loren Eric Swanson: Answers to Jim Collin's Question

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Answers to Jim Collin's Question

The following is an excerpt from Bob Buford's Active Energy museletter. Earlier this month Bob talked about having dinner with Jim Collins. During the course of the evening Collins posed the question regarding how a ragtag group of followers became the predominant force in the world in 300 years. Bob asked his readers to respond. Bob says he got several great responses and will include a few this week and a few more in weeks to come.

From Bob Shank, Founder/CEO, The Master's Program, Newport Beach, California.
"Here's my answer: Jesus left without laying out a strictly articulated game plan for the next steps. He gave a sweeping vision - "all the world"; "every creature" - and a loose, but sufficient strategy - "go; baptize; teach" - and then allowed them to integrate their individual creativity into the mission. What I would quantify as "calling" became their individual marching orders. "Take up your cross daily and follow me" was an appeal to their personal, one-of-a-kind emphases. For Jesus, the cross wasn't a burden; it was his unique calling. "I brought you glory on earth by completing the work you gave me to do." The cross was his code for calling: His followers, who were to be leaders, were to find their own unique paths - their "cross" - and consider it their core mission, every day. Get the 10 percent who are leaders (that's the segment from Jethro's count in Exodus 22 to the upper room contingent in Acts 1) clear about their unique Kingdom assignments, and they'll create opportunity for defined followership for the other 90 percent. He didn't disburse them by mandate; he dispatched them by release. "Go" was an invitation, not an order."

From Glenn Hatcher, Global Leadership Development, Cyprus.
"Christianity spread so fast in the pre-Constantine world because:
People were invited to join God's story and actively participate in something the God of Creation was doing on the earth. it was not just another institutionalized, legalistic religion or god for the pantheon. Christianity was truly relational, offering both a living relationship with a living God and with a true community of diverse, yet like-minded people. Ideas, concepts, and life-style were passed on through mentoring relationships (discipleship) that taught Believers how to live in a mystical relationship with the risen Jesus and how to live a redemptive lifestyle in everyday circumstances by being led by the Spirit. There was more emphasis on experiential Christianity than on knowledge and propositional truth. (Historically, we often emphasize the cults and schisms and heresies that arose during this time, but fail to realize that the Church continued to grow cross-culturally and have a huge impact during this same period). The focus was on family (clan, tribe, people-group) transformation as well as that of the individual. There was a "partnership" between God and His Church so that the miraculous occurred with regularity. There was a passionate depth of commitment among Believers both to God and to the community. martyrdom and suffering were not feared, but accepted, embraced, anticipated, and even encouraged. There existed certain commonalities - language, government, social standings, etc. - throughout the Empire. The early Believers were part of a non-status quo minority who owed a greater allegiance to their Redeemer than to the Empire and its social systems. There was a "missionary mindset" that wanted to take the Good News to the ends of the earth both because it is good news and because Jesus' command to make disciples of all ethnic groups had opened the door for all."

From Pat Woehrer, The Legacy Group, Inc., Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
"What happened in the period between Jesus Christ and Constantine, as I see it:
Discipleship through twelve highly trained and inspired individuals, each identified with their own unique giftedness.
Commitment to something greater than ink on paper (or scrolls, if you will).
Commitment to Someone greater than man, but for the benefit of man.
Persecution, which only advanced curiosity and interest.
Political transition and unrest, which caused individuals to seek peace.
Personal relationships required for communication and sharing of knowledge (no technology to lean on), adding dimension to the Truth. Finally, let us not ignore the work of the Holy Spirit, which, despite all efforts to analyze, is mysterious!"

From Cobus Oosthuizen, Johannesburg, South Africa.
"I am myself also a very curious and inquisitive person and have a passion for intellectual enquiry. However, I believe that in the process of God executing His mission, i.e. His total redemptive purpose to reconcile a lost world with Himself, He does so on His terms as expressed in Isaiah 55:8: "For My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord." Therefore, on the questions, "What were the social mechanisms and organizational tools that allowed this statistically remote outcome to happen; and, what took place in the 300 years between Christ and Constantine?" - I'd like to comment, as follows: Ordinary people, from ordinary backgrounds, in ordinary circumstances, in the context of a certain time in eternity, acting in radical obedience by the power of the HOLY SPIRIT, orchestrated by Almighty God not limited by science, time, space, or comprehension of man. May our heavenly FATHER, who specializes in statistically remote outcomes to happen, bless and keep you."

