Movement, Church or Business?

Direction-road-maze

By John Redmond

IMG_9544There is an old movie called The Poseidon Adventure, where a passenger ship has an accident and capsizes.  The passengers are all freaked out and although there is trapped air to breathe for a while, everything is upside down and all the passengers have different ideas about the best way out though multiple, dark, inverted passageways. Groups of them argue and head off in different directions, most coming to a cold and lonely end.

Feel a shiver?

Our organization is heading off in many directions. Some want to build churches along the Christian “praise church” model, with home churches becoming traditional churches becoming megachurches.  Others produce banquet events, seeking to publicize aspects of Unification values.  Still others have gone to the business world seeking to make a foundation for a future time when the money will be spent well.

Most of the second generation seem to have decided to focus on careers.  They are certain that their inheritance is going to include a lot of flowery words but not much money, so they have decided to focus on education and jobs.  They are getting careers and families in a place where they can at least take care of themselves and perhaps their elderly parents. The American church is also currently focused on functioning on a tight budget. Many members are just trying to hold on to their families and get a family level victory, to find some part of the Principle that means something to their children.

All of these are worthy activities, and necessary to the survival of the Unification phenomena.  What is missing is a collective sense of direction and purpose.  Why are we doing all this?  What is the larger mission or vision that pulls all these elements together to let them work as one?

In the past, we would wait for Rev. Moon to give the direction, to tie the pieces together for us. Many times the directions from Rev. Moon seemed inexplicable to the Western mind, yet when they worked they made sense, so we surrendered our own opinion in favor of his.  Recent leadership decisions have made it clear that blessed central families have to take a more mature and responsible role in the direction of our church and not presume that everyone automatically has the depth and breadth of vision of Reverend Moon.

The Unification vision includes many activities and levels of contribution.  On the individual level, personal salvation, perfection or completion of character is a big one. On the family level it is creating a true family, where love is created by all the relationships, the school of love.   On a tribal level, we are all part of the proverbial village it takes to raise a child.  Nationally, our country is to serve the world in righteousness and should influence national policies to guide the nation towards God’s ideal. The world?  An interdependent body of nations and peoples that harmonize together to create a constructive whole where God is present and honored.   Taken together these constitute a blueprint for our future.  One way or another, soon, or in many years, this is God’s intention and our mission.  Oddly enough, this vision is still the thing even our most cynical children find valuable.

This vision will not happen by itself. While we may feel that our spiritual foundation will be enough to influence the world toward goodness, that all we have to do is wait for the Pentecost, history doesn’t bear that out.  Christianity was assisted by the Holy Spirit, but Paul did the hard work of taking a small regional sect and making it a player in the most powerful nation of the day, and it didn’t happen without discussion and argument.  Peter and the original disciples opposed him until Jerusalem was destroyed by the Romans.

When the Hebrews went into Canaan, they weren’t welcomed or invited to a discussion, they had to fight their way in (the first generation was such an obstacle that God didn’t move until they had all died off).   The skills required to faithfully follow someone through the desert and the skills and basic mindset necessary to build an organization that change the world are different.

The Unification vision is huge. It includes the whole world, each person in it and all their ancestors.  If one is going to make any effort toward improving the world, this is about as big as one can dream.  Reverend Moon planted foundational organizations at every point on the compass of this vision.  He hoped they would prosper and mostly they haven’t, but the fact that he spent treasure and time on them is significant.  The reality is that our tactics, follow up and professional coordination have been insufficient to grow and develop those entities. By any objective measure, most of these organizations have failed to reach their goals in a substantial way.

There are several ways to deal with defeat. One is to lay down and die, another is to run away, and a third is a fighting retreat. While we cannot claim a total victory, there is no reason to write off all our effort and live as losers.

Dr. Hak Ja Han Moon has identified a focus on rebuilding our core membership and a body of Unificationists that are faithful to the Unification vision. She has pulled back from the more exotic aspects of our foundation, for instance selling our champion Korean professional soccer team, and she has sought to rekindle the original spirit of the movement, to remind us of our roots.  This is a good step and reasonable, given our current organizational situation.  Having said that, we need to also salvage our nascent enterprises and begin new ones that lead to concrete success in the world.

If we are just a church, that narrows our appeal immensely. Who wants to join a church that promises you salvation through the blessing, but seems disengaged from the world?  How about a church that has very successful businesses and lots of big buildings, but many of its children disassociate?  If we focus on gatherings where speeches are made and pictures are taken but no real dialogue takes place, we also fall short of the vision.  By themselves, none of these activities will bear fruit.  Only when they are integrated into a functional strategic plan do any of these activities work to accomplish the Unification vision.

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When a business consultant advises a struggling corporation, one of the first questions he or she asks is: “What do you do best? What product or service do you have that is better than all your competitors?”  While a company may do many things well, there is usually one area where they excel, and that defines them.  When IBM reinvented itself in the 1990s, it went from the leading computer hardware company in the world to the leading custom software company in the world.  IBM’s key skill was not computers, but identifying problems that computer software can solve.  With a lot of planning, work and effort they turned this asset into a business model that paid them to do what they excelled at.

