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5 Words Every Christian Organization Must Learn, Part II

September 14, 2015

“Why do so many of the great religions which had their origins in the mystery come ultimately to be social service agencies, or in their religious life to be preoccupied with form and concerned more with the container than the content?” Abraham Heschel

In the first post in this series, I offered a hypothesis:  To be faithful and effective in their peculiar vocation as participation in the mystery of the mission and action of God, Christian faith-based organizations require methodologies which are grounded in Scriptural language and categories.

In contrast to common international development methodologies such as “Logical Framework Approach” and “SWOT analysis,” what different language and categories do I propose?

I propose five critical categories to bring into the laboratory to seek a fresh model for how faith-based organizations think and operate with a Christian imagination.

  1. CHARISM: The unique gifts and vocation of the organization/institution available for the good of the reign of God.

With respect to its vocation or mission, every organization must learn its “yes” and its “no.”  Along with naming the organizational charism as defined above is naming the organization’s limits.  Limits are the unique ways in which the institution is confined while being true to its vocation (that is, confined by its human and therefore fragile nature).  Bringing together charism with limits both affirms and tames (humbles) the organization.

  1. KAIROS: A moment of truth, opportunity, and grace, the favorable time in which God issues a challenge to decisive action, and the implications for the organization. 

Within the wide and local landscape and field of the organization’s charism, what are the signs of the times which speak to the organization’s fidelity to the intersection between God’s time and the human time and context?

  1. CAPTIVITY: The unique ways in which the institution is captive to powers which hinder or resist the reign of God.

What account of sin is needed to recognize the challenge of faithfulness for the organization within its charism and kairos?

  1. CONVERSION: Th unique means through which transformation happens in and through the institution.

How does change happen in and through this context and institution?

  1. CALL: The spirituality (disciplines, practices, culture, character) through which God’s agency continues to be embraced and to renew.

Over the long haul, how does the organization and its people keep God’s action and agency primary? 

How would a faith-based organization change if this Scriptural language—“charism,” “kairos,” “captivity,” “conversion,” call”—entered the organization’s daily vocabulary?  How would this begin to influence its sense of mission, theory of change, planning, program development, and fundraising?

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