The church is alive. We are the Bride of Christ. We are Christ’s Body. We are living stones. We are a living organism. The church must be left alone to be the organism it is and not made into an organization.
An organization is dead. An organization is like a business. An organization is legislated. An organization can be mapped out, written out, and planned out. It is something to be observed on a chalk board or in a text book. An organism on the other hand, is alive, evolving, unpredictable, ever changing, and constantly growing. An organism such as the church is not to be measured, contrived, pre-determined, calculated or controlled, but rather it is to be lived andexperienced.
Let’s look at a wild animal for example. Let’s take an eagle.
An eagle can spread its wings and fly. It can fly wherever it wants to, it can fly how fast it wants to, and it can fly as high as it wants to fly. It can hunt whatever it wants to hunt. It can hunt when it wants to hunt and where it wants to hunt. This beautiful and organic creature can soar to the highest mountain tops. From the high mountain peaks, it can spot its prey hundreds of feet below and then dive with extreme accuracy to snatch its food from the tiny stream at the bottom.
What if we took this glorious and organic creature and put it in a cage? What if we provided its food for it so it wouldn’t have to hunt anymore? That would be nice and helpful for the animal wouldn’t it? And then, what if we scheduled when it was to eat? What if we also limited where it could go? Yes, in fact we shall build for it a big beautiful building to live in. It will be large, magnificent, and expensive. It will be such a beautiful sanctuary!
Perhaps organic things should not be allowed to roam so free and wild. We should contain them so they will have a proper diet, exercise, and environment to thrive in. We should even hire trained professionals to feed and care for the bird. Because of our modern wisdom and education, we’ve learned what is best for the eagle. We have become experts. The eagle will be much better off in our institutional care than in the care of its natural habitat.
In the above situation, would our eagle still be an eagle? Of course, technically it would still be an eagle. But it would not thrive. It would not live and be how it was intended to live and be. Soon, our magnificent eagle with wither, deteriorate and lose heart. It will not function properly as it should. And by our trying to help it, and enjoy it for ourselves, all we have done is helped it to weaken. Structuring and organizing a living organic thing will stifle it and it could even kill it.
The church is just like an eagle. We try to help it by containing it, packaging it, and over structuring it. We stifle its growth and cause people to lose heart.
Most people have never seen a wild eagle doing what it does in its natural habitat. We only read about wild eagles. The same is true for the church. Very few have ever seen the church functioning in its natural state and at its full potential. We only read about it in the New Testament.
It’s because we’ve put the church in a cage.
What are some things that structure the living church organism and cause it to be an organization? And how does this man made structuring hinder and stifle us?
The churches in the New Testament did not have names. They were only referred to according to the city they were in. Giving a name to a group is probably the biggest thing that changes the church into an organization (refer to “ One Church in a City”). With a name, we create an identity that is separate from others, thus we change the organism into an organization. A checking account, a church bulletin, a board of directors, by-laws, and documented membership lists are all things that create an organization. There are many more things that can do this as well.
Erroneously, there is a very strong need in men to legislate the church. Men want to identify it, categorize it, and organize it using modern Western ways. Instead of just allowing the living church organism to just be whatever it is, men want to be able to get their hands on it so it can be manipulated, easily identified, and managed.
Why can’t we just be people who love Jesus and who are spending time together?
Our Need for an Organization
The answer is found in the words security, having, and being able tocount onsomething. There is not much security in a lose network of Christians who are just spending lots of time together, without a name, without a building, without a regular meeting time, and without a membership list. Who would we be in such a case? What would our identity be? The answer is, we would simply be the people of God. Our name would be “the church of whatever city we happen to be in” (the church in Sacramento, the church in Pasadena, the church in Boston, etc.). Others would know who we are by our intense love for one another, our practice of close community living, and our constant good works. However, we have resorted to other, more modern ways to allow ourselves to know who we are, to let other people know who we are, and to be able to survive and increase our membership.
