the weblog of Alan Knox

Creating Church Organization…

Posted by on Jul 5, 2007 in definition, elders, office | 47 comments

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.


47 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 7-5-2007

    in that extreme example i think of three possible things: priviledge greedy or lazy unless we are missing the correspondence of Timothy and Titus back to Paul requesting several thousand shekels to be able to do the work he commands in the pastorals…

  2. 7-6-2007

    It’s not always either/or.

    What does this sentence mean in practical terms? “In fact, our purpose should be the growth of the whole body, not just 2/3 of the body.” Give me a practical hypothetical situation.

    Here’s my general problem: I am a member of a fairly traditionally organized congregation of believers. We have congregational polity that operates under an eldership, which itself operates on a consensus basis. We don’t do democracy. Things operate by consensus and affirmation. As I have seen things worked out over the past nine years that I have been a part of this, I see the New Testament church modeled.

    The congregation is unified spiritually, the elders are spiritual leaders, and we have come through some very serious and potentially divisive issues with joy, peace, love, kindness, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self control.

    People confess their sins, and are forgiven. The elders pray for people, and they are healed.

    When problems arise in the congregation, it is apparent to me that it comes from a lack of organization, rather than from too much. When we gather, love dictates that we should communicate well. Good communication requires organization.

    I am a worship leader (lead worshiper, worship pastor, music director, whatever the currently spiritual-sounding label is this week). In order for us to harmonize, I must know the music, know the lyrics, and be able to teach the parts to my skillful singers. They must follow my lead. Being “Spirit-led” is impossible until they know and can sing their parts as they are taught.

    When they are well taught, they have freedom within the form of the music to praise God. I also have the ability then to lead them more spontaneously into places that we have not gone before, and there is joy in the new song.

    I realize I’m ranting, but it seems to me that you beat up on organization qua organization. Is that really necessary?

  3. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  4. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  5. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  6. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  7. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  8. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  9. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    Are the church and organization mutually exclusive? Is the church not a body of organs operating in systems, like a physical body?
    On the first day of creation, God introduced organization into chaos. In the NT we are told that He is not the Author of confusion. Someplace in our church body-life there must be room for organization…not hierarchies of power and authority, but reasonable, cause and effect organization and administration.
    Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.
    However, when loyalty to any organizational power structure or its leaders or to our own interests takes precedence over obedience to God and ministry to His People, that becomes idolatry, doesn’t it?
    Kat

  10. 7-6-2007

    I don’t believe that Alan is advocating chaos. I think we’re confusing being organized with an organization. From what I know of Alan, I believe he is simply trying to express that the church (which is people) is vastly more important, higher priority, than an institution/organization/corporation (pick your word). That doesn’t equate is being unorganized. It just means that the building up of people ought to come before building campaigns, budgets, and “tithes”. And I’m certain that I agree. Did I understand that correctly?

  11. 7-6-2007

    Alan,
    This is an excellent post! Unfortunately, this might not be as much of an extreme example as you thought. My personal (and limited) experience with church starts in a major metro is very similar to the example you shared.

    I’m with you, I don’t think this is the way it should be. It seems that the church has adopted the business world’s model for success. Come up with a plan and the structure/finances to execute it and then go after your target audience. Could this be where the consumer mentality among Christians in the American church comes from?

    Blessings…
    Brandon

  12. 7-6-2007

    Last year I visited a new planted church that got alot of money to start a new church and today it is gone. The Pastor is in another state and everyone who went is out of a chruch. My kids loved going to the church and they were sad when it closed. Why did it close? Money ran out. We need to focus on people before we do anything else. God will provide what is needed we can not forget that but we always want to help Him instead of waiting on Him.

    JZ

  13. 7-6-2007

    Alan

    Great post and thoughts.

    Elders Wife

    Something you wrote made my ears perk up. You wrote, “Hierarchies are repressive prison bars, but there is liberty and security within the frame of organization.”

    I agree with the first part but when I read the second part my immediate reaction was, “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”

    By the way, and I think this agrees with some who have posted comments here, living with the knowledge of Christ abiding within us almost always promotes order and “organization” – just not necessarily “institution.”