From Mark Eaton, Consultant.
"As I have mulled over your questions about how did Christianity grow so fast in 300 years, I get to the conclusion: It's about small groups, with low power and low prestige working diligently away from the spotlights. If you want to see how God and the Holy Spirit work, then compare and contrast John the Baptist and Jesus with the high priest, the Pharisees, the Scribes, the Sadducees, Pontius Pilate, and Herod."

From Denis Beausejour, Former Director of World Wide Marketing for P&G, now a pastor in Cincinnati.
"My answer to what happened to cause Christianity to grow the way it did . it was supernatural. Despite persecution (or aided by it!), despite heresies by leaders, despite the failures of early church leadership, and despite the challenges of the Gnostic gospels (the DaVinci Code of the day) and the rise of Islam, the Holy Spirit kept touching lives and working supernaturally to produce just what was needed to get the job done. The one thing that we seem to be missing is that we don't seem to give credit where it is due - the power of Christ and His Spirit. I am haunted by what J.B. Phillips says in the intro to his translation: "The greatest difference between present-day Christianity, and that of which we read in these letters (of the New Testament), is that to us, it is primarily a performance; to them, it was real experience. Perhaps if we believed what they believed, we could achieve what they achieved." As a modern day campaign slogan, it might read "It's Jesus and His Spirit, stupid!" (apologies)"

From Bill Farrell, Insurance Agent, Dallas, Texas.
"Very thought-provoking article. I read Good to Great a year ago and was so tremendously impressed by the fact that the men who turned the companies to greatness were not self-serving, but self-emptying - that is, they were more like Jesus. They themselves, were contributors, not seeking their own reward and they found the key. My take on the reason that our faith had such an impactful beginning in those first 300 years was that they actually did what they came to believe. To delight in God's glory was their life! They were out there on the front lines, living lives that were radical and noticed by everyone with whom they came in contact. That kind of belief spreads like wildfire. Bob, I think the church is sick. Our "country club" atmosphere has made us so comfortable and the press of the business world and our own families and our friends all distract us from the absolute necessity of taking the glory of Christ to the world we live in. People are too busy, caught up in their own pursuits, frantically living lives pointing to "me, me, me." The church of the first 300 years was very evidently not this way. They believed that they were to take up their cross daily and follow Him as their number one priority. They placed their own self-interest down the line and placed Him first. When that occurs today, we will see the Lord glorified again as He was in the first 300 years."

From Jay Bennett, Attorney, Minneapolis, Minnesota.
"As a curious chap, Jim Collins wonders how the dots got connected. What, he asks, were the social mechanisms and organizational tools which led to this statistically improbable outcome? The question suggests there must have been social mechanisms and organizational tools employed to reach this outcome. The hypothetical also allows the inference that a national religion reflects the precepts of its founder. I find neither to be the case. Constantine had a Halftime experience. The authority of Heaven connected to authority in the earth in the form of this emperor, this king. The King of Kings and the king met. I see no progression of inevitable persuasion leading toward this throne. I see a man in great authority who had an awakening. The Kingdom of God can not be compelled. Constantine and every other well intentioned spiritual dictatorship I am aware of tried to muscle religion into society. It has never worked."

From Jack Willome, Homebuilder, San Antonio, Texas.
"Regarding Jim's observation and question about "connecting the dots". One of Jesus' statements about himself is "I am the way, the truth, and the life." Was he a madman or simply stating fact? The behavior of Constantine and the countless others who came later bear witness to the latter. Referring to Jesus in Colossians, Paul (formerly one of the most famous persecutors of the carpenter from Nazareth's followers) says "For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities - all things have been created through Him and for Him." He simply connects all the dots. 300 years? How about billions of light years from one edge of the universe to the other?"


At Thursday, December 22, 2005 9:14:00 AM, Blogger chris said...

Eric -- Bob Shank's response is interesting. However, his take on "take up your cross" is way off. This was an invitation to death -- dying to self. This is the concensus of biblical scholars, and makes far more sense given the context and Jesus' example.

The early disciples were not starting from scratch. They had the entire history and tradition of Judaism from which to draw, and draw heavily they did.

I enjoy your blog! Thanks.

Chris Gadsden


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