the weblog of Alan Knox

The Church as Relational Organism

Posted by on May 29, 2008 in books, community, definition, fellowship, missional | 4 comments

A few days ago, in a post called “What is a ‘traditional’ church?“, I mentioned a new book that I was reading: Missional House Churches: Reaching Our Communities with the Gospel (Colorado Springs: Paternoster, 2007) by J.D. Payne. Primarily, I picked up this book because of the title and because it was written by a Southern Baptist. I haven’t read much concerning “missional” or “house” church from the perspective of other Southern Baptists, so I was intrigued by this combination.

Overall, I liked this book. As with almost all books, the author and I hold differing opinions on a few things. For example, when he is defining the Church/church (he uses “Church” for “universal church” and “church” for “local church”), I think he makes more of a distinction between “universal” and “local” than Scripture makes.

However, I appreciated his organic and relational definition of the church (I will use one term for both, like Scripture does):

What is clear from the Gospels is that Jesus came to establish a new community… The citizens of this new community were part of a divine kingdom and lived according to the kingdom of ethic that involved 1) love for the King, 2) love for others in the kingdom, and 3) love for those outside the kingdom. (26-27)

For the most part, the church today is defined and understood in institutional and compartmentalized concepts… On the other hand, the Scriptures advocate that the church… is primarily understood in relation to the kingdom of God through organic metaphors emphasizing 1) the relationship of believers to God, 2) the relationship of believers to one another, and 3) the relationship of believers to unbelievers. The church is primarily to be understood in simple relational terms. (35-37)

Similarly, when Payne discusses the various metaphors that the authors of Scripture use to describe the church, he begins with my favorite metaphor – the family:

The obvious meaning behind this metaphor is that the bonds holding together the citizens of the kingdom are as strong, if not stronger, than the bond of blood. Just as an earthly family loves, honors, protects, encourages, and cares for one another, the church must do likewise. (29-30)

My thinking about the church changed drastically when I began seeing the church as a family instead of seeing the church as an organization. I began interacting with people through the relationships that God created through his Spirit instead of interacting with people through positions and functions. We are brothers and sisters with the same father. That relationship is stronger than blood.


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

  1. 5-30-2008


    I think that you hit the nail on the head. We need to see the church as family. I think that when we do that; we will see great things occur.

    I also think that this is the essential key/thread in seeing a “city-church”.

    At some point, we need to see the other “churches” in our towns as family and the SAME CHURCH.

    I know that within my biological families that my sibling differ and my cousins and uncles and aunts have variety of opinions and beliefs – but we still come together.

    My heart breaks when I see “bodies of believers” separate from other bodies of believers because they do not hold to all the doctrinal issues.

    Alrightee, I will shut up and step down from my soapbox but I am tired of Christians not showing unity and seeing the devestating results – ‘unchristians’ just shaking their head at us.

  2. 5-30-2008


    I agree that this topic is related to many others. Viewing the church as family instead of as an organization affects the city church topic, but also church leaders, church meetings, etc.

    Thanks for the analogy with your biological family. I have a few aunts, uncles, and cousins who look and act differently than me… but they’re still family.


  3. 5-30-2008


    I agree that we need to see the church as family, but if we allow being family to devolve into a common interest group who simply
    get on well together, we have then developed another tradition that we will maintain,as is done today, whatever the cost.

    Healthy families, forgive one another, are servants of one another, love one another, have one corporate heart and mind focus, share possessions with one another, make decisions with one another, realize they actually belong with one another, regard one another as above ourselves, are devoted to one another in brotherly love, and live in harmony one with another, etc.,etc., etc!

    I think we could apply Peter’s words in 2Pet.1:7 here: “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

  4. 5-30-2008

    Aussie John,

    Yes, absolutely! The one anothers are a demonstration of whether or not we are a healthy family or a dysfunctional family. The Spirit creates healthy families; we create dysfunctional families.

    By the way, some friends (old and new) and our family had a great time living this out tonight. 🙂