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Ministry Growth: Friaries and Factories

Introduction

The death of Jon’s children was the occasion for Bread of Hope. He

‘lost his eldest son to meningitis, followed by twins through late miscarriage. Because those who gather round the risen Christ believe that they too will be resurrected, Jon began to imagine what meeting his sons in the new creation would be like.

Moreover, the church rallied round magnificently, providing food and fellowship for Jon and his wife Kathy. So Jon also began to wonder what church would look like if this interdependency were the norm – rather than something reserved for times of crisis; for example: if such interdependency were the norm, would it not mitigate the idol of self-sufficiency connoted by individualism?’ [1]

So in the most general of terms, Bread of Hope is about “more than individualism”, and the “hope of the resurrection”. These are its distinctives, if you will.

But founding a ministry is one thing, and growing it quite another. So what might it mean to grow a ministry, that is, what kind of growth is most desirable, especially in light of these two distinctives?

Note, asking what ministry growth means is not the same as asking about the means of ministry growth. Of course, the means will depend on the kind. For us *** SPOILER ALERT *** the means concerns the Word and Spirit within relationships, and less so ever increasing investment in the production of events and materials. (On growth through the Word and Spirit, see the Saved. So What? booklet, which you can find at the bottom by clicking here.)

To further anticipate the conclusion, ministry growth means more than one thing. And it means more than one thing even after laying aside the multiple connotations in the question.

“Growth” connotes both God and man, and “ministry” as a synonym for “work” connotes both “sacred” and “secular”, thereby blurring the distinction between them. God “grows” the Ministry of Defence: man – as God’s vice-regent – grows some evangelistic initiative. We understand what each means.

Laying aside these multiple connotations, the question – what does it mean to grow a ministry? – will be approached through two metaphors. This is because these two particular metaphors – friaries and factories – capture something of what individuals often mean by “growth” in relation to twenty-first-century mission agencies. (Again, we will leave aside, albeit touch on, the multiple connotations of “mission”.)

Bread of Hope

To reiterate: in the most general of terms, Bread of Hope is about “more than individualism”, and the “hope of the resurrection”.

“More than individualism” means taking relationships seriously. This value emerges in other ways, like when Bread of Hope articulates “the body corporate”, [2] or values someone for the relationships that they are already in. In an individualistic culture like ours, we need to rediscover relationships. We must not see people as (individual) units to be deployed accordingly.

John Zizioulas puts it beautifully: ‘The person is so absolute in its uniqueness that it does not permit itself to be to be regarded as an arithmetical concept, to be set alongside other beings, to be combined with other objects, or to be used as a means, even for the most sacred goal’ [3].

We will return to relationships below.

The “hope of the resurrection” determines Bread of Hope’s vision. Bread of Hope’s vision is therefore: the feast to come, to which breaking bread together directs us. We are children of the resurrection. It follows then, that Bread of Hope’s mission is to embody what breaking bread is all about, which we do by providing physical and spiritual food.

Breaking Bread

Centring Bread of Hope on the metaphor of breaking bread arose, in part, from Gisela Kreglinger’s book The Spirituality of Wine [4]. Kreglinger looks at how the production of wine for the eucharist breaks down any sacred-secular divide in that production. (And so it is for our own work.)

Furthermore, when wine is made for the eucharist by religious orders, it serves to critique the practice of scaling up wine production for the mass market. (And so it should be for our own work.) Scaling up wine production can damage the grape-soil relationship, the quality of the wine, and the relationship of the vineyard with the local community.

Scaling up should therefore always come with a risk assessment; for example: have you heard about parable of the good Samaritan who, on seeing the ambushed man, is inspired to found a hospital, and leaves the man to die by the road while he does so?

Or, insofar as scaling up entails reducing mission to a cause, the risks of causes (ends justifying means, rallying behind a cause being used to hide – rather than deal with – personal shortcomings, [5] etc.) should be considered.

Bread of Hope’s Worship@Work [6] course alludes several times to Kreglinger’s book. And it resonates strongly in session 6: Anticipating the Kingdom insofar as eucharist is about relationships. Breaking bread together gives us a picture of the new creation [1 Corinthians 11:17-34], where there is no place for looking down on other people.

Put another way, breaking bread together engages the powers that be. Breaking bread engages those Powers that divide the “have’s” from the “have-not’s” in such a way that the “have’s” look down on the “have-not’s”. (More will be said about the Powers in due course.)

