Super Chickens and the American Church Have We Turned the Gospel into an Enterprise?
When you hear someone talking about “Church” what comes to mind? Do you immediately think about how it was during the days that Jesus walked the Earth with His disciples; or do you think about what “Church” looks like in the present-day culture? As John Fenn puts it, the Gospel has changed dramatically since it was birthed in Israel compared to what we see today. Christianity started as a relationship in Israel when God came to man. It went to Greece to become a Philosophy; to Rome to become a Religion; to Europe to become a tradition and part of the culture; and then to America to become an Enterprise.” Think about that! Jesus came to spend time with people, introducing God as the Father. As it leaves Israel it goes through all these changes to become what we see today in America. Of all the entities, Corporations are conducting studies to find out that in order to maximize results and productivity, you must first focus on relationships. Shouldn’t the Church, the Body of Christ, be the leaders in this area?
As we continue to talk about the “Super Chicken Study,” we’re looking at a recent study of the productivity of chickens. You might ask yourself, ‘why chickens?.’ When trying to study productivity, it’s easy to monitor output with chickens by simply counting the number of eggs at the end of the day. After monitoring several chickens over a period of six generations, the scientists pulled out the most productive chickens in each generation and labeled that chicken the “Super Chicken.” There were two separate groups of chickens, the original group, or average producing chickens, and the second group which was made up of ONLY “Super Chickens.” At the end of the 6 generations, there were only 3 Super Chickens. Three of them had been pecked to death, by the OTHER “Super Chickens.” Talk about a rough working environment. Has the Church taken on the same corporate-like standards of the ‘Super Chicken’ mindset and focused on production and output? When Jesus would leave the 99 sheep to find the one lost sheep, the Super Chicken would quickly cast aside the one, in order to focus on the 99.
When Margaret Heffernan came across this study, she immediately saw the connection. As a leader in the business industry, she realized the reality that we cannot focus solely on productivity and results at the cost of the very people that we are working alongside and with. This is what corporations and businesses are realizing! In her Ted Talk at a women’s conference, Margaret Heffernan, calls this ‘Social Capital.’ She describes it this way, “the reliance and dependency that builds trust.” The terms comes from sociologists who were studying communities that proved particularly resilient in times of stress. Heffernan continues to share how ‘Social Capital’ helps corporations; “Social capital is what gives companies momentum, and social capital is what makes companies robust.” Robust means that we can endure trials and difficulties. Live life long enough and we realize difficulties is only a matter of time.
If we don’t have connectivity with the people to our left and right, we’re not going to make it through the difficult seasons of shaking. Isn’t that what Paul wrote about to the Church in Corinth? In 1 Corinthians 13:4-7, he states, “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” How powerful is that? Love is the Social Capital between people. If we don’t have ‘Social Capital,’ Love, nothing will stand. Paul understood that because he also underscored the reality of what things look like when there is no love in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” Corporations are hearing about the Super Chicken talk from Margaret Hefferan and running with it. Corporations are borrowing from how the Lord created us to live and interact with each other. When Jesus Christ is the center of what we do, and how we interact, it is powerful.
Look at construction companies. Every time a foundation is built for a large commercial building, there must be rebar placed within the foundation, to help SUPPORT the foundation that gives it strength. Jesus Christ is the foundation of the Church; He is the only Rock which the church can stand upon in the storms of life. Times of shaking are going to come, for a solid foundation to be built. It takes time to build relationships with those around us. Those relationship are the “rebar” that help us in times of stress. Times of shaking are coming for all of us. If we truly are going to obey Jesus’s words in the Great Commission, we need other people in our lives to walk it out together. Jesus never intended for us to live life without relationship.
Jesus would stop on His journey for the sake of love. He would stop for “the one.” We must redefine what success is, what success looks like., What comes to mind is Team Hoyt. A father and son duo that finished a triathlon, together. When most people compete the Ironman Triathlon, as an individual race, swimming 2.4 miles then biking 112 miles only to then finish the last part of the race with a full 26.2 marathon run, Team Hoyt did it together. What makes this story even more special is that Rick was born with a condition that makes him unable to walk or talk on his own. That did not stop them. Dick pulled his son Rick during the swim, rode a two-man bike, and pushed him the entire run. When all the cameras are focusing on the elite top performing athletes finishing this race in a few hours, a father and son team, Dick and Rick, crossed the finish line after the sun had set when most of the crowds had gone home. This is what Jesus is calling us to do every day of our lives, to slow down for the one next to us. It may take us three or four times as long to complete something, but this is success in the eyes of the Kingdom. This is the very essence of what the Super Chicken study is finding.
Think about it. Of all the words that Jesus could have used to describe God, He used the word “Father.” We are all called to be a part of the Family of God, as brothers and sisters in the Lord. That is a powerful realization! Family is not an American idea, or its concept. It was created BY GOD! When did we become ‘Super Chickens’? Much of the way we “do church” today could be described as being focused solely on “the production.” If so, that causes people to feel they have no personal value. Jesus Christ says you have value!
