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Principles of Organization from Early Christianity Applied to Management Today Essay

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This paper looks at the organizational structure of the early Christian communities and highlights the ways in which mission and vision played central guiding roles in the maintenance of these communities. It also shows how these communities had clear leaders and how the morale of the communities was supported through the celebration and honoring of the martyrs, whose relics were preserved in shrines. The paper then explains how these principles can be applied to an organization today.


Organizational structure is something every organization must address in order to maximize its power and reach its potential. The organization that lacks definition and order will likely be one that fails. The early Church communities provide an example of how an organization can succeed even in the face of a hostile environment. By analyzing the structure of these communities, one can see how mission, vision, networking and leadership all helped to give the early Church a sense of purpose and place and to keep it going in the right direction towards its goal. This paper will describe what can be learned from the early Church communities in terms of organizational structure and how those principles can be applied to a contemporary organization today.

Organizational Structure

The early Church communities existed within a hierarchical structure though in terms of faith everyone was viewed as equal—for as Brown (1981) points out, “differences of class and education played no significant role” in the development of these communities and the religious rituals that they partook in (p. 19). What united these people was their faith in the vision and the mission of the Church. Just like any organization today is full of diverse workers who unite and rally around the mission and vision of the organization, the organization of the early Church had a unifying vision and mission, both expressed through the Church leaders—i.e., the Apostles and their descendents (the pope, bishops, priests and monks). The Church leaders were granted a great deal of authority in overseeing these communities because it was through them that the faith was taught and the vision communicated and the sacraments received and the rituals conducted.

These communities also operated under a basic economic system of what would today be called distributism, as described in Acts 4:32: “All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions was their own, but they shared everything they had.” Indeed, as Henry notes in his Commentary, “they had all things common; for there was not any among them who lacked, care was taken for their supply. The money was laid at the apostles' feet,” and the Church leaders determined how it should be distributed among the members of the faithful, going as it did to those in need.

But as Brown (1981) also notes, the gap between the poor and the wealthy was also bridged by the faith they shared and the teaching they embraced regarding their sisterhood and brotherhood in Christ. In the early Church communities there was no sense of a poor Christian being oppressed by a wealthy Christian for the doctrine they received was based on charity and respect for all. Thus, the wealthy and poor mingled and became as one, and the wealthy used their resources to facilitate the practice of the religious rites, turning parts of their homes, or their gardens, or their cemeteries into shrines for the saints or places of worship where the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass could be offered (Brown, 1981).

The faith was especially important in facilitating the organization of these communities…

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…identified and honored with respect, while at the same time the leaders have to implement a type of leadership style that follows in the servant leadership tradition. This approach to leadership is about empowering others and helping them to reach their potential as self-actualized human beings. Leaders who act in this way create great workplace environments where morale is high and workers are supported so that they can do the jobs they were hired to do with confidence and eagerness. One example of this type of organization is Virgin, where Richard Branson has created an organization that thrives on his version of leadership, which blends charismatic and servant styles (De Vries, 1998).

The early Christian communities also show how organizational structure is important in terms of having a positive culture. Culture comes from learning and passing on to others what one has received. Thus, if a Christian leader deviated from what had been passed down, it caused problems in the community. An organization has to make sure that the same principles are being applied, communicated and put in practice across the board so that silos can be eliminated and the workplace can have one culture, with one vision, and one sense of how to achieve the goal.


Organizational structure is vital to the success of an organization and a good example of how that structure can come into being can be found in the early Christian communities, where morale, vision, mission, leadership, culture and networking all came together through tight-knit, focused, inspired and self-actualized pockets of faith. Today’s organizations should focus on achieving the same type of set-up by emphasizing the development of culture through the expression of a clear and unifying vision, a mission that is realistic, a management style that allows workers to celebrate victories and maintain a…

Sample Source(s) Used


Brown, P. (1981). The Cult of the Saints: Its Rise and Function in Latin Christianity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Daft, R. L. (2013). Organization theory & design. Mason, OH: South-Western Cengage Learning.

De Vries, M. F. K. (1998). Charisma in action: The transformational abilities of Virgin's Richard Branson and ABB's Percy Barnevik. Organizational Dynamics, 26(3), 7-21.

Henry, M. (n.d.). Acts 4 Matthew Henry's Commentary. Retrieved from

Kotter, J. P. (2012). Accelerate! Harvard Business Review, 90(11), 44–58.

Price, J. (2012). Structured to Flourish: Organization Design Lessons from the Early Church. Journal of Strategic Leadership, 4, 42-47.

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