by Mike Metzger & John Seel
Hello Ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me…
Isaiah Mustafa’s playful pitch for Old Spice plays well even though he makes most men look bad. With a comedic touch, comparisons can be constructive. In fact, lighthearted repartee can highlight whether a church is constructed for shalom.
Isaiah Mustafa is the buff-bodied Old Spice pitchman in two attention-getting TV commercials that debuted in February 2010. He’s a good-looking stud talking to wives and girlfriends everywhere. A former football player, Mustafa stands in front of his shower, telling women to compare: “I’m the man your man could smell like.” He makes men everywhere look bad. “Hello Ladies. Look at your man. Now back to me. Now back at your man—now back to me. Sadly, he isn’t me…”
Shalom is what a church can look like. It was the Jews’ goal in Jeremiah 29, when they were sent into Babylonian exile and told to build homes, plant gardens, get married, raise families and “seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper” (Jer. 29:4-7). This is the mission of shalom. The prophet Jeremiah says the Jews’ flourishing came only as they promoted flourishing among their captors’ culture and in their captor’s institutions such as family, agriculture, and business. Does this describe the mission of your faith community? Why not take the Old Spice challenge?
Look at your church. Now back to shalom. Now back at your church—now back to shalom. For starters, what is your church’s mission statement?
Most churches have mission statements that say “empowering individuals” or “making disciples from here to the ends of the earth.” These are heart-warming monikers that yield only hazy markers or measurements. That’s partly because they highlight individuals over institutions. In shalom, a church will have a mission statement something like this:
Our faith community exists to assist central business, educational, and arts institutions in our city—as well as charities and non-profits—in taking seriously a biblical definition of reality and acting on it.
Look at your church. Now back to shalom. Now back at your church—now back to shalom. It’s a constructive comparison, since mission statements determine the means organizations use to achieve success as well as what they measure.
In most churches, the progression goes like this: craft the mission, establish church programs as the means, and then measure success internally by involvement. Dallas Willard calls this the ABCs: attendance, building, and cash. In shalom, the mission reverses the order of the last two: it’s measurement and then means. Shalom wasn’t a command to create a parallel Jewish sub-culture as a means for Babylonians to come to faith. The Jews were not called to invite Babylonians to get involved in the Jewish synagogue. Rather, the Jews were to assist in the flourishing of Babylonian institutions within Babylonian culture. Big difference. Different measurements.
Look at your church. Now back to shalom. Now back at your church—now back to shalom. What does your church measure? MIT professor Edgar Schein reminds us that whatever an institution measures ultimately becomes it’s culture, or the means it uses to achieve its mission.1 Shalom churches measure the progress in their community directly due to the church’s assistance. The opportunities are there. Daniel Pink writes about the new “social businesses” being developed around a more accurate assessment of human nature. “These are companies that raise capital, develop products, and sell them in an open market but do so in the service of a larger social mission,” writes Pink.2 The question is: how many of these companies look to the church for an assist? How many churches are actually measuring this? What you measure determines the means.
Look at your church. Now back to shalom. Now back at your church—now back to shalom. What are the means that your church employs to achieve it’s mission?
Sadly, most churches aren’t currently capable of enacting shalom. A shalom church would measure the flourishing of companies like The Magellan Fund, if the faith community was based in Boston. How would these churches do that? For starters, economics is not the study of money but of human behavior. Two University of Chicago scholars, economist Richard Thaler and law professor Cass Sunstein, say economic theory assumes we’re rational beings.3 We’re not. They have a model based on a different view of human beings—one that’s remarkably parallel to what scripture teaches. The Wall Street Journal describes their book, Nudge, as a “realistic view of human behavior, not fantasy.” Local churches with a shalom mission would be assisting investment firms in adopting Thaler and Sunstein’s model. They would align resources—their means—to assist congregants at wealth management firms to enact shalom.
Look at your church. Now back to shalom. Now back at your church—now back to shalom. The point is, shalom churches start with a problem in a Babylonian institution rather than a program in the church. We can’t say this enough. They don’t start with “conversations” about “faith and work” in the church. They start with real conundrums in real companies (or educational institutions or wherever) and let reality drive the equation. Shalom churches translate theology for congregants on their terms… on their turf. They translate a biblical definition of reality for the workplace by grounding the education in a real-life experience of reality in the workplace. This shouldn’t be rocket science, but it is for too many faith communities. They think programs, not shalom.
Old Spice can measure the effectiveness of Isaiah Mustafa’s playful pitch by looking at sales. Churches can measure success by looking for shalom. And what might shalom look like in, say, T. Rowe Price? It might mean higher worker satisfaction, lower voluntary turnover rates, and—get this—an end to our recurring economic crises. Does this sound like good news? Does this also make your church look bad? With a comedic touch, such a comparison can be constructive. For most churches, shalom is a new paradigm, not a new program. If this sounds disruptive, your faith community might be on it’s way to renewal. Just look at your church. Now back to shalom. Now back at your church—now back to shalom.
1 Edgar Schein is a Professor of Management at MIT and the author of Organizational Culture and Leadership, Third Edition. New York: Wiley Publishers (2004).
2 Daniel Pink, Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us (New York, NY: Penguin, 2009), p. 25.
3 Richard H. Thaler & Cass R. Sunstein, Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (New York, NY: Penguin, 2007).