Several months ago, in a post called “The Church or the Organization?“, I wrote about an example from a book in which I believe the organization was given precedence over the church (“church” = “people”). This post was in the context of the role of the pastor. I suggested that, according to Scripture, the pastor should care for people, not tend an organization. In my final paragraph, I said:
Our desire should be to grow the people (edify the body), not to grow the organization – and this includes those “stubborn” people that God has placed in our path. In fact, our purpose should be the growth of the whole body, not just 2/3 of the body. When people begin to be sacrificed in order to further the “organizational mission”, then the organization has the wrong mission. And, when pastors/elders/bishops begin focusing on the organization instead of the people, then they are not acting as the pastors/elders/bishops that Scripture describes.
Since I wrote that, I feel even more strongly that every believer should focus on people and not organizations and structures, especially those believers within the body of Christ who serve as examples for others (i.e. pastors/elders/bishops and other leaders). Unfortunately, it is not only “established churches” that fall prey to focusing on the organization instead of focusing on people.
I recently ran across a “church planting” web site that include some interesting information concerning a “model” church plant. Three families were planning to move from one major metropolitan area to another major metropolitan area in order to start a church. The men of the family already had their titles. The group already had a vision statement and a business plan. They had completed their demographics studies and a colorful brochure. In fact, they only needed one thing: money.
You see, that small group was ready to move to another city to start a church, as long as they could come up with enough money to fund their efforts. And how much money were they looking for? (I promise, I am not making this up…) They wanted over $700,000 for two years, with almost $500,000 of that going toward salaries.
These believers were not evangelizing in the new city… yet. They were not discipling anyone in the target city… yet. They had not baptized one person in this new location… yet. But, they had big plans with a big budget.
I know what you’re thinking… this is an extreme case. And, you’re right. It is wrong of them to build an organization before there is even a church to organize. Most would probably agree with me on this (although, I’m sure some would disagree, since this was offered as an example of how to start churches). But, are we any better when we push our smaller budgets and programs and buildings and titles, without evangelizing and making disciples? Are we any better when we do all we can to attract people to our service (and our offering) instead of sending more people out into the world where people are hurting and lost and needy?
I think I am going to continue to focus on people, and I think I am going to continue to point others toward building up people. God loves people. And, we demonstrate our love for God the same way he demonstrated his love for us: by giving ourselves to people, not by growing (or starting) our organizations.