the weblog of Alan Knox

Simple church and structure?

Posted by on Aug 28, 2012 in blog links, community | 8 comments

Simple church and structure?

Katie at “Backseat Driver” has been writing posts answering questions about “simple church.” One of her latest posts is called “Questions Continued: What about Structure?

There is an assumption that those who prefer more simple / organic church to more organized / institutional church also disdain or reject any kind of structure or organization. This is a false assumption. In fact, any time people gather together there will be some kind of structure and organization.

For example, if two people meet together for lunch, there will be some type of organization involved: where are they going to eat, what time, who is going to pay? Answering these questions define an organization for their time of eating lunch together. But, what happens if the same two people get together for lunch the next day? What if they get together for dinner? What if there are now three people getting together? Does the same organization still apply?

So, there will always be some type of organization. The question is: Is the organization flexible and fluid enough to follow the form of the people involved? As the people change (either by new people coming together or people maturing or changing life situations) the organization changes as well. As the opportunities for service change, the organization changes as well.

The other side of that spectrum features an organization that is fixed, and the people must fit themselves within that system or face being rejected (either intentionally or unintentionally).

In her post (linked to above), Katie offers several suggestions and a much fuller explanation than I have provided here.

How can we ensure that the people, giftings, service opportunities, etc. are defining the organization instead of the organization attempting to define the people?


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

  1. 8-28-2012

    I’m not sure I have an answer to your question, but I do think this is a problem for the larger, more institutionally focused church. As the pastor of such a church I am often frustrated because it seems the organizational needs dictate what must be done and we simply serve the organization rather than the organization serving God’s people and our mission in the world. The organization is often a hungry beast that demands to be feed.

  2. 8-28-2012


    I appreciate your feedback, especially given your situation. If you have further thoughts on the questions I asked, I’d love to hear them.


  3. 8-28-2012


    You asked:
    “How can we ensure that the people, giftings, service opportunities, etc. are defining the organization instead of the organization attempting to define the people?”

    We can’t. Only He can.

    Once we remove the ‘middle man’, ie, man’s structures and expectations according to base traditions, then and only then can The Spirit flow and show us how His Church, His Body, should function. This means that it will feel as though we are now ‘flying by the seat of our pants’, but how different is that from a small group of people in the new and infantile “Christian sect” that was borne in Jerusalem and what they had?


    Sometimes we are too smart and organized for our own good.

  4. 8-28-2012


    As I said in the post, organizing is normal and natural. We find it among the church in the New Testament – even among those new believers in Acts 2. Who’s house did they eat at? When did they go to the temple for prayer? These are all organizing type questions. Organizing per se is not the problem. Instead, problems occur when the organization gets in the way of what God is doing.

    For example, you’ve mentioned that there is someone you consider a “spiritual father.” That is another type of organization.

    The question is, how do we ensure that any organizing that we may do is part of what God is doing and not “man made”?


  5. 8-28-2012


    All due respect, by the relationship I have with my spiritual father is a relationship, not an organizational requirement. He and I do not even live near one another, and speak once a week by phone to stay relational. He lives 8 hours away, and we do see one another once a year in person. But this is hardly something that a local ekklesia would need to factor in or consider as a whole ekklesia, and somehow incorporate it into their organizing.

  6. 8-28-2012

    How can we ensure that the people, giftings, service opportunities, etc. are defining the organization instead of the organization attempting to define the people?

    We cannot unless we are aware on a daily basis of the hungry beast that Scott referred to…and Scott, God bless you for your open and frank statement.

    As Pastor of Evangelism in a 100 member 128 year old church I spend a lot of time “feeding up” but we are beginning to slim the monster down. We are beginning to spend more time, energy and money on community and less on in house. We now only have one service but we are using Sunday night and Wednesday night to plan for “events”

    One of our first was a drive-in car show and was very successful. We have a fall festival coming up and we are the anchor for a 3-mile yard sale in two weeks.

    Are these events organized…yes they are…but it is exo-organic rather than innner-organic.

    And we are not getting headwinds from within the membership. Just takes a little explaining of what we are doing and why. And by the way, these events are all self-supporting.

  7. 8-28-2012


    The two of you have decided to have a certain type of relationship (mentor/mentee). That requires some type of organization. Before, you’ve described an appeal process to your mentor’s mentor. That’s organization. You talk on the phone, instead of communicating in other ways. That’s an organizational decision. One of your calls the other. That’s organization. Almost all relationships include some type of organization, and the most structured and institutional organization would claim to be relational. Relationships/organization are not exclusive, but they go hand-in-hand. The question is: how do we make sure the relationship drives the organization instead of the other way around.


    What is changing for you to be able “to spend more time, energy and money on community and less on in house”?


  8. 8-28-2012

    Nice discussion Alan!