    God’s Glory,
    Lew

  14. 7-6-2007

    Alan,

    Thanks for this post.

    I know this won’t solve everything, but it seems that if the church meets in homes and has unpaid pastors, then a lot of problems like you have mentioned don’t have to be dealt with. I realize that difficulties could still arise, especially if the body focuses more on itself than on others, but at least some of the money issues will not be such a weight around the neck of the church.

    I know that I do not hear too many people who are involved in house churches complaining about money issues dominating church life. Why couldn’t church planters begin in their homes, get jobs in the community, and become a part of their neighborhoods. This would certainly go a long way toward gaining the trust of the people in their area.

    Isn’t it amazing what happens when the church actually tries to model itself after what we see in scripture? Many problems disappear, leaving the church to be salt and light in the world.

    -Eric

  15. 7-6-2007

    Juan,

    I think you made an interesting point: “Why did it close? Money ran out.” It seems these people knew what they trusted. Actually, I’m probably being unfair – they probably have never heard of any other way than this. They’ve probably never heard anyone encourage them to start by discipling people.

    Lew,

    I’ll let Kat answer for herself, but I would answer that our liberty and security come from God.

    Eric,

    As you know, I don’t encourage one type of meeting location over another. Whether a group of believers meet in a home or in a dedicated building, organization can become the focal point. However, I think your points about simplicity are well stated and should be considered.

    -Alan

  16. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  17. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  18. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  19. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  20. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  21. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  22. 7-6-2007

    Lew,
    You stated: “Shouldn’t our liberty and security come from the knowledge that Christ abides in us, instead of organizational structure?”
    Absolutely!
    I guess maybe I wasn’t too clear on my concept of “organization”…and maybe I put a knot in Alan’s thread with my first comment. First of all, I didn’t mean “the” organization (as in a denomination or religious empire).
    My perspective comes from a church that has a plurality of 3 bi-vocational elders as leaders, but no “paid” pastor. In 2000, we and 13 other families felt God was leading us to “organize” a new congregation, so we began to meet with that goal in mind. We presently rent an old school, and we do not take an offering, so money isn’t an issue (although there is a box in the corner for those who wish to give). We contribute substantially toward the support of 4 families serving as missionaries in Africa and Asia. Three of those families are members of our church.
    Organization for us is not external, as in directives from the home office. Instead, I think, it means recognizing people God has gifted and allowing them to use their gifts. It means taking the initiative in ministry within the context of the whole body, just as some organs in the human body initiate action. And it calls for sensitivity to needs within and outside of the church.
    When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.
    Kat

  23. 7-6-2007

    Alan,

    What a great post. I wanted to comment but got too long so posted on my blog.

  24. 7-6-2007

    Hi Alan–

    Joel Brueseke at graceroots.org directed me to your blog after we shared some email discussions on ‘what is church’. So glad he did.

    In reading this post, I also read the earlier post you referenced. In reading Mark Driscoll’s comments on the three groups of people in any organization, I cried. Right now, for reasons beyond our control, my husband and I would fall into that third category of ‘people who can’t keep up with the demands of the organization’. Because of that, we’ve been marginalized, minimized, and removed from any ‘official’ position of influence. The result is that we feel alone, insignificant, and abandoned by the very people who we most need to tenderly shepherd us through this difficult time.

    What is hardest to endure through this are those fiery darts the enemy is shooting my way… “See, you don’t matter to anyone.. not even God….If even these ‘men of God’ don’t have time for you, what makes you think anyone cares…” Our adversary is relentless.
    I am aware of his strategies, and am seeking to ‘fight the good fight of faith’. But how many poor brothers and sisters, sacrificed on the alter of ‘the big picture’ are hearing the enemies voice and buying his lies? And how much ‘collateral damage’ is acceptable in the name of ‘building the church’?

    The organization, the ministries, all the ‘stuff’ should serve the needs of the church.. that is the body.. and not the other way around.