If you belong to a lose network of Christians who have no legislation, no identifiable name, and who are not an organization, you have nothing that your flesh can count on. With a loose network of relationships that is not packaged, branded, and boxed, there is not much of a feeling of having something you can control or belong to.
First of all, we must begin to understand that the church does not belong to us. Nor does it exist for us. It does not belong to a leader or to any men. The church belongs to Jesus. We exist for Him.
Men want to have something. Men want to build something. Many times, your pastor type people want to build their own kingdoms and say they are building God’s Kingdom. If it were truly God’s Kingdom they were building, they would do it His way and restrict themselves to only New Testament practices, and leave the building up to Jesus. Instead of being so concerned with growing it, building it, and managing it, men should get their hands off the church. If there is no membership list, no clearly identifiable line of those who belong to “us” and those who don’t, then the people in leadership don’t get to experience the feeling of having something to possess and build that is their own.
When we take the organic, living, spontaneous, relationship driven church and formally organize it, thus making it an organization, we kill much of the life and potential for growth. Groups ponder and question all the time how they can grow closer to one another, have more intimacy with one another, and have more spontaneity, yet they continue to depend on a modern system of organization to keep them together. Let me explain how this works and why it is so detrimental:
Cathy has a need. She needs someone in the church to help her do some yard work. In an organization, all she has to do is tell the pastor. He will then approve the need to go into the church bulletin. Anyone who wants to help can then be notified. On the surface, this would seem like a very efficient and effective method of communication. It maybe an efficient system of communication; however it will kill multiple opportunities for spontaneity, for relationships, and for intimacy.
Let’s look how this particular need would be communicated and met with only a living organism of relationships, instead of an organization:
When Cathy feels the need for some help in doing the yard work, she picks up the phone and calls someone. Or, she can make a couple of visits in person to some people who are closest to her in her life. Cathy says to a family while standing in their kitchen, “Hey, I could really use some help with my yard. Could you all maybe find the time to help out sometime?”
What just happened in Cathy’s situation? What does this personal, one-on-one asking accomplish when done in person? What does it accomplish, that a posting in a bulletin on Sunday, would not accomplish? It accomplishes plenty of things. If she communicates her need in person and through relationships only, Cathy gets to have conversations with people. She gets to ask with a vulnerable heart. She gets to stay over for 30 minutes and have a glass of tea. She gets prayed for. She gets to experience someone’s heart on the other end of the conversation. The family that she asks gets to see her and hear her heart. They get to experience her real need as she communicates it as a real person. The people she asks gets to let Cathy know of some needs that they’ve been experiencing as well. The family she is asking also gets prayed for by Cathy. The family she is asking, in turn gets to ask Cathy if she will watch their kids while they go on a date for the evening.
ALL SORTS OF GREAT THINGS HAPPEN WHEN WE DEAL WITH ONE ANOTHER PERSON TO PERSON, FACE TO FACE, AND OFTEN.
Efficient systems and organization tend to separate us from one another. The church will have order, but it will evolve naturally from within.
Let’s look at another example. It is Tuesday afternoon. John and Sharon are hungry for some fellowship. They would both really love to have people over to their house tonight. However, there is a scheduled meeting on the following night, which will be on Wednesday. They decide to go ahead and wait until Wednesday to get with people because in the church organization they belong to, they would have to notify the leadership and then announce the gathering at their house on the church website. Also, typically the way things work in their group, people like to plan things a week or so in advance.
Let’s look at the same situation, but let’s see how it might occur in only an organism or relationships, instead of an organization:
John and Sharon are feeling a need for some fellowship. John and Sharon would then pick up the phone and start making calls that very afternoon. The people they fellowship with are used to spontaneous invitations all of the time. Usually about half of the people they call will probably show up. Many will change their current plans or modify their plans, in order to be with the saints tonight. It doesn’t matter to anyone that there is a regularly scheduled meeting the following night. Many acknowledge the Lord in the invitation.
