15 Feb #160 – “Leading Faithfully” Basics – The Ancient Path
ESSENCE: Are you on the path that leads to where you want to go? Every faithful leader is on a path of some sort, but leading faithfully requires getting on, and staying on, the right path. There are really two main paths–business in alignment with the kingdom of the world and the ancient path of business in alignment with the Kingdom of God. We call them business as usual and business a better way and believe the only right path for a faithful leader is the ancient path referenced in Jeremiah 6:16. Leading faithfully on the ancient path of business a better way in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities requires finding the on-ramp, getting on, and then not stumbling off. The world–and our culture–does not want a faithful leader on the ancient path. The spirit of mammon at the core of business as usual is working against it 24/7/365. But God has given us some clear statements about how to live the abundant life He wants for us, and we believe God wants faithful leaders to succeed at leading faithfully. It starts with creating an organizational purpose, values and culture centered on what God cares about–and that isn’t profit (or mammon).
“Leading Faithfully” Basics is about going back and re-examining the basics of leading faithfully through business a better way–business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities.
Every faithful leader is on a path of some sort, but leading faithfully requires getting on, and staying on, the right path. We believe the right path is the ancient path referenced in Jeremiah 6:16. It is the path of business a better way.
Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.
The Ancient Path and the Alternative
If you search “path” and “road” in the Bible you get many occurrences. But there are only two references to the “ancient” path. One is an instruction, and one is a warning.
In Jeremiah 6:16, Scripture instructs us to “look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is”. But Scripture also cautions that we can “stumble in [our] ways, in the ancient roads, and to walk into side roads” (Jeremiah 18:15). We believe leading faithfully requires getting on, and staying on, an ancient path.
When we look at the context of the instruction, it is ominously relevant today. As Dr. Skip Moen explains:
Jeremiah 6:16 is God speaking to the wayward house of Israel. It’s a very timely passage. All around, says the Lord, people are crying “Peace, peace.” But there is no peace. Why? Because the children have abandoned the good ways, the path of the Lord. They were not even ashamed to forsake God’s ways. They wanted to be relevant. But God says, “Walk in the old paths and you shall find rest.” Don’t walk in them, and you will find destruction!
Let’s just consider how Jeremiah Chapters 5 and 6 describe the times:
See if you can find a man, one who does justice and seeks truth. (5:1)
They have refused to repent. (5:3)
Your children have forsaken me and have sworn by those who are no gods. (5:7)
Like a cage full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; therefore they have become great and rich. (5:27)
They know no bounds in deeds of evil; they judge not with justice the cause of the fatherless, to make it prosper, and they do not defend the rights of the needy. (5:28)
Behold, the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn. (6:10)
From the least to the greatest of them, everyone is greedy with unjust gain; and from prophet to priest, everyone deals falsely. (6:13)
Were they ashamed when they committed abomination? No, they were not at all ashamed; they did not know how to blush. (6:15)
All of them act corruptly. (6:28)
As described in our recent post about the essential choice faced by every faithful leader (#157–The Choice), there are really two main paths–business in alignment with the kingdom of the world and business in alignment with the Kingdom of God. We call them business as usual and business a better way.
At the core of Integriosity® is the belief that business as usual and, as a consequence, “work as usual” are broken precisely because they ignore God’s design for His creation–including humanity and work. Business as usual moves humanity and creation in the direction of the brokenness described in Jeremiah. Business a better way is an “ancient path” back to our design–back to our humanity, back to beauty and back to our ultimate purpose of glorying the God in whose image we were created.
There are several key attributes of the business as usual path that set it at odds with God’s Kingdom (such as assumptions of scarcity and self-interest and “can we” ethics rather than ‘should we’ ethics), but the most important is its essential WHY — the ultimate purpose that drives the behavior of its participants. With business as usual the WHY of the business is profit.
Like a person, an organization can have only one ultimate ambition or identity — one true “heart” (recall Matthew 6:24, “No one can serve two masters”). If profit is the “end” to which a business is managed, then, by definition, people can never be more than a “means” — tools of production to be managed toward that end. We believe that is dehumanizing!
