes to Christ.

Let’s thank Jesus for His blood and resolve to serve Christ alone, knowing that His coming reveals to us the nature of the Father, Son, and Spirit, Three in One.

I close by inviting you to sing with me unhurriedly these true words of worship:

In Christ alone my hope is found,

He is my Light, my Strength, my Song;

This Cornerstone, this solid Ground,

Firm through the fiercest drought and storm.

What heights of love, what depths of peace,

When fears are stilled, when strivings cease!

My Comforter, my All in All,

Here in the Love of Christ I stand.

In Christ alone Who took on flesh,

Fullness of God in helpless Babe.

This gift of Love and Righteousness,

Scorned by the ones He came to save:

Till on that cross as Jesus died,

The wrath of God was satisfied –

For every sin on Him was laid;

Here in the death of Christ I live.

There in the ground His body lay,

Light of the world by darkness slain:

Then bursting forth in glorious day

Up from the grave He rose again!

And as He stands in victory

Sin’s curse has lost its grip on me.

For I am His and He is mine –

Bought with the precious blood of Christ.

No guilt in life, no fear in death,

This is the Power of Christ in me;

From life’s first cry till final breath,

Jesus commands my destiny.

No power of hell, no scheme of man,

Can ever pluck me from His hand:

Till He returns or calls me home,

Here in the Power of Christ I stand.

Read the full April 2022 Update here

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