    Thansk for the great thoguhts–

    Kathy J

  25. 7-7-2007

    Kathy J -

    You said, “Right now, for reasons beyond our control, my husband and I would fall into that third category of ‘people who can’t keep up with the demands of the organization’. Because of that, we’ve been marginalized, minimized, and removed from any ‘official’ position of influence. The result is that we feel alone, insignificant, and abandoned by the very people who we most need to tenderly shepherd us through this difficult time.

    I could have written that … I feel your pain. Please know that you’re not alone … (((HUGS)))

    ~Heather

  26. 7-7-2007

    Kathy J,

    Thank you for sharing the pain that you’ve experienced when the organization is given higher priority than people. My hope – my prayer – is that leaders who prioritize the organize and hurt people are doing so in ignorance, without realizing the pain that they cause. I know this is probably not always true though.

    God cares about you more than he cares about the buildings, programs, titles, budgets, plans, and resources of that organization. He died for you, and he will surround you with other believers to strengthen and encourage you.

    Heather,

    I appreciate your heart in comforting Kathy. I think that when you said, “You’re not alone”, you said it all. We are not alone, even if we have been ignored by believers who are promoting a structure or organization instead of strengthening the body of Christ. We are not alone.

    -Alan

  27. 7-7-2007

    Kat,

    Thank you for clarifying what you meant earlier. I loved this statement: “When Christ is truly the Head of the Body, our security is in Him, not in a leader or leaders, and we have freedom to function as he directs us within the church.”

    Aussie John,

    Thank you for the article that you wrote: “Organized or Orderly?

    The last line is so important! I hope everyone reads this and thinks about it and does it: “Discipling means quality time spent with individuals, and even small groups!”

    -Alan

  28. 7-7-2007

    Kathy J,
    I can echo what Heather (my better half) has said here. We have been there and done that. God has used this season to really open our eyes to the weaknesses of the institutional church as we see it today. While this has been a very challenging season for us we can see God’s hand in this process. As Alan said, you are not alone. God will surround you with a community of believers that is truly interested in you and your walk with God…Not what you can contribute to the organization.

    Welcome to what some in the blogosphere have called “the journey”. I’m praying for you and your husband.

    Blessings to you…
    Brandon

  29. 7-7-2007

    Alan, you said:

    “Can I ask a question about the organization of your music team? What happens when God gives someone a song to present to the body (1 Cor 14:26), but they are not part of your worship team, they are not skilled singers, and they have not practiced? According to your organization and procedures, how would God communicate that song through that individuals if he desires to?”

    My response:

    The I Cor 14 issue has very little bearing on what I was trying to communicate. If that person has a song to bring to the assembly, they are welcome to share according to the biblical instruction.

    My point in the example was a parable. May I explain? When people are singing in harmony, they are guided by the music (the written word). A leader assists in interpretation of the written music, with regard to tempo, dynamics, and emotion (and is open to correction and amplification from those singers who are able to give it in an informed and educated manner). The leader also helps each singer with any part they may have difficulty with according to their skill. As each singer develops in skill with the written music and in harmony with other singers, a great deal of freedom, interaction, and joy result, and it bears fruit in the beauty of the music.

    A leader is still required. That leader “rules”. That leader may have to rein some singers in if their freedom begins to lead to chaos. And the leader is not a rule unto himself. He is guided by the music, and he may have to remind the singers to keep to their notes. He also, if he’s leading the singers outside the realm of the music, may be reminded by the singers about keeping to the music himself.

    But I’m not talking about a choir. I’m talking about the church.

  30. 7-7-2007

    David,
    I have a question prompted by your parable. Without a person (human) designated as the leader, will the end result be chaos? Or can the Holy Spirit fill the role of leader if the body (church) is seeking His lead?

    Blessings…
    Brandon

  31. 7-7-2007

    Outside of the fact that the Holy Spirit designates leaders, (I Cor 12) I’ve never heard a choir sing in harmony without one.

    And a question back to all: Do you permit a woman to speak?

    I mean, we’ve all got goggles on when we’re reading these things. Alan really wants me to proof-text my views on ecclesiology, when I’m only defending what has been defended scripturally from the Didache on. I’ve been in gatherings where proof-texting is required (in the name of having a New Testament, biblical church) for every element of worship and gathering. Nothing is allowed that’s not expressly stated as a NT practice. It becomes a legalistic, judgmental environment within a generation.