So what is the best of the Unification Movement?  There are many better-functioning churches, only a few of our remaining businesses run well, and social movements — like gay rights advocates, for one — have completely out-organized us and achieved the kind of social dominance that we should envy.

We have a collection of the some of the best ideas in history contained in the Divine Principle, Unification Thought and Reverend Moon’s commentaries. We have Reverend and Mrs. Moon, who have fulfilled the role of True Parents and are an example of what we teach.  Our job is to translate these into bite-sized pieces, make it available to the culture and live our words through our families.  This is the product and potential value that no one else has, and managed properly, will be a great gift to the world and to God.

Once the business consultant has identified the opportunity, the whole organization should develop the tactics and plans to make this happen.  A strategic plan created in corporate headquarters without involving the members is dead on arrival.  To be successful at fulfilling our vision, we will need a functioning church, good businesses and a good strategic communications plan for the whole movement.  This is not an impossible goal. These are basic business and management skills that need to be creatively applied to our movement.

The alternative is to quietly stay at home, waiting for someone else to address this, or to fall apart —  neither of which says good things about American Unificationists.♦

John Redmond is Chief Financial Officer at UTS, and has served in CARP, AFC, and spent ten years in higher education in Colorado. He is the proud father of four interesting children, and has high expectations for the American Unification movement.

5 thoughts on “Movement, Church or Business?

  1. Regardless of the application, anytime we see the four-position foundation, the uppermost circle always has the same concept: Purpose. When this extends to Origin-Division-Union dynamics, the assessment of the resulting “union” is based on how well it reflects the original purpose. Thus, the value of the give and take depends on how it moves toward that resulting union. Two factors thus become involved: is the interaction focused on the original purpose and, more importantly, what is the motivation behind the original purpose.

    As John has noted, special interest groups seem to be gaining attention, for in many ways they allow others to justify their own special interest pursuits. It is a strong temptation and often the underlying motivation is not examined closely, for we live in a “postmodern” age, where absolute truths and associated absolute values have been deemed a myth.

    During the years while I worked in church-related business “missions,” we often made decisions based on “spiritual” bases to fulfill the providential needs related to the underlying mission purpose. However, when it came time to report our progress, it was based purely on the financial statement. It was very frustrating to be asked to make decisions based on one purpose but to be assessed by another standard. Due to such assessment methods, it was very tempting to focus on the aspects of assessment being applied rather than the original mission purpose. Ideally those “spiritual” aspects should have been the criteria for “value” of our activities.

    I see similar issues at play in my classes. Although students profess to be attending school for the learning and knowledge, the obsession over grades tends to distract them from that original purpose. Thus, the question “Will it be on the test?” gets the attention, while the question “Will this help me in life?” tends to be ignored.

    This is not just at the classroom level. Administration has become so concerned about the bottom line, that it is now the primary “bottom line” (hopefully this attitude will “bottom out” soon as we see the levels of American education sinking lower and lower). Schools are now taking the “business model” approach to education and terms such as “assessment outcomes” based on standardized tests, “return on investment,” and “revenue stream” now hold primary influence on the college curriculum.

    When Thomas Jefferson and the Founding Fathers considered the “separation of church and state,” the emphasis was on preventing the secular/external from dominating the spiritual/internal. Current practices and attitudes have allowed that concept to be turned backwards into establishing what it was intended to prevent. There, with the grace of God, we shouldn’t go. Soon we will celebrate Martin Luther King, Jr.’s life and his “I have a dream” vision. It is always a good time to reflect on our own perspectives of God’s Dream.

  2. Thanks to John for articulating and discerning some of what is going on in the Movement today. I am always dazzled by his gift for writing and connecting with cultural references and ideas. But, as an ardent reader of literature, I have seen that even the highest well-intentioned rhetoric and art is not in itself what can be most trusted in human activities. It is, in the end, what actions follow from a sincere consciousness and how the heart of living for God and others is what matters in one’s actions. So, in response to the question of where to go from here, I would say a few things.

    One of the hopes of our founder is that second generation and younger leaders would be less fettered by egoistic consciousness and power problems than we have seen in the past. It is not just a budgetary reason for this providential need in the change of leadership.

    We did see a centralized mission mobilized in the CAUSA movement that utilized a central message in faith, family and freedom. It worked for a leadership that was not yet tasked with raising and supporting children.

    Although we cannot and should not return to that model exactly, we can develop certain mission branches of the movement that can reach out to those who feel called to work within needed mission areas. It is best to encourage creating these branches organically and geographically where people can relate in community rather than through leaders just imposing things from above.

    2014 may well be the year for this kind of mobilization of many people of conscience and faith to deal with the current challenges in our nation. We have many tools at hand….media, publications, communities, partnerships, etc.

