Christ the centre: Part 1

Christian DistinctivenessDiscipleship

I have been thinking a lot recently about keeping Christ at the centre of our organisations.

So many organisations find that they are ‘less Christian’ than they used to be. They find it hard to maintain the sense of passion for Jesus and dependency on him that birthed the organisation.

What started as an act of worship to the living God ends up being a set of activities in which God is at best marginalised and at worst a distant memory. And this happens because of five forces that prevent Christ being at the centre.

Force 1: Familiarity

What was vital to the founders of an organisation becomes familiar and assumed to the next generation, and forgotten or misunderstood by the next.

Force 2: Professionalism

I do not think that we should have to choose between being professional and being Christian. But sometimes being professional becomes the ultimate value, and there is little room for profoundly Christian values such as love and prayerfulness.

Force 3: Growth

What started out as the passion and shared life of a group of friends grows into an organisation. Not everyone understands its history and values. Keeping Christ at the centre requires a distinct set of skills and approaches, and often the founding group struggles to include new people in their culture.

Force 4: Public accountability

In many countries Christianity is viewed with suspicion. People are OK with our faith being our private motivation, but do not want it to be visible in our work. To comply and fit in, we are under pressure to hide Christ.

Force 5: Our donors

When we rely for money on those who do not know Christ, we are vulnerable to pressures to hide him.

I want to suggest four commitments to help us resist these pressures:

1 Commitment to Jesus

One of the first signs of secularisation is embarrassment about the name of Jesus. We may hide behind more ambiguous or acceptable words or phrases: God, church, faith communities.

Two things that help show our commitment to Jesus are prayer and the Bible. In prayer we express our desire to grow in intimacy with Christ. We declare that the most powerful intervention we can make is to go to our Father in the name of Jesus.

An organisation with a commitment to Christ will have a living and visible relationship with the Bible, which tells his story.

2 Commitment to character

An organisation with a commitment to Christ will prioritise character over skill or ability. It’s not that the question, ‘What can you do?’ is not important; it is just that the question, ‘Who are you?’ is more important.

An organisation with Christ at the centre will place a high value on integrity and calling among its staff.

3 Commitment to service

Jesus turned hierarchies on their heads. Too often, we mimic the power structures of the non-Christian world. In Philippians 2, we read of how Jesus willingly became a servant to win freedom for others. He calls us to do the same.

For Christians, empowerment and service of others are essential parts of Christian living and not trendy management terms.

4 Commitment to church

Churches are local gatherings of those who love Jesus and want to follow him. They are an essential part of God’s plan for personal and social transformation. There is no Plan B. Withdrawal from a real connection with the local church is often the first sign of withdrawal from Christ.

Sadly, many Christian organisations get semi-detached from the local church, seeing it as difficult, obstructive or irrelevant. These might all be true, but we have to persevere.

Visit the TILZ blog next week to read ‘Christ the centre: Part 2’

David Westlake
David Westlake is Tearfund's International Director. David started out as a youth worker and church planter…