Monday, October 25, 2010

Coming Out Of "The Institutional Shadow"

Last week I wrote a research paper for a class in Organizational Theory at Northwest University. It was about how a couple of organizational theorists impacted The Navigators management style. The whole process I went through triggered some thoughts about individuals and organizations that I hadn’t thought about for awhile. Then I “coincidentally” received a sheet from a good friend of mine, Gary Glenney, called “The Worth Of The Individual” by Kent Humphreys.

Gary was my staff supervisor with The Navigators when I moved to Redmond, Washington with my family in 1990. One of the things that I have always appreciated about Gary is that I always felt valued as an individual by him—even when I moved off of staff and was no longer “a Navigator.”

Here is a quote from Kent Humphreys, “For what are you exchanging your life? If it is not for people, then you are paying too high a price. When we give ourselves to invest in other people, then we are investing for eternity, but if we give our lives for an organization, a job, an institution, a cause, or a program, then we are focusing on the temporal. I have always loved my job, my church, and many fine organizations with which I have served. But when I put the success of the cause or the activity above people, then I am misguided.”

Then also “coincidentally” I had the privilege to spend about 90 minutes with a man whom I have grown to greatly love and respect who is currently battling pancreatic cancer, Connie Jacobsen. We talked about life and ministry. I have had the privilege of facilitating a couple of Bible studies that his organization Teleios helped launch.

I expressed to him that there was something about these two groups that I can’t explain, that makes them powerful, something I look forward to, that I treasure in my life. I shared with him the hope that I will be able to walk with the men in these groups for the rest of my life, Lord willing. The groups carry with them Connie’s heart for the individual.

I know what it feels like with individuals like Connie or Gary who make me feel valued as an individual and NOT because their job description calls for them to relate with me. In other words, I see or feel NO “institutional shadow” when I am with them. And I think shadow is a good metaphor. A shadow is dark and cold while insidiously attaching itself to us wherever we go.

Obviously, it is only individuals who are eternal—not institutions but it is always the institutions that swallow up the glory of “ordinary” people and make us all feel subordinated to the cause or the church or the organization or the business. My friend, Connie, facing a particularly uncertain earthly future, sees this so clearly. Why can’t I?

I remember the man who influenced my early faith more than any one individual. Dr. Jim Cook spoke to me in 1984 when I was a 29 year-old working for the very Bible college that he had founded. I was representing the college to a convention of Conservative Baptists in Portland, Oregon. My view of what God could do through me then was low and my view of the institution I currently represented was high.

I can still remember how “Pastor Jim” looked me in the eye in that confronting but totally affirming way only he could and said, “YOU are more important than this college.” He was calling me to lose the institutional shadow I was hiding behind and step out into the light of my call to shepherd Christ’s sheep. Shortly after I did just that and moved into some great years of ministry with the Navigators in Hawaii and Washington.

Kent Humphreys continued in his short article, “Governments, companies, educational institutions, and even religious organizations will all eventually end. But the experiences that we have with people in these organizations will live forever. Therefore, although I greatly enjoy the business world, my church involvement, my community concerns and my own personal activities, I should never put these worthy causes above people.”

Dear Lord, keep me aware of the cold, dark institutional shadow I can easily hide behind OR can be attached to without me even realizing it. Please allow me to clearly see the glory in the individual as my friends Gary, Connie, Jim and a few other of your choice servants have modeled to me!

Grateful For His Individual Care,


Note: Do you have any stories of God’s Glory showing up in the ordinary? I would love to hear them and share them with a larger audience if you would like! Just email me at (

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1 comment:

Don said...

Right on the mark!