Organizational Structures

Part II: Understanding Organizational Structures: Pyramidal Versus Linear

We have asked the question, “How can we keep from becoming an organization, an administrative and functional structure, and remain an organism, “a living thing, a living being, an individual?” In order to answer this question we have to look at understanding organizational structures.  In America, the hot bed of world capitalism, we worship the “Business Model” of Corporate America with C.E.O.’s, Boards, Stock Holders, and Workers. This mentality has also infiltrated the American Church.

Christian church leadership America primarily follows the C.E.O. model of a Senior Pastor heading a staff of associate pastors, staff, and personnel being monitored by a Church Board. All positions, paid or voluntary, have titles, job descriptions, and professional expectations. The Stock Holders are their parishioners whose “tithe” finances the institution. They are told they are investing in the “kingdom of God”, when most of their investment goes to building and grounds maintenance, professional staff salaries and benefit packages, and paying for programs to bring nonchurch people into their building or enrich or entertain their constituents. Benevolence and missions, the origin of this organization, is now lost in the miniscule regions of the over all budget, as most finances goes to maintenance of the system.

We who have been part of this system all our lives feel it is normal, acceptable, never questioning it, and believing that supporting it is “God’s will”, but what about new believers or even nonbelievers? How do they see it? A fact is that the church has been losing membership over the last couple of decades, and are losing the “young” that are to be the anchors of the church of this century. What will it take to attract the “young” adults back into the “life” of the Church? By returning to the “organism”! The question is how?

We, the Church, need to look through their eyes. When I was young, I wanted to believe I was “anti-establishment”, opting for relationships over religion and systematic organizations. Now older, I catch myself defending my “religion” and the organizations that support my lifestyle while hearing the “young” still crying out for “relationships”. Today’s 20-30’s have been labled “flat-worlders”, believing in linear relationships as being “friends” on Facebook, supplemental “likes” as accepting comments and websites, and networking with others, all relationship on a linear, horizontal plane. They look at hierarchal structures as “speed bumps” (See earlier blog). Social Networking has given them a voice of peer acceptance and equality, but hierarchal structures and leadership have stifled that voice, minimizing their importance and losing the feeling that they are neither “accepted” nor “equal” to anyone, thus they don’t come to church, primarily because of the structure.

So the structure must change from a hierarchal one to a linear, horizontal, accepting one of peer equality as believers of Jesus Christ, a priesthood of equal peers, without titles or positions of stature.  It is what we do, not who we are, nor what title we wear that gives us validity.  It is the “laying down of our lives” to one another that says everything, so titles and offices become irrelevant to our actions and attitudes.

Changing our “religious” mindsets to “relational” mindsets will not be easy, for it will demand structural changes to our established organizational thinkings laid down for centuries. The over emphasis of organization brought the “Dark Ages” for hundreds of years; the emphasis of returning to becoming an organism will bring “Reformation”, or revival. Reformation will not just include “re-forming” our structures, but disposing many of them so the Church can remain fluid in following the Holy Spirit as it had to do during its birthing process. Relying on the Holy Spirit and being obedient to him will trump established church tradition or the Church will forever be fragmented, which is not the will of the Father. Jesus prayed, “Father, make us one,” and to do that drastic change will have to evolved.

How do we have this change evolve? By tearing down the old, and believing in ICorinthians 15 that in “Christ Jesus all things are new!” It is hard for even me to accept, but urban renewal begins with the demolition of old structures, in spite of the local historical federation wanting to keep everything as it was when first established, before new can be build.