Apparently, the Lord was really moving in John and Sharon when they felt the need to get the saints together on this particular Tuesday night. Sharon had a really big cry in her that she was unaware of because of some recent difficulties she was having at work. She really needed some counsel and some prayer. A new sister that no one had ever met before also showed up to John and Sharon’s house that night. Several people ministered to the new sister with prayer and by talking through some things. The new sister would not have been able to make the Wednesday meeting on the following night. There was tremendous joy at John and Sharon’s house that night because the people who came, came because they wanted to, not because they had to. Many were so blessed that John and Sharon would personally call them and invite them to their home.
Just think what it would be like if there were no formal man made organization, no system in place to take care of us, no fabricated structure for people to look to and depend on, nothing at all artificial to gather us together, to communicate needs, to make announcements, to tell us where to be, no organization to tell us who we are, when to pray, or when we could meet – but all that we had were relationships to accomplish all of these things. How closely knit and intimate we would become! Just think how many more spontaneous and intimate opportunities we would have to be joined together.
With only relationships to bring us together, what you wind up with is – relationships. With no organization to run the show and to automatically keep things going, you get prayed for and loved on much more often. There are also more real opportunities to serve and bless others. Intimacy, vulnerability and closeness come through much time and much person to person interaction. If we are relating to an organization instead of one another, it will contribute to keeping us apart.
An organization is an artificial method to keep us together and maintain continuity that ends up killing the life within.
Let’s take another example.
Mark Griner is not in leadership in his church. However, Mark Griner loves to study the scriptures and he really has a heart for the growth of the other people in his fellowship. He is feeling stirred to share a teaching with the other members in his congregation. The Lord gave him this message only two days ago. He really senses that the other people he is with need to hear this message. He tells the leadership that he wants to share a message to the group. Since he is not a designated leader, the leadership wants to talk to him first in order to see if the message “fits with what the Lord is doing in the church”. Really they want to screen the message (but they would never use the word “screen”).
Because of scheduling conflicts, it takes about a week for the leader(s) to set up the meeting with Mr. Griner. About a week later they do get together and have a chat. The designated leader(s) feel like the message will be OK to share. (And, they don’t want to say “no,” because they don’t want to be accused of being controlling.) Currently, because the leadership is in the middle of a teaching series, Mr. Griner needs to wait to share his message. Mr. Griner actually shares the message three weeks later. When it comes time for Mr. Griner to actually speak, the message is not quite as fresh in his heart as it used to be. He speaks mostly from memory of what the Lord was showing him almost a month ago, as opposed to what the Lord is showing him now. At the very moment he finished the message, the leadership stood up and took back control of the meeting. There were also a couple of subtle comments made by the leadership to the audience of how they disagreed on a minor point.
It was pretty clear to Mr. Griner that the leadership in the church was more or less “permitting” him to share the message, instead of really wanting and desiring him to share it. The way the whole thing came down and the vibe he got from the leadership was not extremely encouraging. In the future, Mr. Griner will not be quite as eager to dig in the scriptures in order to share teachings with the group.
Let’s look at the same scenario, but within a New Testament environment. What if there were only a living organism of relationships to govern it and not an organization?
Mr. Mark Griner would feel stirred to preach a message to the saints. Immediately, he would bounce it off a few available brothers – any available brothers. He would then call the saints on the phone, or he would go visit each family to tell them about the teaching time and when it was. He would then share the message in a matter of days, full of the Spirit, with plenty of unction, in God’s timing, and in total freedom.
Toward the end of the message, Mr. Griner felt impressed to pray for different people regarding the message he spoke. The message also inspired others to stand up and share testimonies. One young man stood up and confessed a sin. There was tremendous freedom and an atmosphere of healing in the group. Many were blessed and there were multiple breakthroughs that occurred.
Man’s systems of organization dictate to us who is speaking, when they are speaking, and if they get to speak at all. The example of leadership we see in religious organizations is leadership by control, not facilitation. The gifts among us are often stifled and discouraged. In religious organizations, we are often given teachings on how we should be an active and functioning member. We are taught and encouraged to operate and function in our gifts, but then when we do, it is discouraged, frowned upon, or stifled.
Here’s another example.