    You’re welcome to try. Knock yourselves out. Give me a report. It’s not forbidden by Scripture. And when your sons and daughters have separated themselves from the rest of the church into a cliquish enclave because the “organized” church isn’t doing it right, you’ll have an answer.

  32. 7-7-2007

    David,
    You asked-
    “And a question back to all: Do you permit a woman to speak?”
    Is this really a question? If you’re seriously asking and would like to discuss 1Cor 14:34 perhaps we should do that in another forum. I don’t want to get away from the topic that Alan has posted. But it seems to me that you are building straw men to make your points.

    As a side note, it’s interesting that the people who get the most upset by the topic of how church is structured are those that are being paid to lead. I still don’t really have a problem with paid pastoral leadership. But I do have a problem with the defensive nature that shows itself whenever the structure of the organization is questioned. That’s not directed at you personally David, but lately that’s been my experience.

    Please help me follow your final point. Are you saying that if we do not attend an institutional church that my children will fall by the wayside or become members of some “cliquish enclave”? First of all, my foremost calling from God is to disciple my children and to see them conformed to the image of Christ. That’s not the responsibility of the institution, but the mindset that teaches us that it is the responsibility of the institution is killing the Church spiritually. If you want to talk about people walking away from the church, you and I both know that the institutional model (on average, and yes there are a few exceptions) does a pretty poor job of making disciples of Christ.

    I hope my responses are not offensive to you, that is not my intent. My intent is to discuss this with my brother in Christ, iron does sharpen iron, if both men are teachable.

    Blessings to you…
    Brandon

  33. 7-7-2007

    David,

    I appreciate the follow-up, and thank you for explaining your parable. I did not understand it as a parable before. I think I understand what you are saying now.

    I also understand how a leaders is needed for a choir. In your parable, what would happen if there were two leaders? What if the the lead soprano started leading as well as the “worship pastor”? I think there would be chaos… just like you said there would be chaos without a leader.

    Well, the church has a leader – a ruler – a head – right? He is living, breathing, present, able, wise, all-knowing even. So, how does the church work with two “rulers”?

    I am not suggesting that the church does not have leaders apart from Christ. Most certainly, Jesus has provided mature believers to help those who are less mature. This type of leading – guiding, if you will – is not the same as “ruling” to me.

    You said that I was asking for “proof-texts”. I understand that statement, but I think you misunderstand what I’m saying. I do not think you will find an example of anyone other than Jesus Christ directing the church in the New Testament. I’m not talking about a particular verse, although I don’t think that is there either. I’m talking about generally and specifically in the New Testament, Jesus Christ is always presented as the only one who rules the church – the only one with authority. This is different than asking for a proof-text.

    Yes, we differ slightly on our understanding of leadership in the church. But, I truly appreciate your continued interaction here. It has been very beneficial for me, and I hope it has for others as well. We are all part of the body of Christ, and we need one another – even in our differences – in order to be the church as God has prepared us.

    Brandon,

    I appreciate many of the questions that you are asking. I think the questions are beneficial for all of us. I also appreciate that you desire to not offend a brother in Christ. I hope that God creates that same attitude in me.

    -Alan

  34. 7-8-2007

    Thank you for your kind continuation of this thread, Brandon and Alan. It has also caused me to think and rethink, and read and reread. I agree with you more than you think.

    My point is this: In any gathering, organization is necessary. It doesn’t mean Robert’s Rules of Order. I Cor 14 will do. It doesn’t mean bureaucracy and infinite committees. Gatherings of elders and deacons to oversee things will do just great.

    But there is discernible organization and communication in this. The Body of Christ is not an amoeba. Amorphous means “no body.”

    And here’s my question: Do the gatherings you describe have elders, deacons, and the like? Is there any functional, discernible human leadership (and yes, it can have co-leaders)? If the people all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, is there a test for this (I John 4:1)?

