"My greatest revelation as a businessman was crystallized in two words," writes Bill Gross in the Harvard Business Review. Just two words: "Let go." Not: "Buy low." Not: "Sell high." Not: "Hold tight." Not: "Cut losses." Just: "Let go." Gross reports that this revelation blasted to bits everything he had come to believe as a businessman. He founded a successful company called Knowledge Adventure; he then gave birth to a new company named Worlds, Incorporated. Gross wanted to hold tight to the new venture and reap the potentially sizable income stream for himself. He battled with his colleagues over the size of their equity stake: He wanted to hold on to 80 percent, and felt defeated when they decided to let him keep only 19.9 percent of the new company's equity. Bill Gross says that he and everyone around him were astonished with what happened. Within a year, Worlds grew almost as large as Knowledge Adventure. Its employees seemed to rise to entirely new heights of creativity and passion - putting in Herculean efforts to close deals, to improve the product and to recruit new star employees. "My earlier reluctance suddenly seemed laughable," Gross admits "Instead of owning 80 percent of a $5 million business, (Knowledge Adventure) I now owned 19.9 percent of a $77 million business"
This new venture was successful because Bill Gross and his colleagues gave away the store. They gave employees near total ownership of Worlds, Incorporated, and in the process unleashed a new level of performance. By entrusting workers with the welfare of the company, they magnified human potential and multiplied economic value. Because he was willing to "let go," Bill Gross discovered that setting employees free and giving them significant equity has a net positive result. Cutting people loose inspires them to do great things - for themselves, and for the home office. This is pretty much what, Luke reports in The Acts, happened on the Day of Pentecost. The apostles had lost their direct, physical contact with Jesus, the founder of their corporation - a corporation that might have been called something like "Discipleship Adventure." Their mentoring program is over, their training by the home office has been concluded, and they are now trying to figure out what to do with themselves. Suddenly, from heaven, there comes a sound like the rush of a violent wind, which fills the entire house where they are sitting. All of them are filled with the Holy Spirit, and enabling them speak in tongues and empowering them for their ministry. A brand-new operation is dumped into their laps: a little start-up we might call “World, Incorporated"! God decides to give the apostles the store: the whole store! Like companies that are giving their employees the business, God fills these followers with the Holy Spirit - a piece of divine equity that grants them power and courage and the ability to communicate with people of many races and nations. The devout Jews of multicultural Jerusalem are immediately amazed and astonished by what they hear from the apostles. "Are not all these who are speaking Galileans?" they ask in bewilderment. "Aren't these just hicks from the hill country?" What they do not realize is that God has put these entry-level workers in the executive suite and given them the assignment of turning their discipleship into a new world changing adventure.
The results are dramatic and decisive. Fired up and empowered with this new authorization, the apostles begin to speak and teach and evangelize as they never have before. Peter raises his voice and addresses the crowd, "Men of Judea and all who live in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and listen to what I say ... this is what was spoken through the prophet Joel: 'In the last days it will be, God declares, that I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy, and your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams'" (Acts 2:14,16,17). He declares that God is pouring out his Spirit ... on all flesh, not just on the man called Jesus ... on all flesh, not just on the prophets ... on all flesh, not just on the devout people of Jerusalem. God is giving away the store to all his faithful people, sons and daughters, young and old, slave and free. Then Peter concludes by saying boldly that "everyone who calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved" (2:21). Not bad for a fellow who, only a few weeks earlier, wouldn't admit that he knew Jesus! "Woman, I do not know him," was his cowardly denial then; now he is preaching the lordship of Jesus to thousands! Being entrusted with this new venture is inspiring Peter to rise to new heights of courage and passion, and the Holy Spirit is unleashing within him a new level of performance. Like an employee-owner, he has a stake in the company's future - so he is going to work harder and smarter. Like an employee-owner, he is being given much - so he is going to give much in return. Like an employee-owner, he is in control of his destiny - so he is going to take a more active role in shaping his future for good. In much the same way, God gives us the store today. The mission has been dropped in our laps, and we are challenged to continue its mission of taking the news of God's power and God's love to people everywhere. The Holy Spirit is ours, empowering us for the work of ministry - it's a Spirit that can inspire us to work harder and smarter, and to shape a more faithful and loving future. God wants us to succeed, because giving us the store is actually good for God's business, good for the emergence of the kingdom of heaven in human life. The prophets and apostles couldn't do it all during their time on earth, so they are counting on us to carry their work forward, and to accomplish something great for the heavenly home office! But does this challenge make you nervous about your chances for success? Businessman Bill Gross says, don't worry about it! He believes that our equity in the company actually increases the probability that we will accomplish our mission.
I think about the mission programs of our church, First UCC, has undertaken in our community as we have been and are empowered by the Holy Spirit.
More than 100 years ago we were among the churches that founded Bethany Home, for children, and Phoebe Home, for seniors. In the 1960s we were in the forefront of the creation of ProJeCt, Inc., a cooperative effort of the Protestant, Catholic and Jewish religious communities. ProJeCt, for nearly 70 years, has been beacon of hope for those who need help in our community. For years the problem of homelessness has been a problem in our region; under the leadership of Rev. John Thomas First UCC led the charge to birth Safe Harbor. More recently Cover the Piggies has been become a hallmark of our mission in Easton. Additionally, we provide gifts for children and families in Easton, collect food for the Food Bank and support the Trinity Soup Kitchen with both volunteers and funding.
We are employee-owners of the mission of Jesus Christ in our community and world; we have the tools we need to succeed. God never lets us go dry, because God gives us all that he has and all that he is. God is with us in Spirit, giving us languages to speak across the barriers of nation and culture. God is with us in Spirit, giving us resources to feed the hungry and house the homeless. God is with us in Spirit, giving us strength and wisdom to work hard and work smart, overcoming the many obstacles we will face as we act out divine dramas in our own homes, workplaces and neighborhoods. Because God has given us the Spirit and let us go, we are free to do great things - for ourselves and for others. The store is ours, so we can step up to a whole new level of performance and productivity, creativity and passion.