Recently, Andy Crouch gave a powerful talk at the Faith Driven Investor Global Conference on why we cannot serve God and mammon (a link to a video of the talk is at the bottom of this post). Crouch explains why “mammon” is not just an Aramaic word for “money”. In fact, you might be quite astonished by his explanation of mammon based upon the understanding of the early Christian church:
We are talking about a quasi-personal, nameable power in human affairs that intends something, that has a will in the world that is opposed to the will of God . . . . A demonic power . . . . The early church concluded that mammon was not just an idea but the name of a being in service of . . . Satan. . . . Mammon hates God . . . mammon hates persons . . . . The result is treating persons like things. Mammon wants everything to be impersonal. You cannot serve a demon that wants to destroy persons, relationships, creation itself and also serve the true God who wants to reunite persons, restore relationships and liberate creation from its bondage to decay. You cannot serve God and mammon.
We believe the spirit of mammon is the principal spirit that paves the path of business as usual–the path of business in the way of the world. It is a spirit that can cause faithful leaders to “stumble” off the ancient path of business a better way–the path of business in alignment with Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities. It is pervasive in our culture and insidious.
Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls. (YHWH)
Following the Ancient Path
Following the ancient path requires finding the on-ramp, getting on, and then not stumbling off it. The world–and our culture–does not want a faithful leader on the ancient path. As in the time of Jeremiah, “the word of the Lord is to them an object of scorn“. The spirit of mammon at the core of business as usual is working against it 24/7/365. Ephesians 6:12 is quite emphatic:
For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places.
First, a faithful leader needs to get over the hurdles of learning that an ancient path exists for leading an organization and embracing the idea that this counter-cultural path is what God is calling them to follow. Then they have to get past the “noise” of seemingly “good” worldly alternatives like “stakeholder capitalism” and “B-Corps” (which are not business a better way).
Business as usual is “everywhere.” It is business as taught in business schools and management training programs; business as rewarded by management, Boards, and stockholders; and business as demanded by investors, fund managers, and stock analysts. Business as usual is portrayed as “good business”. Anything else (including stakeholder capitalism) is often denigrated by proponents of business as usual as illegal, un-Constitutional, anti-Enlightenment and contrary to freedom, democracy and capitalism.
Business as usual is not the only obstacle to be navigated by a faithful leader wanting to get on the ancient path. A faithful leader needs to understand the path itself. The application of Biblical beliefs, principles and priorities to organizational leadership is not standard fare in most churches. In the words of Max Depree:
Unless somebody articulates something different, you are going to adopt a secular standard without even thinking about it.
What we call faith as usual can block the on-ramp and divert them onto a Jeremiah 18:15 side road by offering various empty “feel-good” placebos advertised as the ancient path. Often, the faithful leader believes they are pursuing the ancient path, but it is based on “bad theology” or, at least, poor communication of good theology. Side roads are not inherently bad–in fact, they are better than doing nothing at all. But side roads are not transformative and can lull the leader into believing they are on the ancient path when they are missing deeper purpose for the organization, deeper calling for themselves and deeper flourishing for their people.
God has given us some clear statements about how to live the abundant life He wants for us, and we believe God wants faithful leaders to succeed at leading faithfully. Because an organization is a merely a collection of people working together toward a common purpose (and, as such, it derives its purpose from their purpose), the ancient path for faithfully leading an organization must align with the ancient path God has provided for His people. It starts with creating an organizational purpose, values and culture centered on what God cares about–and that isn’t profit (or mammon).
PERSONAL NOTE (from PM): Dr. Skip Moen offers an interesting insight into Jeremiah 6:16:
In Jeremiah, the Hebrew words are “va umitsu margoa” from “masa” (to find or attain) and “margoa” (a state of refreshment and life). In other words, seek first the kingdom of heaven, and all these things will be added. Sound familiar?
The longer I have been writing Integrous blogs, the more Matthew 6:33 has become one of my life verses.
But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be added to you.
As a consequence, I was really excited to stumble upon a new brand of athletic gear called Three Nails. They describe themselves as “a premium activewear brand created for the athletes who represent the Kingdom of God in a modern, minimalist fashion.” Matthew 6:33 is their “brand mission”, and they sell one style of shirt with that mission tastefully printed on the product (not emblazoned across the front or back). I promptly and enthusiastically placed an order (including a few gifts). I encourage you to read the founder’s inspiring story behind starting the company. Well done Derek Dahl!