    And Brandon: I have no intention of debating women’s roles in the church. The question was rhetorical (assuming that women are indeed permitted to speak). But it involves context, and the permission to adjust rules and structures given by scripture in the context of a different culture.

    One place you can check out the NT church in our day is in China (the underground church, not 3 Self). This functions in a similar way that you describe. The questions we have come from an affluent culture where we are free to make decisions about how we gather, which didn’t exist in the NT model.

    Thanks for hanging in with me.

  35. 7-8-2007

    David,
    I appreciate you hearing my heart in this discussion and not allowing my questions to be taken as a personal offense.

    I would agree that there is a need for leadership and some form of structure in larger gatherings. I’m not sure what number would qualify as “larger” though, perhaps at the point where there is no order (order as opposed to confusion rather than fellowship). I guess I’m starting to think of the church from a standpoint of people (any number from 2-??) gathering together by their common bond in Christ.

    I would agree that the body of Christ is not an amoeba. You and I are vital parts of that body and Christ is the head (positionally).

    You asked-
    “Do the gatherings you describe have elders, deacons, and the like? Is there any functional, discernible human leadership (and yes, it can have co-leaders)?”
    Well, the church that we attend is very large and it does have all of those leadership elements. I believe that somewhere in the neighborhood of 6,000 people are members at this church.

    You also asked-
    “If the people all claim to be led by the Holy Spirit, is there a test for this (I John 4:1)?” This is a more difficult thing in a very large gathering, whereas in a gathering of 10 people it is quite simple. Testing the spirit is not a difficult thing at all because of the intimacy of the gathering and the relationship between the gathered. That intimacy, fellowship and discipleship is almost impossible to replicate in a large group setting.

    I was hoping the question about women was rhetorical but I don’t know you very well yet (but hope to know you much better) so I wanted to clarify. :-) Thanks.

    I would agree with you that our culture does indeed influence and even call for some forms of the institutional church as we see it today. The church we attend is definitely influenced by it’s culture and “target” audience.
    And as a result they do an exceptional job of impacting their local community for the kingdom.

    I appreciate your continued interaction, I think you are right that we agree on many of these topics.

    Blessings…
    Brandon

  36. 7-8-2007

    David,

    I have a quick question. You said: “In any gathering, organization is necessary. It doesn’t mean Robert’s Rules of Order. I Cor 14 will do.” What do you mean that “I Cor 14 will do”? Does Scripture show us another model of how the church should meet?

    Since the church has elders and deacons (as well as widows and children, etc.) then I would assume that they would take part in the meeting as well. In fact, since elders should be more mature, I would expect that they would (generally) have a larger role in the meeting than other believers (generally).

    Brandon,

    You said: “I guess I’m starting to think of the church from a standpoint of people (any number from 2-??) gathering together by their common bond in Christ.” I like this statement. I places the emphasis on Christ (who gathers the people) and then the people themselves.

    -Alan

  37. 7-9-2007

    Heather, Brandon & Alan–

    Thanks for the encouragemnt. There is something incomparably comforting in the knowledge that ‘we are not alone’.

    Alan, I would agree with you that most men who choose the organization over the hearts of people do so in ignorance. Perhaps they’ve just temporarily ‘lost the plot’. But a sad realization dawned on me this week as my husband and I discussed whether it was time to ‘move on’. These days, it is far easier for me to embrace God’s love and acceptance of me when I am away from church than when I am ‘there’.

    He has given me a couple sisters who always refresh & remind me of who I am ‘in Christ’. They are a ‘lifeline’ to me.

    Your posts, and all the commenters are a great encouragemnt & offer wonderful ‘food for thought’.

    Kathy J

  38. 7-9-2007

    It seems that when we are talking about organization and the example left us in the NT writings we see simplicity as the norm.

    The most simple forms seem to be in operation. I believe this is God’s desire and design. When we consider organization or structures we should keep in mind that anything that decreases or lessens our dependence on the Spirit is not desirable. However, organization itself is meant to decrease work and streamline efficiency. This leads to the need for less people working with often better results. The problem is more efficiency doesn’t work with the church/community/relationships.