Friaries

Bread of Hope not only owes its name to Kreglinger’s book, [7] it also owes something of its modus operandi. In so far as wine might be produced by a friary or monastery, charities like friaries provide a benchmark for our own. Some anecdotal observations:

First, the friars we know are preoccupied with the Objects of their Friary (which are the same as Bread of Hope’s: advancement of the Christian Faith, and the relief of poverty), and not with the Friary itself. It follows that a charity should focus on the public benefit before benefit to the charity. (“Love your neighbour …” and all that.)

Second, if you were to peruse their most recent Trustees’ Annual Report and Accounts, you would find repeated references to generic “pastoral care”. You might also wonder whether the references to this were rather scattershot, “not strategic” even. But wouldn’t that be a lot like accusing the local GP of taking a scattershot approach to prescriptions: one thing for this ailment; another for that? Such an accusation would miss the point about meeting needs. (As the surgery is to the physical health of the community, so we are to spiritual health of our “parishes”– our immediate geographical vicinities and wider relationships.)

Third, nowhere on the friars’ website or accounts is mention of any plans to “grow”. (Neither does the local GP surgery, which interestingly does have plans to work more closely with other local surgeries. Partnerships. There’s something to reflect on.)

The point is that growth needs to be appropriate to what it is that we want to grow. (Relationships, anyone?)

Relationships

But why relationships?

‘We ourselves are the comets. We are the moon and the stars. We are the fireworks in a darkened universe. To be in the presence of even the meanest, lowest, most repulsive specimen of humanity is still to be closer to God than when looking up into a starry sky or at a beautiful sunset.’ [8]

This value can be further illustrated by our proposed approach to recruitment (for non-operational roles). Before asking how someone might “fit into” Bread of Hope, we should first ask how Bread of Hope might “fit under” (and so support) them. If they are already involved in ministry (in the “twenty-first-century mission agency” understanding thereof), then are they already embedded in relationships? Valuing relationships begins by protecting their integrity.

Insofar as this is like repotting a plant (rather than composting it), valuing relationships continues by giving them what they need to grow. Where plants require light and water, relationships require on-going knowing and being known.

The Godspeed film captures something of why being known in ministry is more important than material (sermons, courses, etc.) Might we encourage you to watch it if you have not yet seen it? [9] (It’s only thirty minutes long.)

Similarly, knowing others is important because that is how we meet others’ needs (and thereby function as a charity). And knowing others begins with listening. (So when we talk about relationships, we don’t mean some extraneous activity without any purpose other than meeting some social need.) Good relationships rest on good listening, which is the skill not only of knowing what to listen for – counsellors are trained to listen for unhealthy subtexts – but also of transforming others:

‘A creative listener is not someone who simply allows me to say what I already want to say, but someone whose listening actually makes it possible for me to say what I never could have said, and thus to be a new kind of person, one I could have never have been before and could not have been before this directed listening.’ [10]

Thus, knowing and being known might mark the most profound (human) growth, as well as the most effective conduit for forming Christ in ourselves and others.

This doesn’t mean that there is no way of measuring our workplace relationships – or, at least, the pre-conditions for facilitating good workplace relationships. [11]

Factories

But it does mean that other forms of growth (say, running more courses) are secondary, albeit not extraneous. Clearly, selling (more) Godspeed courses is growth, but it is secondary to the kind of growth taught by the course.

‘(Imagine) a church that is a dynamic set of relationships, friendships, and acquaintances … a medium of living relationships through which the gospel can travel.’ [12]

To invert this, to have the tail wag the dog, to put the cart before the horse, etc. is how Baudrillard describes postmodernity. He argues that postmodernity puts the copy before the original (like when our image on social media become more “real” than our actual lives). [13]

‘[Nonetheless and] according to the economics story … churches are to focus on efficiency, effectiveness, and organizational growth.’ [14]

The Spirit of Capitalism pervades us all. This is not a bad thing unless we have failed to name this particular power. That is, if we are not aware of it, how can we help it towards its rightful place when it gets too big for its boots? Max Weber describes Capitalism as the strategic (or “rational”) maximisation of Capital by the reinvestment of profits back into business, by working harder, and by being frugal. [15]

Let us dwell on the first means of maximising Capital – reinvesting profits back into business. Since Weber wrote, brand has become an important non-tangible asset. Brand has become Capital. So when the first question we ask of, say, a particular Bread of Hope activity benefits the Bread of Hope brand, we are thinking capitalistically.

