Friday, February 09, 2007

Christian Monastic Values in the Building of Organizational Communities

Whilst attending the Delhi Conference on integrating spirituality and organizational leadership yesterday, I was asked by the convener of the conference, Professor Sunita Singh-Sengupta to give an impromptu talk in one of the plenary sessions on the possible contributions of the early Christian Monastic Movements in the quest to build healthy and vibrant organizations.

The Christian Desert Fathers and Mothers Movements in the fourth and fifth centuries after Christ, understood that societal and organizational development are only possible once personal inner transformation has taken place. They followed the call of the Spirit into the Egyptian and Palestinian deserts in an attempt to imitate Jesus as He faced the temptations of the devil in preparation for active ministry. These Desert Fathers and Mothers constructed a diagnostic matrix in their quest to describe an ontology of sin and in doing so provided the early Christian Communities with a list of eight prime sins (or demons/passions as they sometimes called them). This wisdom showed that these prime sins are progressive and connected; for instance gluttony leads to sexual sin, sexual sin to sloth, sloth to anger, etc. They also provided a remedy for this well-described fallen condition of humanity and actively preached that union with God through Jesus Christ brought freedom from sin and liberty in the Spirit. The word monk from this time came from the Greek word "monos" which at the same time means "one/alone" and "united". Thus, only when I am alone (one) with God can I be united with Him and then with others. In essence, solitude leads to union with God through Jesus and thus provides the freedom to be in union with others and the ability to build healthy community with others. Incorporating these early Christian monastic values to organizational leadership would mean at minimum accepting the following truths:
  • There can be no community until personal transformation takes place.
  • It makes no sense to speak about organizational values and ethics unless we understand and accept the reality of sin and how this affects organizational leadership and organizations.
  • Personal transformation comes through an encounter with God through faith in the vicarious sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ.
The early Desert Fathers and Mothers in time left the desert, transformed by their encounter with the Spirit of Jesus and went back to their cities where their witness, ministry and lives brought societal transformation and allowed for the building of healthy organizations. It might be the time to start to speak about the possibility of organizational conversions.