There’s any number of church growth and congregational consultants who will tell you that success comes from taking the lessons of the business world and using them in a sacred community.
Lots of times they have some interesting points to make. But not always.
There’s an essay on the steps one should take to turn a losing situation into a winning one over on the web blog Giga OM. I was reading along nodding my head at the first two steps. Then I hit the third. And realized how difficult it is to follow the gospel’s teachings in the “real world”
The first step is to help a “team” find closure as a way of starting to put the past behind them and start orienting toward a positive future.
The second step is “set a vision” that will inform the work of the team as they move into this new future.
Good. Good. All useful steps that I’ve taken as I’ve helped congregations and communities in crisis begin to rebuild and reorient themselves.
The wheels come off though in step 3.
“3. Find an Enemy –- The easiest way to solidify an ‘us’ is to identify a ‘them.’ As Tajfel and Turner’s social identity theory makes clear, people need to be part of a group, but in a company the result is often conflict between groups. The conflict that most often occurs in a crisis is affective and role-based and therefore often negative and value-destroying. There is no better way to rally the troops than to embody the fight with an external nemesis. Identify for your team an enemy outside the company and focus on beating or staying ahead of it, using everything from its press releases to its product launches to spur the team into action.”
Step four is “Tend the Garden” – not unlike the old HP dictum of management by “walking around” – something I’ve done and found very very effective.
It’s that pesky Step 3 that’s the problem. It plays into our fallen nature and creates a real danger of setting a fire that is likely to burn out of control. It’s making use of the scapegoat mechanism to create unit cohesion. It works. But it’s wrong.
And I’ve seen it used too many times inside the Church by well meaning people. On both sides of any issue. And by myself, mostly unintentionally, I pray.
It is so pernicious and subtle in the snares and stumbling blocks it raises for us that I don’t think we’re able to turn it to good. The only who ever did was Jesus. And that’s why we know he’s the Son of God. Perhaps that is why he warns us that the path to salvation is very narrow and very difficult without his help.
Making an enemy is the antithesis of the Gospel. God, I would imagine, has a very good reason for that. We should probably follow our operating instructions rather than take a shortcut that would be just an “easy way to solidify an ‘us’”.