So now that we understand what ‘Social Capital’ is, described by Margaret Heffernan, what does this look like applied to our lives? Hefferan continues in her talk by using these words, “It means that time is everything, because social capital compounds with time. So, teams that work together longer get better because it takes time to develop the trust you need for real candor and openness. And time, is what builds value.” There are no microwave relationships. Family takes time. It takes time to build relationships. This is also the very essence of what Dr. John Van Epp writes about in his book, How to Avoid Falling in Love with a Jerk. Relationships take time. Good relationships take time. Dr. Epp uses an equation to sum up this truth: I= T+T+T. In other words, “Intimacy = Talking + Togetherness + Time. Talking with someone is not just waiting for the other person to stop talking, so you can talk, but equal self-disclosure. Part of knowing someone is learning new things about them and sharing things about yourself. Togetherness is shared experiences in an array of different circumstances and environment. Time is just that, over a PROLONGED period of time. You can’t rush intimacy, relationships. Life is more productive and fulfilling when you slow down to build relationships with others. It’s impossible to truly trust someone that you don’t know anything about.
If it takes time to build healthy relationships, to build a healthy family, it’s the same if we want to build a healthy church family. It takes time. Once we get together, gather with other believers who love God, and love other people, and want to follow God, we can begin to get to know each other. We can rely on each other more and more and be committed to one another. Empathy can happen in a time like that. Hearing one another is healing one another. Many people are paralyzed because they are trying to do the ‘Super Chicken’ thing. Many people in the church don’t feel successful because they are not reaching 500, or 1,000, or 50,000. If you are speaking to one person, reaching that one person, that means THE WORLD to that one person.
When a particular woman was in desperate need of a breakthrough in her life, God moved mightily in the specific area that she needed it. She needed a car, a job, and that job needed to be specific hours so that she could take care of her son. Not only did God bless her with a car, but it was a sports car that was PAID OFF, He gave a job with the very hours that she needed, and ALL OF THIS happened on her BIRTHDAY! This is the God that we serve! How awesome is that!
When we continue to look at how much an environment changes when we focus on relationships, or as Margaret Heffernan puts it, ‘Social Capital,’ we begin to see the value that we may have been missing for a long time. Heffernan continues to talk about how this ‘Social Capital’ focus transformed a company. “When Alex Pentlen suggested to one company that they synchronize coffee breaks, so that people would have time to talk to each other, profits went up $15 Million and employee satisfaction went up 10%. Not a bad return on social capital, which compounds even as you spend it.” Imagine if you had the time to talk to the person who you’ve been sitting next to on the pew for ten years, and asking them about their life, and being asked about your life? This is about you being fruitful for Jesus.
Think about how many people think that relationships get in the way of their production? If we focus entirely on production, the task at hand, we will lose sight of the people around us, our relationships. When the truth is, if we forget the people around us and “focus on production,” production or fruitfulness will be what suffers along with the relationships. The cost is production or fruitfulness. We cannot be overly focused on one at the cost of losing the other. This is the very essence of what Dr. Henry Cloud writes about in a portion of his book, Integrity: The Courage to Meet the Demands of Your Reality. Every boat has a wake. You can easily look at a wake and the wake will tell you a lot about the boat. Is it an aircraft carrier moving steadily through the water or is it a 20-foot ski boat turning back and forth through the water?
The truth of the matter is this: we all have wakes and our wakes don’t lie. Every wake has two sides, one side of the wake is our tasks, and the other side of our wake is our relationships. Some people are production masters, ‘Super Chickens.’ Others are great at nurturing relationships, but they may not get much done. Just because you got a lot done, in reality it may not be worth it when you steamrolled an entire department just to complete a project. God has called us to focus on relationships in the context of our lives. God is not focused on our timelines, as He is focused on His timeline. Those ‘Jesus encounters,’ opportunities to love people like Jesus did, often happen at our most rushed, task-focused, moments in our lives.
It is important to realize that God sees YOU in your everyday life. You are not lost in the crowd. God cares about you and wants to know you personally, intimately. Often times, we don’t know that. We think that God is so big and indescribable, how could GOD see me or even care about what is going on in my life? That IS the Gospel. God WANTS to know YOU. This is the same reality that Granger Smith had when he suddenly realized that Jesus loves HIM and wanted a relationship with HIM. When listening to a preacher talk about the words of Jesus, an instantaneous change happened in Granger’s life. As he shares, “something about that, right then, I can’t explain totally what happened, but my eyes were opened. It’s like amazing grace, how ‘once I was blind but now I see.’ The floodgates opened for me.” Granger was suddenly overcome with wanting to know more about God. “Father save me. I want to seek you. I want to follow you. I want to learn you. I want to pursue you. I want to crave you. I want to desire you. Make me hunger for you. Make me thirst for you. Make me ache for you. Take my life. Do what you please. I’m your servant. I’m your sheep. Father, I’m your child. I’m yours.” Granger continues to talk about the reality of that moment. “Now later I learned what happened, I was reborn.” Today is your day. You can call out to Jesus Christ just like Granger Smith did and invite him into your life, and be born again in Christ. Make a decision for God today!