Three comments:

If this is the first or guiding question then we might find ourselves guilty of idolatry. (Oh, hail, Bread of Hope!)

It is not the same thing as asking how a particular activity might bring the charity into disrepute.

It is not a question that one finds a friar asking. (As above, a friar is asking about the benefit to the public: not the brand.)

Before concluding, and given the “more than individualism” distinctive, a word about the significance of individual leadership.

Powers v. Individuals

‘The Spirit of Capitalism pervades us all. This is not a bad thing unless we have failed to name this particular power. That is, if we are not aware of it, how can we engage it?’

Lesslie Newbigin observes that we resort to spacial metaphors when talking about power, such as ‘the authority which is “behind” a particular person … [However] you do not find a thing called kingship by looking behind the king’s back.’ [16] Although this is the language of the Powers [Colossians 1:15-20], a theology of the Powers will not be outlined here. [17] Suffice to say, fallen Capitalism violently divides society into those with Capital and those without.

(Please take a second to dwell on that word “fallen”. This is far from an anti-capitalistic piece insofar as the eucharist helps to restore Capitalism to its rightful place. To anticipate the conclusion: eucharistic growth serves to give capitalistic growth boundaries. Put another way, uncritical assimilation of capitalistic growth into mission honours Capitalism less than the restoration of Capitalism – to be everything that God ordained it to be – through eucharistic growth or otherwise.) [18]

We will, however, note that in the absence of any such theology (of the Powers), we may come to believe that power resides largely in individuals, thereby over-emphasising the significance of individual leaders.

Individual leaders not only own Capital in the sense of owning factories. They own it insofar as they promote a particular brand or way of life. Brand has become Capital. Thus we make individual leadership an idol – a good thing made an ultimate thing. We put church leaders on pedestals, and the discourse of “leadership” can dominate missions.

However, this emphasis can underestimate the very Powers that legitimise leaders in the first place. So the individual on the throne might be changed (that is, become a new creation), but the throne behind the individual remains unchanged. (Thrones such as these are engaged by breaking bread together, prayer, non-violence, etc.)

Interestingly, the whole leadership industry has been criticised for just these reasons. Kellerman writes that economic issues are not

‘… issues the leadership industry is particularly prepared or poised to address. Given its fixation on the leader, its dismissal of the follower, and its avoidance of the larger context within which leaders and followers the world over necessarily are embedded, the industry is not by and large ready, willing, or even able to take on the most vexing of our collective concerns.’ [19]

She goes on, ‘Although we have “this blind belief that the manager at the top changes everything”, in fact he or she generally does not.’ [20] And on, ‘It seems obvious to me that this apparently contagious obsession with leadership smacks more of followership – of fashion, fad, or herd – than it does of anything else.’ [21]

(To be clear, Kellerman concurs that individual leadership has been over-egged. But even if Kellerman over-eggs the over-egging, it does not follow that the Powers have not been ignored.)

This idolatry of individual leadership is not unrelated to the idolatry of brand. Both are good things made ultimate things. Both are associated with the metaphor of factory. And as idols, and quite apart from Kellerman’s analysis of the former, pursuing them does not facilitate significant growth because idols do not add significant worth.

‘This is what the Lord says … They followed worthless idols and became worthless themselves’ [Jeremiah 2:5].

This is not to say that leadership and brand are worthless. “By no means,” as the Apostle might say. Rather, they are relative to true growth.

Conclusion

Bread of Hope’s model for growth is breaking bread together. When we break bread together ordinary life is transfigured, giving us a glimpse of the new creation. We are given a lesson about growth. This is outlined in I/6.1 of the handbook:

6.1. Our values are derived from the Christian practice of breaking bread together. By giving us a vision of the feast to come, we value hope. Because we come to this feast unworthy, we come in faith. We come in humility with nothing more than bread and wine. So we value faith. By faith, we receive worth from the body and blood of Christ, as bread and wine become more than bread and wine. And because “the only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love” [Galatians 5:6], we value love. We love – we give worth to one another – as we share the bread and the wine. Needs are met and relationships restored.’

