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Should Your Church Be More Like the Mafia

Can you think of any organization that better fosters commitment and loyalty?

“Just when I thought I was out, they pull me back in!”

Though the title is tongue-in-cheek, La Cosa Nostra, as an organization, though criminal, creates for its members a sense of identity, belonging, purpose, and deep commitment. Here’s why:

They Know What They Do. There’s no ambiguity about the mission, and no uncertainty about what should and shouldn’t happen. The leadership structure is clear, unambiguous, and defined. They askew distractions – such as side deals and working outside of certain constrains and neighborhoods – and resist petty arguments. They do what they do. And they do it better than anyone else.

They Know What They Don’t Do. For years, drug dealing was outlawed within the mafia.  The saying was, “If you deal, you die.” Dealing drugs, though lucrative, brought too much attention to a secretive organization and wasn’t worth the heat. They knew what they were not going to do which allowed them to continue doing what they did well even better.

They Tend Their Neighborhood. Too many churches have forgotten their best potential audience: their neighbors. We allow podcasts, Twitter, Facebook, and all things “Interweb” to distract us from opportunities across the street. Yet God is pretty clear about that whole “love your neighbor” thing. For years the mob enjoyed the protection of their neighbors because their presence was a benefit to their neighbors. The mob invested earnings back into the local community. This means giving things away to your church’s neighbors.

They Do “Favors”: Favors Build Loyalty. The Mob built their empire on “doing favors.” Unfortunately, many churches only want to extract from their communities and members. Your church needs to do things for the community while expecting nothing in return. This is how you build trust, respect, and, oh yeah, loyalty.

They Remind People of the Consequences. In the mob, the consequence for those who wouldn’t “play ball” was harsh. How much worse is it when churches lose sight of the consequences of their failure to join God’s mission. There are bad consequences — in both this life and the next — when we fail to make people an offer they shouldn’t refuse.

What do you think? Other than the guns, intimidation, death, assault, and general criminality what else can the church learn from the mafia?

  • Amy Palmer

    Sean,
    You are so creative! Relating mafia and church??! OK, how about this: When joining the mafia family, one participated in a ritual that pledged their loyalty to the family, usually it involved blood. But whatever the ritual was, they entered into the family, committing their lives to the family. As God’s family are we a fully committed member of that family?

  • Damien Barber

    “Your church needs to do things for the community while expecting nothing in return.”

    But the Mafia always expected something in return for their “favors”… just saying.

    Interesting blog though.

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