    For the community to be in communion we need all the parts/members working together. Think about it, the Head/Jesus doesn’t need the Body because He doesn’t have the ability to finish the work. He leaves work for us to co-operate with so that we may be in community with Him and each other. Every part must be working for the community to exist.
    We often organize to such degrees that we don’t even ask the Head for direction anymore. The highly organized structure wouldn’t let us turn directions even if we did.
    It seems the structure that increases our dependence on the Head, the Spirit and the community is best. Self-sufficiency is the opposite of community.

  39. 7-9-2007

    Kathy J,

    I’m glad that my posts and the comments here have been encouraging to you. I pray that God continues to use me and others here to build up his children and to point them toward him.

    Jason,

    Welcome to my blog, and thank you for the comment! I agree that we should avoid anything that lessens our dependence on the Holy Spirit as he works in our own lives and through the lives of all the believers around us.

    -Alan

  40. 11-28-2011

    Amen

  41. 11-28-2011

    This is a great post, with good points. I have worked for the church for ten years (Music/Worship Leader, Lead Worshiper, etc.), but I’m seriously considering leaving “professional” ministry because of the over emphasis of the organization. In particular, our focus on the church organization leads to an internal focus, which means that I spend very little time with people outside of the church.

    The church planting strategy you’re referencing says that what we need to do is start a new worship gathering somewhere in the hopes that somehow, the people in the surrounding area will be reached by this gathering. I think this puts the cart before the horse because I believe that in our culture, very few people are thinking that the Christian Church is the place to find God anymore. I don’t think many people are sitting around thinking “If only there was a cool worship gathering closer to where I lived, I would seek God by going to that gathering.”

    Also, Jesus never said “Go plant churches.” He said “Go make disciples.” Later on, He said (to Peter) that HE would build the church. When we look through the Bible at where Jesus made disciples, and where most people’s significant encounters with God occurred, most of the time, it wasn’t in a worship gathering or a church building, but it was out where normal everyday life was happening.

    I firmly believe that we need to focus on introducing people to Christ, and that this will happen more on an individual basis as individual Christians get to know people outside of the church, as they love and serve them, and build community with them. This is, after all, the first step in making disciples (though I also believe that most of the following steps happen most significantly in this context as well).

    I’m not saying that we should have zero organization. What I am saying is that the way to reach the unreached is not to plant a new organization, or through what the organization can present (or program), but through the individual disciple makers that make up the organization.

  42. 1-24-2012

    How interesting…I’m interning with a guy now who prefers a more organic church model…especially for planting…rather than making copies of existing churches and running it like a franchise business, church planting seems to work best by just having a bunch of believers start meeting regularly and let what will grow, grow. Context of the people involved, the neighborhood, and the general culture will give rise to a rather large variety of “churches”

  43. 9-13-2012

    There are 4 “tests” I normally subject a “Church” to, to establish what their foundations are built on.

    Will they be able to continue to meet together without any of the following 4 things:

    1) Money – can their meetings continue if there wasn’t any money?
    2) A trained, educated speaker (mostly a Pastor or Minister) – will their meetings continue of their Pastor / Minister were hit by a bus tonight?
    3) A Building – will they be able to continue meeting together if the dedicated building they met in was to burn down tonight?
    4) A program – will the people know what to do with themselves if the set order of their meetings were to be taken away (welcoming, announcements, singing, preaching, tithes and offerings, singing, “ministry time”).

    If a church is still able to function without ALL of these 4 things, then their foundation is most likely built on Christ Himself.

  44. 9-13-2012

    I wrote this (long) article previously which deals with the whole “Ministry vs Money” issue:

    http://newcovenantgrace.com/organic-church/ministry-and-money/

  45. 9-13-2012

    Andre,

    I think those are great questions for any group of Christians to consider. Thanks!

    -Alan

  46. 3-4-2013

    I think I ran across the same ‘plant’ story. Seems to be the norm these days. Good post!

  47. 3-5-2013

    Rick,

    Unfortunately, I think you’re right. Even when the financial scale is not quite this huge, the principles are often still used.

    -Alan