Thursday, December 09, 2004

Church structures. Committees, leadership, who is in charge of whom. Management styles, leadership systems. Systems analysis. Understanding the nature of human organizations and group dynamics. Models for conflict resolution. All essential stuff for building an efficient and functional church - right?

I realize that having some organizational element is unavoidable, but focusing on this stuff is poison to authentic communities where the bond is love. The mature don't need structures because they will love and serve out of who God has grown them to be, but the immature who view things organizationally instead of relationally often strive after positions of power within the institution because of their fleshly ambitions and conceptions. Their ambitions may be for the "good" of the organization as they understand it . . . but that is precisely the problem. The immature want to sit on the right hand and left hand. When there is a structure, often those who believe that wielding power through position - even out of all sincerity - often end up in those positions while the truly mature simply go about their work of serving and loving.

Though some basic level of organization is necessary, I think we do better to avoid having positions of power for the immature to quarrel over. It is almost humorous to watch those who conceive of things in a "top-down" way searching for the places of authority in a relational community quite devoid of those positions. I watched it happen in Africa where those ambitious for power could not find a place to grab hold of it, and now with the believers with whom I am priviledged to walk. I've also seen other situations where immature people desired and took hold of positions from which they planned to rule - with all good intention, but nonetheless from fleshly ideas of authority rather than self-sacrificing service. Of course, they would disagree with me and protest that what they do is self-sacrificing service . . . and in their immaturity they truly believe it. They also would resist correction and often take offense at it.

The mystery of communities of disciples of Jesus is that they operate relationally in a way that cannot be analyzed and diagrammed. Try as one might, it is hard to come up with any clear organizational chart for Jesus and his disciples, or the apostolic church. Such systems can be imposed on the textual evidence, but cannot be derived from it.


Steve Duer said...


Thanks for the post to make me think. I think the church does have a structure. Christ is the head. Then we are accountable to each other. However, I think shepherds or elders have a identified roll. I know there have been times in my life that I felt the flock was needing to be led by strong, loving shepherds.

I agree that we don't need to replicate the business model of org chart. Shepherds should = board of directors.

Greg Newton said...

I don't think that Jesus as the head is an organizational statement regarding position in a structure but in the world of Greek thought an affirmation of His role as the source of life. That is particularly true in Paul's use in Eph. 4:15-16 where head is not the top decision-maker in an organzation, but the source from which the rest grows. The use of head is more like the vine with its branches.

I guess I see relational roles as different than positions of authority which that power is seen as deriving from the position. The authority of Jesus comes not from a position, but from his role (service) as Redeemer.