In Praise of Institutions

Jim Miller

Linse and Jim Miller

This week Jim Miller, a friend from Sarasota, visited his grandmother and me at Evergreen Place. Jim is owner and chief executive officer of JMX Brands, a company that is unusually successful using the internet to market custom-made furniture fashioned by Amish craftsmen.

Jim and his wife Linse have pulled around them a group of talented people who shared a common hunger for authenticity.  They have created an institution holds and communicates high values.


The JMX Brand staff/team

That, I believe, is what praise worthy institutions are and do. The people who drive them are significant.  A common passion moves them.  Jim describes it as a “hunger.”  The passion sometimes compels an institution to work with other institutions for mutual benefit, and sometimes to compete.

In past posts I’ve tried to distinguish between the many institutional churches and the One Church   Someone with a same sex orientation revealed recently that he had been born into a Mennonite family.

Searching for acceptance, he left the Mennonite Church for the Lutheran Church, left the Lutheran Church for the Episcopal Church. He returned to the Mennonite Church only to leave it again to return to the Episcopal Church.

I asked him if in crossing all these institutional boundaries did he ever leave the One Church. His response was a hearty “No”. (I wonder if he’s been reading my posts.}

As a young conference executive I was surprised to learn that in Florida an informal group could buy property, but could not sell it.  So I helped growing churches to institutionalize. Really, my whole life has been lived within institutions, civic and otherwise.

Mennonite EconomicToday I reside in an institution called Greencroft Retirement Communities, Inc.  I receive a pension from Eastern Mennonite Missions and retirement benefits through Everance. And then there is Social Security from the United States government, the largest institution of all.
Jm Miller is now bringing his knowledge and skill to the Mennonite church by accepting appointments to the boards of Mennonite Economic Development Associates and the Anabaptist Mennonite Biblical Seminary.  I applaud him and the institutions he serves.


About Martin Lehman

I was born 92 years ago, the son of a Mennonite pastor and organic gardener in Franklin County, Pennsylvania. At age 10 I was baptized as a member of the Marion Mennonite Church. I own the "Old Fool" moniker because I want to walk the Jesus Way even though the world and much of the church takes me as a fool for doing so. In my life I have moved from being a young conservative to an elderly radical. I tell that story in My Faith Journey posted on my website.
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