How does this echo in everyday work? How does this echo in the work of Bread of Hope? Note the contrast with growth by scaling up wine production, for example. Growth is primarily about:

  • who we are in relation to the new creation;
  • practically: restoring relationships and meeting needs; and
  • offering up our work to the Lord.

Growth is only secondarily about producing more of the same, ie. scaling up.

Of course, the two are not mutually exclusive, but pursuing the latter without being mindful of the former is seductive, least of all because it is more readily measurable. So being more readily measurable, we might even believe that we are responsible. We begin to feel good about ourselves, and this can become an addiction. But,

‘[17] You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” [18] But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today’ [Deuteronomy 8:17-18].

At its worst it is like this. Have you heard about the parable of the lopsided tree? A lopsided tree needed wooden struts to support it. As it grew over the decades, the villagers engineered ever more elaborate supports. Until one day, the village began to run short of wood. So they chopped down the tree to complete the structure.

This is why Bread of Hope resonates well with the etymology of word “company”. This from the Latin cum panis, which means “with bread”. Eucharistic growth serves to give capitalistic growth (ie. scaling up) boundaries.

Perhaps that is the way it should be for all ministry growth.

Further Resources

Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known.

E.F. Schumacher, Small is Beautiful: A Study of Economics as if People Mattered (London: Vintage, 2011). Insofar as “mission/ministry” (in the “twenty-first-century mission agency” understanding thereof) reflects economics, this book is helpful.

End Notes

[1] From I/2 Origins: village v. factory in Bread of Hope’s handbook.

[2] The handbook refers to Bread of Hope’s officers and employees in these “corporate” terms (under I/6.2) in a way that transcends Bread of Hope (the charity). This is a necessary component of our ethos statement, which justifies our occupational requirement to recruit only Christians for particular roles. (Note the multiple connotations of “corporate”. Here it connotes the “church”, elsewhere, “business”.)

[3] John D. Zizioulas, Being as Communion: Studies in Personhood and the Church (Crestwood: SVS, 1993), 47; cf. John D. Zizioulas, Communion and Otherness: Further Studies in Personhood and the Church (London: T&T Clark, 2006), 214, 216.

[4] Gisela Kreglinger, The Spirituality of Wine (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2011).

[5] Stanley Hauerwas, ‘My Neighbour, My Nation, and the Presidential Election’, lecture delivered at St Martin-in-the-Fields, London on Monday 31 October, 2016.

[6] http://www.breadofhope.org.uk/worship.

[7] Although we didn’t think the Charity Commission would look too kindly on “Wine of Hope”.

[8] Mike Mason, Practicing The Presence of People (Colorado Springs: WaterBrook Press, 1999), 15.

[9] Godspeed: The Pace of Being Known.

[10] James P. Carse, The Silence of God: Meditations on Prayer (New York: Macmillan, 1985), 83.

[11] See, for example, John Ashcroft, Roy Childs, Alison Myers, and Michael Schluter, The Relational Lens: Understanding, Managing and Measuring Stakeholder Relationships (Cambridge: CUP, 2017).

[12] Michael Frost and Alan Hirsch, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21st-Century Church (Peabody: Hendrickson, 2003), 42.

[13] Jean Baudrillard, ‘The Precession of Simulacra’ in Simulacra and Simulation (Ann Arbor: UMP, 1994), 1-42.

[14] F.S. Michaels, Monoculture: How One Story is Changing Everything (Canada: Red Clover Press, 2011), 80.

[15] Max Weber, The Protestant Work Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (trans. Talcott Parsons, London: Routledge, 2001). This Bread of Hope video (on the Sacred-Secular Divide for the Worship@Work course) elaborates.

[16] Lesslie Newbigin, The Gospel in a Pluralist Society (London: SPCK, 1989), 202.

[17] For an attempt at this, see this Bread of Hope video (on the Powers for the Worship@Work course).

[18] There is no end of books on redeeming Capitalism; for example: Kenneth J. Barnes, Redeeming Capitalism (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2018). Invariably, such works appeal to “ethics” and “morality”. But because ethics flows from worship [Brian Brock, Singing the Ethos of God: On the Place of Scripture in Christian Ethics (Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2007)], and worship culminates in the eucharist, Bread of Hope appeals to the latter.

[19] Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 83.

[20] Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 117.

[21] Barbara Kellerman, The End of Leadership (New York: HarperCollins, 2012), 157.