Frank Parker has a cousin coming to visit him from out of town. It’s his younger cousin, Mark Parker. Mark just received his degree from Bible college. Mark is very excited to share his new knowledge he has learned in Bible college to a group of believers somewhere. Mark Parker asks his cousin Frank if he could share at the men’s group meeting that Frank is regularly a part of. Frank asks his pastor if it is OK for Mark to speak at the men’s meeting. Frank’s pastor tells him “No, it probably wouldn’t be best for Mark to speak at this time.” Frank’s pastor is personally aware that the Bible college cousin Mark graduated from is not really sound in doctrine. Conveniently, there are other things planned for the evening men’s meeting anyway.
Let’s look at this situation and how it would have came down within an organism of New Testament relationships only:
Cousin Mark shows up from out of town. He wants to share at the men’s meeting Frank is a part of. He did not have to get permission. It is an open meeting. There was not even a designated person to get permission from. He begins to share at the meeting. He begins to share unsound doctrine. After he speaks for a while, an older brother in the meeting politely interrupts him. “Excuse me Mark. We sure do appreciate your willingness to share with us. But some of the points and topics you are covering are not exactly how the Lord has shown us to view and relate to those particular scriptures. In other words brother, your faith is not the same as ours concerning those issues. Would it be OK with you, if you and I talked about some of the topics you are bringing after the meeting time?” Cousin Mark replies, “Sir, what scriptures are you referring to specifically?” The older brother explains, “Well brother, again, would it be OK with you if we discussed it at a separate time?”
Cousin Mark finally gets the point. He humbles himself, agrees, and enjoys the rest of the meeting. Or, Cousin Mark may get offended, get real quite for a while, and then walk out of the meeting. The point is that everyone gets an opportunity to observe something, and to learn. The younger brothers felt protected by the older men. They don’t need a system or a hierarchy to protect them, but proper relating and functioning protects the church. Cousin Mark gets a choice to be a humble man, to learn and to grow – or he can be offended – and everyone will get to learn by his bad example. Frank, Mark’s older cousin, gets to humble himself as well. He gets to appreciate and respect the older brother who did such a good job of checking Mark. They grow closer in their relationship because of it.
In the above example, the identity of the group is strengthened. What they believe and the direction the Lord is taking them in is more affirmed, but not by an artificial system. In New Testament body life, there is no comparison as to the intimacy and closeness of relationships that you have, and the growth that occurs as opposed to when an organization is present. As I go and visit religious organizations, the people tend to be distant and separate from one another. They’ve been trained to be that way. There is a system in place that keeps them apart. A system or an organization is pure legislation. Legislation kills most spontaneity. Legislation stifles deep relationships. Legislation hinders many opportunities for growth.
Some may say, “It is actually organization and legislation that brings us together and keeps us together. Without any organization, we would not ever meet or get together.” This is probably true for many groups. If you drop your methods and systems of organization however, you will get to see what you really have. Without methods of organization in place, if no one gets together or pursues one another, you really didn’t have much in the first place. People were probably coming out of obligation or religious reasons. The problem is that people depend and fall back on the system of organization to gather them together, provide teaching, provide music, provide activities and programs, and to keep out false teaching. This promotes passivity in the people. With no system in place to run things, it is up to each member to function and be active in heart – which brings more life, more growth, more learning, and much more quality. You have to risk the very thing you are afraid of.
Traditional churches are full of religious people who just want God’s approval by belonging to the club and attending the club’s meetings and functions. They don’t really want true, meaningful, deep relationships with others, or with God. They just want to do the minimum requirements necessary to cover their base. If you remove the organization that enables them in this behavior, you will see what you really have. Jesus did things to expose the game players all of the time.
An organization tends to replace relationships. People relate to the organization rather than each other. People belong to the organization, instead of each other. People depend on the organization instead of only depending on each other. People give their money to the organization, instead of giving to each other. People invite others to be a part of their organization, instead of inviting others into their lives. People invest in and build up the organization, instead of investing in and building up one another.