    Those who feel called and can creatively take responsibility to develop partnerships and encourage others are real leaders. Listen to those around you and value all voices….not just the established UC officials. Who knows how God may speak if we will listen to those around us….young people, those without Ph.D.’s, neighbors, friends, women… and men, the village clerk, people of other faiths, cultures and countries….

    I agree with Walter, we are seeing secular trends mask the real essence of our being in many spheres of life.

    Recently, a 2012 video series with actor Kirk Cameron, entitled “Monumental: Restoring America as the Land of Liberty,” inspired me to feel more connected to the heart of getting beneath the veil of sophistication and secularism that some of our educational trends aspire to.

    True Mother asked us to learn to follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Our late UTS President, Dr. David S.C. Kim, said that “not just absolute faith, obedience and unity, but also absolute creativity is what we need!” I am praying for guidance from God.

  3. I appreciate John’s analysis and Walter and Donna’s contributions. I have thought and felt for a long time that “translating” the Principle into a practical “how to” perspective is critical. I have found that even in, and perhaps, especially in the UC, people are very leery of absolute applications of truth. I believe that this attitude is both unconsciously adopted from the larger secular society, and unhelpful in accomplishing the goals that John elucidated.

    When a person or organization has experienced an extended time period with one overriding cultural element as the norm (such as the organizational relationship John mentioned above with Rev. Moon), there is a great tendency to swing to the other extreme, e.g., “No one is going to tell me what to do or think!” My expression may be a bit “over the top,” but I believe it accurately expresses, to some degree the attitude of many of the movement’s members at this time. There are valid reasons for much of this attitude, but in the long run, such individualism will simply play into the hands of our spiritual and physical opponents. New, practical expressions of truth (absolute truth, I believe) will emerge from our current internally hollow Movement. It is my hope that we will be able to find the faith and hope to apply them when they do.

    We have spent a half-century developing the internal and external structure to build the Kingdom of Heaven on Earth; I believe we will see the fulfillment of that manifestation. It is a mission that naturally will take quite a few years, decades and centuries to fully manifest, but a “working model” is surely feasible.

    At the moment we are involved in a naturally confusing time after the founder’s passing to spirit world, and quite a bit of the underlying tensions held at bay by the force of his personality and spiritual condition have “let loose.” This is a temporary situation. As we work through this time of troubles, we will see God’s will as it comes to be expressed in a more substantial, practical way.

  4. Great article. You have articulated what many of us having been pondering.

    Saw a quote recently that said, “Great visions often become movements, then businesses, then rackets.” Hopefully, ours can avoid that pitfall.

    There are many critics of our movement who say we are already there. They point at the troubles and feel great justification in their lives for that criticism.

    There are so many difficulties it can seem overwhelming, where indeed some of us either want to quit or die, but in the end this is a season, the winter, where nothing seems to move or grow. Everything seems cold and dead. But soon the warmth of spring will come and new growth will come forth where least expected. The Christian movement went through much worse after Jesus’ ascension.

    In John Foxe’s famous book Christian Martyrs of the World, he opens by stating that Jesus called Peter a rock on which he would build his Church — a Church that even the gates of hell would not be able to defeat. He continues that the Church would be persecuted, not only by the world, but also by all the powers of hell. But that despite its persecutions, the Church would survive. Seeing the scorched landscape of our movement, it should be obvious that all the fires of hell have been blazing across it.

    I believe our movement will survive and new growth will come in its season. It may however take the Pauls to make our movement thrive. By Pauls I mean those who were not there to actually know and attend Christ in his lifetime, but who would have such a profound personal experience with Christ as Paul did. That personal experience was strong enough to carry him through all of his work and to the very end when he was beheaded.

    It takes an extremely special kind of person to have recognized our True Parents and devote our lives to them in the way we did. We may be the Peters of our movement, but it may take a different kind of person now to take that and build it into what we envision. Just as Rome wasn’t built in a day, so the Kingdom won’t be either.

  5. I would like to add a comment to Kim’s comment on this article. During Jesus’ ministry, if John the Baptist had united with Jesus, his mission would have been much easier. Everything would have progressed naturally. More than likely, Jesus would have married and established the position of True Parents in his lifetime. There is a quote attributed to Jesus that “men of force” would be needed to take up the mission and witness aggressively to progress the Kingdom of Heaven.

    In Reverend Moon’s ministry as well, people of John the Baptist’s calibre should have cooperated and attended True Father, such as great Christian leaders, etc., but this did not occur. True Father found people like our first generation — wonderful people with lots of rough edges and unique strong characters to make the foundation for True Parents. Particularly our older first generation have this kind of pioneering spirit. This strength is also our weakness as we find it very difficult to unite at this time of God’s Providence. Let’s hope and pray for the education of a new kind of second generation leader to lead the Providence in this age…a new kind of prepared people, a new kind of John the Baptist with the right temperament to witness naturally and spread God’s truth and foundation.

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