Two years ago, I wrote a post called “The Church or the Organization?” In this post I was beginning to discuss the differences between the church (the people of God) and the ways in which the people organize and structure themselves. There is a difference. I also give one example of the organization becoming more important than the people. I refer to a few other blog posts that you may be interested in reading.
In my previous post, “What does a bishop oversee?“, I suggested that elders/pastors/bishops should focus on the church – that is, the people – instead of any organization formed around or by the church. This was my concluding paragraph:
But, what difference does it make? Why does it matter whether our pastors/elders “oversee” an organization or “are concerned about” the people of God. Well, for me, it makes all the difference in the world. As an elder, I want to know what God requires of me. Does God require me to run the church like a well-oiled machine? Or does He expect me to “look after” and “be concerned about” those believers around me? I believer God’s focus is people… and so, our focus should be people as well. If my focus is on people, I will respond differently than if my focus was on an organization. My priorities will be different if my focus is on people instead of an organization. My time, resources, and effort will be spent differently if my focus is on people instead of an organization.
In the great discussion that followed in the comments, there were some questions about organizations and the church. David Rogers, from “Love Each Stone“, made the following statement:
I agree that a “bishop” should focus more on “overseeing” people than an organization. However, I think we would be hard-pressed to find those who would say no, they should neglect people, and focus more on the organization.
I do not quote David to point out a disagreement. In fact, I believe that we are probably very close on this issue. Instead, I want to use this statement as a starting point in to further discuss the difference between focusing on people (the church) and focusing on the organization.
First, I do not believe that it is wrong or evil for the church to organize itself for particular purposes. I think we see this in Scripture. For example, as Paul was travelling around the Roman Empire, he travelled with several people. I’m sure there was some type of organization involved. We know that Paul made tents at times in order to provide for himself and his travelling companions (Acts 20:34-35). One person working to provide for himself and others demonstrates some type of organization.
So, organization is not wrong or evil in and of itself. My good friend Theron from “Sharing in the Life” (Who is finally blogging again!), has a great post on organization called “The Role of Organization in a Body of Believers“.
Though we might agree that organizations are not bad, and may even serve a good purpose at times, this does not mean that we will be “hard-pressed to find those who would say no, they should neglect people, and focus more on the organization”. Unfortunately, in today’s “Church Growth” literature, we find just this: a focus on the organization at the expense of the people involved. Here is one example:
Mark Driscoll is an interesting figure. He is at times accepted and at times excepted by emerging/missional believers. Some praise him and the Mars Hill Church which he started in Seattle, WA. Others claim that he is not truly “emerging” but more accurately reflects “evangelicalism” or the seeker church movement. Similarly, some evangelicals say that Driscoll is emerging, while others (like the Southern Baptist Convention, which appears to be wooing him and his Acts 29 Network) welcome him as a fellow evanglical. In other words, Driscoll somehow represents both the emerging and the evangelical flavors of Christianity – loved by some in both camps and hated by some in both camps.
In his 2006 book Confessions of a Reformission Rev: Hard Lessons from an Emerging Missional Church, Driscoll describes the phenomenal growth of Mars Hill Church. In one chapter, he explores some of the decisions that he had to make in order for Mars Hill Church to grow from 350 people to 1000 people:
We had to quickly reorganize all of our systems and staff. Our administrative pastor, Eric, left, which we all recognized was God’s call on him. And our worship leader was a great guy and great musician but was unable to coordinate the multiple bands in the three locations, so we let him go. This was one of the hardest decisions I’ve ever made because he was a very godly man who had worked very hard and would have been fine if the church had not gotten so crazy so quickly, and he and his very sweet wife were both close personal friends of mine. But I needed a worship pastor who could lead multiple bands, coordinate multiple services in multiple locations, and train multiple worship pastors while keeping up with a church that was growing so fast that we had no idea exactly where it was going. 
Now, just in case you think that Driscoll may have made the decision to let his close personal friend go because of his concern for other people, please continue reading:
A very wise friend who is a successful business entrepreneur, Jon Phelps, shared an insight with me around this time that was very clarifying. He said that in any growing organization, there are three kinds of people, and only two of them have any long-term future with a growing organization. First, there are people on the rise who demonstrate an uncanny ability to grow with the organization and become vital leaders. Second, there are people who attach themselves to the people on the rise as valuable assistants who rise by being attached to someone on the rise. Third, there are people who neither rise nor attach to anyone who is rising, and they cannot keep up with the growing demands of the organization. These people fall behind, and the organization can either allow their inability to slow down the whole team or release them and move forward without them. This is difficult to do because they are often good people who have been partly responsible for the success of the organization. But the needs of the organizational mission, not an individual in the organization, must continually remain the priority if there is to be continued success. 
From what I have read, none of the people who commented would agree with Driscoll’s approach. However, I also do not think that Driscoll is alone in his priorities. There are many who say that the organization should be placed above the people involved.
What Driscoll describes is the exact opposite of my position. The pastors/elders/bishops must focus on the people before the organization. However, we should all admit, even if we do not go to the extreme that Driscoll went to, it is much easier to put the organization above the people. But, according to Scripture, the people should always come first.
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.