Available in the Veritas series: Being the Body of Christ in the Age of Management, by Lyndon Shakespeare.
“The church needs effective leaders.”
“We must be more missional.”
“Better organization is required.”
Such sentiments are commonplace among Christians concerned with the health and sustainability of their local church as well as the church universal. Over the past thirty years, the desire for more efficiently run, effectively led, and organizationally sound churches has contributed to an approach to thinking about the church in terms uncritically assumed from the business and management sector. This has given rise to treating the church as if it were just another social body in need of better organization. The question is, what happens when we apply the logic of management techniques to an organization that identifies as the body of Christ?
Drawing on organizational theory, theological anthropology, and sacramental theology, this book navigates a path for Christians that avoids reducing the church to just another organization, while providing a vision for the church as the social body where all are invited to connect and be made members of Christ and each other. Such a vision provides an alternative to the social categorization that would define the church by its organizational character rather than its eschatological destiny.
“Lyndon Shakespeare brings remarkable erudition to his argument for the recovery of the body of Christ as an ecclesial designation. As part of that argument he makes clear that we must recover an understanding of the body that challenges the managerial body that so dominates contemporary literature.” — Stanley Hauerwas, Gilbert T. Rowe Professor Emeritus of Divinity and Law, Duke University
“Being the Body of Christ in the Age of Management isn’t just a critique of how the church thinks when it loses confidence in theology, nor is it only an excavation of the philosophy behind managerialism. It’s a joyful meditation on the church as the body of Christ, with a life that’s received from, animated by, and ordered towards God. The detailed analysis is meticulous, and the large-scale message could not be more timely.” — Andrew Davison, Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences, University of Cambridge
“To govern the Church by neoliberal criteria of supposed ‘efficiency’ is surely a mode of ‘corpolatry’ that substitutes the body of an idol for the body of Christ, just as ‘idolatry’ substitutes the face of an idol for the face of God in Christ. This new book makes such a case in a very powerful manner, while also explaining why the grasp of secular organization theory by current church leaders is rather poor in any case. Shakespeare issues, in effect, a clarion call to all seriously able and visionary clergy and theologians to now find ways to seize the initiative from the semi-talented and conformist liberal careerists who are so sadly to the fore in the churches, obscuring the real Christian cultural and intellectual revival that is underway in Europe and the Americas.” — John Milbank, Research Professor Emeritus of Religion, Ethics, and Politics at the University of Nottingham, England
“Lyndon Shakespeare’s book is a timely and intriguing response to the crisis of confidence in practical theology. Rooted in a thorough awareness of the latest management fads, the demands of pastoral ministry, and a wise application of the traditions of Christian theology, Shakespeare is able to navigate a way forward that reflects both reality and a prophetic challenge to the nostrums of our day. Highly recommended.” — Justin Lewis-Anthony, Associate Dean of Students and Director of Anglican Studies at Virginia Theological Seminary
“This book is a gift. It is a gift for people who sing in churches, people who write about churches, people who stand up and speak about the Bible in churches, and anyone who loves someone who loves a church. Lyndon Shakespeare has engaged the various schemes for saving mainline-Christianity with patient lucidity. The book takes seriously ideas that have saturated my own denomination, helping anyone who has sat through a strategy or mission-marketing meeting to name their unease. Management-think is not an inevitable, natural evolution of human ingenuity. This way of describing and prescribing has a context and a history. Shakespeare’s close reading of Thomas Aquinas is beautiful and clear: to divide up the body of Christ into niche markets is not only to make a category error, but to dismember ourselves. To paraphrase Karl Barth, mainline marketing strategies have taught us to trade our inheritance of infinite grace, flowing in abundance at Holy Communion, for a set of prepackaged granola bars. This book reminds Christians where we are when we worship God–held together mysteriously, unaccountably, and immeasurably the body.” — Amy Laura Hall, Associate Professor of Christian Ethics, Duke University