The Clash Of “Mindsets”: Structural Versus Relational
The way one looks at church, structural verses relational, will effect they look at missions.
Most of us, who have grown up in the Church, look at missions as a place “missionaries” go or a thing do. Missionaries are people who go around from church to church to raise (actually forced to beg for) money, so that they can be a “professional”, having an income to free them financially while “ministering”. Unlike Paul, who was a tent maker on his missionary endeavors, a missionary goes forth as a paid professional. What he builds is a kingdom that depends on him, for he usually remains atop of the pyramidal structure he creates. A true missionary, like Paul, would move one, allowing those he “equipped” locally to maintain the new work, freeing himself to move on and start, plant, or birth a new work. A good way to tell if missionary endeavor is relational or pyramidal in structure is by seeing who is leading. Is the missionary over them, or are the natives ministering relationally to their native neighbors, brothers and sisters, families, and communities. If missions were structured as a pyramid or hierarchy, the structure will want to stay to keep its structure and maintain its positions. If the structure is relational, then there is no need for a hierarchal, pyramid, institutional structure because spiritual life flows horizontally among the participants. The banned underground Church in China is an excellent example when placed beside the institutional Church in China that the government permits. There are no westernized missionaries “overseeing” the spiritual life of the Chinese Church today, yet it is a vibrant, living organism rather than a highly structured organization partially due to persecution. A persecuted church is often forced to abandon its structure for survival.
As a person growing up in the American church, I believe that missionaries eventually open up either missionary hospitals or Bible Schools. The Bible Schools are to train future “pastors” to go out and start, develop and maintain new churches. That is structural religious thinking. Relationally, I believe, Ephesians 4 outlines how we are to “equip the saints”, not “equip a staff”, for the work of “service”, not necessarily paid professional service, to bring “maturity” to the saints in being more Christ-like, into the image of Jesus, and to bring “unity” to the body. Bible Schools preach the doctrine of the churches that finance the endeavor and propagate their uniqueness and correctness of theology doctrine compared to other “sects” of the Church, bringing division in the Body of Christ.
If someone came in and relationally developed and released those believers in the body of Christ to be evangelistic, reaching those in their culture who are lost to find Jesus in terms that their culture understands, to be shepherds, caring physically, mentally, and spiritually to the context of their cultural community, to be teachers of the Word, the Bible, by not only interpreting, but applying the written word to their culture world (in a way like Wycliffe Bible Translators do today), to be prophets so the native people in their own land can hear the voice of God for themselves and claim God to be the God of their nation, region, and community, to be apostles releasing their own people according to their spiritual gifting to their own people in the culture of their own country but under Biblical principles, written and living. Someone has already done that: Paul, and how he did that is recorded in most of the books in the New Testament after the four gospels.
Saul, like us, first went to where he was familiar when entering a new town, a new culture. He went to any existing synagogue, to God’s people like his own, only to be rejected by most of them, often thrown out, even stoned by some thinking him dead. Rejection forced him to then look to the native culture, the gentiles, who accepted his evangelistic message, received and developed his pastoral, shepherding care towards one another, got grounded in the written scriptures of his day through the unified message of the “apostles’ teaching”, grew in the intimacy of a personal relationship with their God through Jesus prophetically, and acceptance the “seeing over” what the Holy Spirit was doing through the apostolic. Then as one of their “apostles”, Paul “released” them to do the work “of service” for which he had trained and equipped them and moved on. Other “apostles”, “prophets”, and “teachers” in the body of Christ would pass through to help to continue to “equip” THEM and “release” THEM. Never did Paul nor any other apostle, prophet, teacher, etc. rule over or control them, or remain there to dictate “apostolic oversight” that controlled a pyramidal, hierarchal, institutional structure, contrary to what the Roman Catholic, pyramidal, institutional church claims.
Paul set up relational “networks” throughout his known world at his time with whom he loved, nurtured, encouraged, and longed to see and be with, but whom he never “controlled”, opting in allowing the Holy Spirit to flow freely and birth, develop, and maintain His Church in a culture through those living in that culture. The “relational” mission mind is far different than the “structural” mission mind, and the Church needs to allow the Holy Spirit to “teach us all things” in how to birth, maintain, and develop such endeavors through His people in His/their locality.