In this series, Michael is comparing “mechanical order” to “organic order.” I think this is a helpful comparison, although certainly some will disagree with it. However, it is helpful when we see the differences in the topic being discussed.
For example, all believers think that participation is a good thing. But, often, we are talking about different things when we talk about “participation.” Michael writes:
In mechanical order, people are invited to participate by filling in positions in a master plan. For example, setting up ministry programs and asking for volunteers to serve in the ministries. In this case, leaders invite people to participate in ways that serve the plan. They are then inserted into the manufacturing process (program) with the intention that they are a piece that can help bring about the predetermined desired outcome…
In organic order, individuals are invited to participate as themselves for the good of the group as a whole. The mission (or ministry) emerges from how the individual participants grow together as a community and interact with the world around them given their competencies (spiritual gifts, natural talents, etc.). To be truly organic, community must take precedence above mission. This is the only way that the priority of the health of the individuals is kept front and center. If mission comes first, you sacrifice the health of the individuals for what they can do for the mission. Instead, the mission comes out of the improved health of the individuals. Plus, God’s eternal purpose is wrapped up in community. Community is the prime product. Mission is a by-product. (emphasis in original)
The difference, as Michael points out, is the form of participation. Are people required to participate with one another in set forms or methods that have been already set up as part of a plan? Or, are they free to participate as they are – that is, as God has gifted and prepared them?
Yes, in the “organic” form of participation, there is an increased likelihood of messiness. In the “mechanical” form of participation, things flow more smoothly.
Of course, I’m not convinced that “more smoothly” is better than “messier,” but that would probably be a good topic for another day.
Don’t misunderstand me… God can and does work through both mechanical participation and organic participation. However, I believe that organic participation is healthier for the church.
How have you seen God work through both mechanical and organic participation? Which form do you think is healthier for the church? Why?