The organization is often an idol, a “golden calf” in the hearts of its members. If you currently belong to a religious organization, it would be extremely rare to not hold at least some degree of affinity or allegiance in your heart towards your organization. If you threaten people’s organization, or talk bad about it, the person who belongs to it feels threatened themselves. People have invested their time, their money, their hearts and their lives into building the organization. They do not know how to be, how to belong, or how to function with one another, apart from the organization.
Within an organization, members wonder and ponder how to have more intimacy with the Lord and with one another. So erroneously, they organize a meeting to be held in three weeks and post it in the church bulletin in order to discuss how to have more intimacy. We are addicted to systems. Systems that continually pull the rug right out from under us with what we are trying to accomplish in the first place.
While many are trying to pursue closer and deeper relationships with the Lord and with each other, because they belong to and are relating to an organization, it keeps them from being thrown together in spontaneous ways throughout the week.
Think about it like this. Imagine if you lived in a neighborhood of people with no cars, no phones, and no televisions. You would be forced to naturally relate to, talk to, and communicate with the people in your neighborhood. You would be dependant on one another in many ways for survival. This is currently a true situation for most villages on the planet. Just think how close you would become to the others who lived around you. You would have to get off your couch and go visit someone to borrow a cup of milk, instead of using the car. You would have to round up people and ask for help with various tasks and projects. In the evenings, you would tend to be together with your neighbors, sitting around visiting while watching the kids play, instead of watching TV by yourself in the evening. A few ladies might work together during the day to create meals for their families.
What do we currently have in our modern day and age? Instead of deep relationships with our neighbors, we don’t really need anyone. We have cars, phones and televisions. Because of our lust for convenience and entertainment, these things have largely replaced the need for one another. Some may say that cars and phones have brought us closer together. But, cars and phones have only made us busier and more spread out. We probably know more people and have more relationships, because of the modern conveniences, but our many relationships are now much shallower and we spend less quality time with individuals. Without cars and phones, we would be stuck with just a few, but the quality and depth would be greater.
I am not against technology or modern conveniences. But, just like cars, phones, and televisions are conveniences that actually contribute to more shallow relationships and busier lives; we’ve done the same with the church. We believe that it is much more convenient and efficient to have systems of committees, schedules, bulletins, agendas, boards of directors, treasurers, CEO/ pastor, etc. We are convinced that these things help us, but they do not. We run the church like it was a business. This costs us the very thing we are trying to accomplish. Life together in Jesus! The typical church structure is not much different from a typical business structure you’ll find in corporate America. If you compared say, Exxon’s corporate structure with your average church organization, you would see some amazing similarities.
Again, in a New Testament, body life church, there will be organization. But it will happen naturally an organically. In a living organism of relationships, o rganizing can be done, but it will be accomplished through relationships and through personal interaction.
Forms Should Be Created From the Inside Out
I’m going to get a little theoretical here, but hang with me. It’s important for our understanding.
We must always let the form of something take its shape from the life within itself. The form is never to be created first or sought after first. For example, an apple does not have the same form as an orange. An apple takes the form that it has because of the life within itself. It is in the DNA, if you will, of the apple that causes it to look like and take the outward form of an apple. The DNA of a banana causes it to take the outward form of a banana. Some bananas are a little bigger, some a little shorter, and some a little wider than others. The life that is within each banana causes it to take the shape that it does. The amount of nutrients it gets from the soil, the health of the banana tree it came from, and the amount of rainfall and sunshine all dictate the form the banana will take. The life within, causes the form to take the shape that it does.
The same is true of any living thing. Some dogs are bigger than others because some dogs receive a better diet, some get more exercise, and some have a different heredity. The life within causes the outward form to be whatever it is. The outward container becomes what it is, because that particular container happens to be what is needed to support the life within.
The same should be true for the church. The church is a living organism. The life within it should cause its outward form to take shape. We should never predetermine the outward form ahead of time. It will kill and squelch what it would have turned out to be naturally. To assume upfront what something will look like will hinder it. To establish the form ahead of time will deny it of the natural form it would have taken otherwise.
