African owner-manger Brother Thomas, a USA-trained engineer owns a construction business in West Africa. Thomas travels a lot, so day-to-operations depend on supervisors. Turns out, when he travels, jobs don’t get completed and receipts don’t match cash expenditures. Well actually there are no receipts, and no cash back. In America, heads would roll — yes?
Yet Thomas is as much patron as owner, and the gap between the workplace and home in his culture is less: I mean the responsibility of the owner and the business to workers at the end of the workday doesn’t end. And the workers feel similarly about who they are. It’s different.
Thomas wanted to keep making a profit. His workers self-identify as Jesus-followers. Intrinsically the culture is bad at punishing a wrong, but better at asserting what we might call “peer pressure” in order to make work happen well. Thomas saw a moral flaw built into the culture, but it took him a while to look at himself and see that he was becoming angry and angrier. It helped for him to see the truth about both the culture and about himself.
So how did this disciple follow Jesus “in his culture” and make disciples?
Almost in the same way one would identify a market need, Thomas repented, studied, asked around, and got creative. He started regular “Foreman Forums.” These role-peer discussions (everyone at supervisory level; roles are well-defined and hierarchical in this culture) became a conversation among equals where “issues” in the workplace were raised. The issues became cases, and the cases led to principles, and then to future applications. Thomas linked in related biblical texts and prayed for his supervisors.
So Foreman Forums became both the base for workplace operations and the platform for making disciples. For Thomas, the Forums were a culturally acceptable platform for passing on trustworthy skills. He was able to make an ongoing investment in his supervisors because Jesus was making him a more gracious disciple.
btw— The business funds Brother Thomas so he can be a supervisor of missionaries in an African-run agency.
PRINCIPLES. In general the best disciple-makers are themselves the best disciples. How’s that work? If you are in the process of following Jesus (being a disciple), then what comes from that is that you make disciples (followers of Jesus). There’s an integrity before the Lord (or not) that results in an integrity with humans, which is the groundwork for communicating how to be a disciple (or not).
I won’t slice this into the right-hand woods of culture where the collectivists do this in a perpetual huddle together, or hook it into the left woods where in our individualistic culture we make disciples one at a time, that is, you or I working through a manual each at our own pace in separate rooms.
The first point here is that relying on Jesus today when we fail and fall — seeing His capacity and productivity as efficient and reliable before the Father on our behalf all-the-time, and never failing to be with us — is the premise for clear thinking and action as a disciple-maker.
The other point is that in the middle of the workplace — where your shortcomings are revealed, often by your self-righteous sense of how others’ shortcomings are exceeding yours — this is where making disciples has a good chance (hmmm) of happening.
previously published as BOTH/AND: Making Disciples of Supervisors on Medium.com