Foundational Story / Stories

At a personal level we all have stories, some of which we would love to have a measure of amnesia over. The young Martin is an embarrassment – ‘did I really say… no surely that was not me’. (Thankfully I have a birthday soon so will on that day no longer be young… never again to make a mistake. I am ever hopeful that one day soon I will enter the ‘second half of life’.)

Pragmatism. I am where I am today because of the journey I have taken, mistakes, wrong turns included. I am not suggesting ‘fate’ (or predestination!) but I do believe there is a God who works in all things, through all things for redemptive purposes. Some of my foundational stories I have outgrown. They were in Chapter 1 of my book, and I am now in Chapter 10… however, in this post I am going to press into the corporate area.

Many corporations (if they claim to have purpose that does not have money as the bottom line) have a foundational story – the why for which they are doing what they are doing. As time develops (thank you Walter Wink) changes take place, the corporation takes on a personality that if left unchecked is increasingly separate from the founders / foundational story. I have tracked with three organisations where I consider this is the case. I have noted in one of them that around 25 years after the start the foundational story had become unknown by those who joined from that time on.

We can legitimately move on from a foundational story, in the sense of ‘that was the young Martin’ and thankfully I have matured. We can move on by saying – that was at the core but I could not live up to that, so no longer am pushing for that. I have no issue with that. Honesty counts high in the kingdom of God; probably counts higher than getting it right (but what do I know?).

We can move on… but I consider if we move on by simply ignoring it we will find ourselves with a movement / corporation that decides the future, a future that does not fulfil the foundational story but deviates from it.

I am pondering if boards / leadership teams / eldership / blah blah blah have a couple of functions: to ensure the foundational story is alive (even if it has developed and been adapted) so that any movement does not veer off from the foundations (not a good idea for buildings… look at the Temple built on sand: although the claim was it was rock, Jesus spoke of the flood coming and the true foundations would be revealed). And maybe the second aspect is that such a board / leadership is there to hear the voice of the practitioners and seek to ensure that as much as possible is in place to help provide a decent shape for the river to flow. The foundational story brought to a suitable next level but through some centralisation but through the ‘practitioners’. In Ephesians language: growth; filling; built on the foundation of.