For example, you may have ten families who are sharing life together in the Lord. Four families out of the ten, may need plenty of time getting to know other people because they are new and don’t know anyone. Because of this, these four families will naturally and organically have it in their hearts to spend plenty of time visiting, talking and sharing with others. They may need many hours together telling stories from the past, asking questions of one another, and comparing notes on different subjects with one another. Three families out of the ten may already know each other well, but the Lord is leading them into a season of praying for personal needs for one another. They will want to get together to pray. They will not be talking together quite as much as the first four families are. Still, there may be a couple of families out of the ten who are really focusing outwardly with ministry and who want to spend a lot of their time together in order to help needy people in the community who need extra clothing and shoes.
Within these ten different families, the varying activities will look a certain way, if it is allowed to be what it is and not controlled. It will take a certain form naturally. There will be different nights of the week when various gatherings take place. Some will be for talking. Some will be for prayer. Some will be for sorting through clothing. There will be various get-togethers with a variety of emphasis. If you were to look at these ten families from the outside, the form and the way it looks will take its shape out of the various Spirit led activities that are happening. The form will not be a cookie cutter form that is patterned after every traditional church organization on every corner in every city. That would be forcing something that is not natural or organically grown.
An organic form allows the life within it to express itself in the most effective way it can.The form takes the shape that it does in order to allow the life within to express itself adequately. If we were to pre-determine what nights of the week these ten families were to get together on and what they were to do when they got together, it would squelch the life and very little of what God would want to accomplish would ever be accomplished. In fact, as the Spirit brought up various things in the hearts of the families, they would tend to discount them because they would get used to not expressing the gifts they have.
An organic, natural flowing form takes it shape because of the needs of the people and because of the desires God puts in their hearts. Every group is different. Every season is different. There are different people in every group with different gifts, different needs, and who are all in different seasons. These things may change every few months. The needs and desires “from the inside out” should dictate the form and what it looks like.
An organic New Testament church lives from the inside out, not the outside in. If you dictate and legislate who gets together, when they get together and what they do when they get together, you will kill most of what could happen that would be so wonderful. Most Christians have never had the privilege of experiencing church life in a free flowing, uncontrolled setting.
Remember, even an extremely lose and well structured man made organization is still an organization. Men must get their hands completely offthe church. Let her be. Let her thrive and do what she does best. Let the Spirit of God dictate what the church looks like, in every city, in every gathering. The church belongs to Jesus. Let it take whatever form it needs to take. Let the needs of the members, the life within, and the passions within the hearts of the people form the structure. A healthy organism will grow and change. The structure must be allowed to grow, change and evolve with the organism. It will look different all of the time. Only a structure that is formed organically, will adequately support, carry and deliver the needs and direction the organism wants to go in.
Over the years, the people I’ve walked with have expressed themselves in various forms. It always looks different from season to season.
It is kind of hard to describe this. But for example, some months we have had a regular meeting time on Saturday night and a regular prayer time on Tuesdays. Everything else during the week was spontaneous. Then a few months later, we will shut down the Saturday meeting and have a Friday night meeting with an emphasis on worship and singing. Then after a while, when it seemed as though the Lord was finished with that, we would have no regular meetings at all for a few months. People will just gather together spontaneously. A brother might call a spontaneous one time teaching for a certain night of the week, a family may open their home for prayer on a particular night. We may all have a cookout with only a two days advance notice. There may be a ski trip planned with a four months notice. There may be a season where there are pockets of people gathering for different reasons. A few sisters may gather regularly to talk and pray together to learn how to love their kids better. A few men may gather together regularly to learn about finances. A couple of families may meet together to read and study a book together. All of this is sprinkled heavily with plenty of evening suppers together, lunches, and spontaneous prayer times.
There are a myriad of different forms that may take place if you allow the life within to dictate the form. Nothing is dead. No one comes because they have to. Nothing is religious. And no meeting is ever exactly the same.
Jesus said that He would build His church. Let’s trust Him to do it the way He wants to.