Part One: A series on the church
What does the Word of God teach regarding the church in its form, function and expression? Anyone who ponders this issue begins at the point of asking the question from one, if not all three of these areas. This question surfaced many years ago in my life because of the struggles I was having in applying Biblical rational to a career in full time ministry church near me
Coming from the perspective as a professional pastor I had to wonder why church leadership was so difficult to implement and maintain. Ministry was rewarding at times yet filled with many complications that had no biblical explanation or justification. One day those irreconcilable differences piled so high I decided to start from scratch and revisit the meaning of the church. The physical church, of which I was a part and the professional job I sought so diligently to acquire, wasn’t representing what I would see from New Covenant thought and early church activity. I continued to wrestle through this period of confusion, having the Lord point out many areas within the church that had become important frameworks for business maneuvering, yet made no sense biblically. So I set out to find answers to my questions.
To begin answering these questions I looked around at what the church had become in the 21st Century and contrasted it with the days of the Apostles and their first Century writings. The dissimilarities were obviously shocking. I noted how our contemporary church had incorporated a business style or institutional structure within its daily existence. Amazingly this strategy has permeated the church in almost every area of form, function and expression. Today’s “ministry box” is well defined and almost unquestionably accepted as a legitimate role model. As I spoke to others about my doubts and discoveries, I found the majority of people uninterested in the topic of “Do we need another Reformation?” To have someone question the current model and suggest we might be out of step biblically was usually looked upon with suspicion. My prayer for those who read this article is to eliminate cultural suspicion and rediscover the core values and simple patterns of ministry that made the early church a life changing force twenty-one centuries ago. My hope is that you are enlightened from scripture and not from years of unsupportable Christian tradition.
Is The Church an Organism or an Organization?
One day I had a break-through in trying to understand the nature of the church by asking myself this fundamental question, “Is the church an organism or is it an organization?” If you answered “organism,” your home-study doctrinal certificate is ready to be mailed out. We hear it regularly taught that it is indeed an “organism,” but which is it really today, an organism or an organization? Truthfully, I believe God designed it to be an organism, but man in his limited wisdom redesigned God’s original intent and converted it into an organization. I had to be honest with myself and admit I had been part of the problem. Not knowing it, my years in professional ministry were spent giving lip service to the expression “organism,” but living out my Christian life in the “organization.” Every question and every problem I was having with the church found its way back to the fact that I was trying to benefit from the best of both worlds. Like most, I had fallen into the trap of thinking “organized religion” was a good thing.
Oddly, many of us have the assumption that organized religion is a positive addition to society. The word “religion,” as defined in Webster’s Dictionary, means “that which binds.” If it consistently binds people together and compliments people’s beliefs we deem it as a positive quality. But, let me ask you this question. What if it doesn’t bind people together, but separates people into their protected religious worlds? If so, is “organized religion” a good thing then? Perhaps a better interpretation for “that which binds” would be “that which binds people up.” Like a lawn mower bound-up and stalled from trying to cut tall grass, organized religion serves to restrict people into religious sub cultures, defending religious laws and mandates while trying to protect religious organizations. If one willingly enters the “binding category” you are gladly received as an accepted member. But what if others look upon all of this as foolishness, because the end result produces a collective of “bound-up” and stall-out assemblies of world religions and fractured denominational Christian groups? Is organized religion then perceived as a meaningful addition to society? I would answer “no” to that question since the “big picture” belief of Jesus’ mission was to eliminate organized religion by taking on the most bound-up and rule based religion of the day, the Jewish faith. No world religion could hold a candle to the legalism and religious expectations Judaism offered. Is it any wonder the Jewish religious leaders regularly confronted Jesus on the reasons for “why” or “when” He healed, taught or served others? Every time He was directed by the Father to do something supernatural it resulted in a direct violation of religious law or tradition.
In addition, have you ever thought about and concluded that Christianity is the only faith birthed on the planet with no sacred rules and traditions, no sacred individuals and no sacred spaces besides God Himself? Given this premise, Christianity isn’t a religion or a system but is the only offer to mankind to form a simple and personal relationship with God through Christ free from the interference of “organized religion” and powered by an inward Life-the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.This intentional vision by God, designed within the framework of the New Covenant, came about so that homes, courtyards, market places, privately owned public buildings, schools and roadsides would become fluid meeting places for an organic movement that would surpass the influence of the Roman Empire and sweep around the world. So how does God implement His plan?
You Are the Church
The term (ekklesia-translated church in English) was never applied to a building or hand-built temple, but instead it was an expressive title given by the grace of God to describe His holy people. Take note on how Paul drives this point home to the Corinthian church as they were struggling to realize God’s new plans. For we are God’s fellow workers, you are God’s field, God’s building (1 Corinthians 3:9). There are three points he is making that he hopes they will understand. If you are of the institutional mindset then you are probably thinking of three points that would be opposites of Paul’s. Your thoughts might fall along these lines; the first is hire staff, the second is purchase property, and the third would be to construct a building.