"The time is fulfilled; the kingdom of God is at hand: repent ye, and believe the good news." — Mark 1:15
The Revolutionary GospelThe time is fulfilled, the time is now. Jesus' first words in the first gospel ring out as a revolutionary's call to personal and societal transformation in the face of oppression. Everything about Mark's gospel confronts authority, whether Roman imperialism or Jewish law, neither is sacred. The very use of the term gospel in the opening line (Mark 1:1) is an indicator of what is to come. The greek term euangelion which also translates as 'good news' or 'glad tidings' was used by the Roman rulers to announce their own triumphs. e.g. battle victories or royal births. Mark appropriates the term, thus immediately asking the reader to reassess what is considered 'good'. The radical, and risky nature of this challenge in the context of Rome should not be underestimated. Mark was not setting out to appease authority, nor integrate in any way. The first gospel is a political manifesto for grass-roots revolution.
The text uses subversive language, words and symbols, to conceal their true meanings from the imperial authorities. Stories of possession, parables of land ownership and tenant farming are metaphors for occupation and non-violent resistance. Much of this work has lessons of relevance to the efforts of change agents attempting to transform the world of work. What can we learn from this ancient text?
The Workplace Revolution
We don't like the word revolution in the corporate world. It makes us uneasy. And the more power we have in the hierarchical structure the more uneasy it makes us. Perhaps with justification, as the term has come to mean "violent overthrow". We prefer to talk of transformation, which is altogether gentler.
But not all revolutions are violent; consider the UK suffragette movement of the 1910s, the USA grape-picker's hunger strike in the 1960's, the GDR's peaceful protest leading to the fall of the Berlin Wall, and the many sit-ins, sing-ins or hunger strikes that have shifted the balance of power.
"Be watchful, stay awake." — Mark 13:33
In times of stagnation and dutiful compliance revolution is necessary to wake people up. Transformation without revolution, without some kind of a breakdown is likely to be fragile, insipid and easily reversed because we are all still half asleep, complacent, and comfortable in the status quo. Perhaps this is why very few (so-called) agents of change have actually witnessed any real, meaningful, persistent change in the corporate world.
A Personal Perspective
I am a Christian, and a student of theology. I am also engaged in the corporate world as a facilitator and teacher. I see scripture as a collection of teaching stories, stories for our time. On occasion I have drawn from both the Old and New Testaments to illustrate ideas in the workshops I've offered. This workshop takes it further, using scripture as a bedrock for understanding both what needs to change and how we might approach such change. Mark's terse, urgent and radical gospel speaks to me in a way perhaps few other Biblical books do at this time. I'd like to share my insights and understanding* of this book, in my ongoing effort to effect change for good in the corporate world.
This workshop is for those engaged in any kind of organisational transformation work. Although teaching from a Christian text the workshop is open to people of all faiths or no faith. While I have no desire to 'secularise' Mark's teaching, participants are of course free to contextualise the work in any way they choose.
It would be helpful to read (or reread) Mark's gospel before attending the workshop. This is not a requirement but would make for a richer group experience. Alternatives to reading the full gospel would be to read a summary, or one of the many commentaries available.
* My reading and understanding of Mark is greatly enhanced by the work of Ched Myers, Marcus Borg and other non-literal, politically progressive and historically-rooted theologians.
Comments from Previous Participants
"Focusing on the Gospel of Mark created opportunity for open discussion regardless of professional or religious background. Exploring an account of one the greatest revolutions of all time gave the participants a chance to develop new and meaningful insights to change management within an organisation. The emphasis on people in the story is contrary to my experience of being inducted into other change management models which I personally found one dimensional and soulless. Tobias creates a safe environment for stimulating discussion and reflection."
— Brian Burke, Head of Strategy and Corporate Development at Horizon Discovery
"Tobias's workshop was a fascinating deep dive into the Gospel of Mark combined with reflections on organisational management and corporate life. I work in education and still found lots of parallels and opportunities to make connections and add to discussion. The group was, as always, an inspiring group of people looking at alternative ways of working.
Tobias's facilitation makes the space feel structured with room for creative meandering. I came away with a totally different perception on the Gospel and how I can integrate the spiritual, and specifically scripture, into my day to day working life. I would highly recommend this workshop for other curious people. It will definitely be unlike any workshop you have done before!"
— Anna-Liisa Springham, secondary school teacher
"I was totally blown away by how easy it was for both secular and religious people alike to explore this scripture and find some eye-opening challenges...The mix of people and beliefs kept everyone's views focussed on seeking fresh perspectives from ancient texts without the religious connotations. A workshop for everybody and 'new' material for new learning. Highly recommended."
— Andrew Spence, Agile Coach
"Tobias guides you to discover answers to everyday challenges from the most unexpected places. This was especially true at the Scripture at Work: Mark workshop where we looked at the current work culture and the deep moaning from within for change, through the lens of powerful storytelling from 2000 years ago.
This in itself was mind blowing! By overlaying such drastically different contexts, he took us through an incredible exploratory journey that resulted in such fresh perspectives, discussions and ideas, leaving everyone energised and with the hope for transformation in their organisations.
No matter what walk of life you are on Tobias creates a safe environment for everyone, be it a theologian or someone who has never opened a bible, to come side by side and take a journey together to create something powerful—perhaps a revolution!"
— Mili Tharakan, Smart Textile Innovator and Inventor
"Thanks Tobias, for yet again a great learning experience & opportunity to connect with people on topics that are seemingly a bit outside of my box."
— Michaela Broeckx, Agile/Lean Coach
Listen to the interview of participants talk about their experience of this workshop: The Scrumblebee Podcast
Image: Preparing for the Revolutionary, Globe Church, South Bank, London
Content: Tobias Mayer, 2016-2021
Page last updated: 27/09/2022