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Be Loyal to People, Not Organizations

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Internet life is founded on virtual relationships and transactional commitments. We begin to see relationships through this lens – “what’s in it for me?” we ask.
By Seth Barnes

Many of us have become deeply cynical about the organizations that fill our world.

Here are the headliners:

The press

Churches

Government

Many of us perversely even distrust those organizations we rely on the most – Facebook, Amazon, Apple and Netflix, to name a few.

Jesus taught us about structures that facilitate relationships, comparing them to wineskins. He said:

“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the new wine will burst the skins; the wine will run out and the wineskins will be ruined. No, new wine must be poured into new wineskins.” Luke 5:36-38

Organizations are wineskins

People are wine, organizations are wineskins. Wineskins work for a season, holding the new wine. As the wine ferments, it creates gas that puts pressure on the wineskin, causing it to expand. In the process, the wineskin loses its elasticity and its utility.

Jesus was talking about how old rule-based religion, for example, rules about fasting, needed to change.

When the world changes and an organization fails to adapt, it loses its utility.

Organizations – businesses, churches, nonprofits – are founded for a purpose. Because most people resist change, over time organizations often become bureaucratic or inflexible.

As they approach the end of their life cycle, they wear out. Governments get bloated and ripe for revolution. The Acts church becomes the Orthodox church. Myspace dies and Facebook rises up. One day Facebook too will die. Denominations become sclerotic, fail to make room for the prophetic, and like the Pharisees, become opponents of the thing they originally defended, standing in the way of the next move of God.

Prioritizing relationships

When we think of a kingdom, we think of government. But Jesus came to establish a kingdom founded on relationships, not organization. He called us to prioritize our relationships, loving one another.

If we prioritize relationships over organizations, we can stay true to the new covenant Jesus gave us – the law of love. Of course people are flawed. The Evangelical church is filled with sinners just like the Catholic church. And of course when we make a commitment, we need to honor it.

But Nicodemus the Pharisee saw something his brethren did not. He didn’t let his organizational loyalty keep him from the pursuit of the truth. He prioritized relationship with Jesus, showing up at key times in Jesus’ life. We need to have the heart of Nicodemus.

Internet life

So how does this relate to us? We have a cultural problem that makes it difficult for us to follow Jesus in this regard. Social media has accelerated the migration of our culture away from deep, red-blooded relationships. Internet life is founded on virtual relationships and transactional commitments. We begin to see relationships through this lens – “what’s in it for me?” we ask. Our commitment lasts as long as the transaction.

In contrast, churches were made for deep connection – with one another and with God.

But our modern churches post job descriptions online and hire and fire our pastors. The average youth pastor lasts less than two years in his role and then moves on. We’re not given models of covenantal relationship.

We’ve grown up in a world of old wineskins and may not even realize it. The technology in our lives may look cutting edge, but it often does nothing to feed our souls. We buy it from people, attaching ourselves to organizational logos and symbols. And so, we confuse loyalty to organizations with loyalty to people.

What do we do? 

We love a God of covenants, covenants that memorialize our loyalty to people. It’s time for a revolution in the way we think about people.

Be loyal to people as a first priority – that’s covenantal thinking. Be loyal to organizations insofar as they serve the purpose you’ve committed to.

Maybe it’s time to take an inventory of your loyalties.

Maybe it’s time to ask if you’ve become loyal to organizations that no longer serve their purpose. Asking a few questions is a good place to start:

  1. What commitments have you made in life?
  2. Are they relational or transactional?
  3. How loyal are you to people?
  4. Are there any organizations that you support that no longer serve their purpose?

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