Is My Church An Organization Or An Organism?


Why Should/Shouldn’t My Church Embrace Change? Part IV


The Church in the book of Acts is active, alive, vibrant, moving, expecting the unexpected, walking in faith, and led by the Holy Spirit. It is a narrative about men figuring out this new Jesus movement. Although founded in Judaism, “Behold, all things are new.”

Acts and Paul’s Epistles reveal the Jewish faith as being stagnant, ruled by tradition and self imposed laws, cautious and highly organized, while governed by a top heavy hierarchy. It was slow, cumbersome, avoiding the unexpected while demanding control, seeking a Messiah, and persecuting this new Jewish sect called the Way. Acts also records life being birthed amongst this highly regulated religious world. Without God’s Presence in their Temple, they were just going through the motions. Spiritual life in their system was lost, but God was birthing a new spiritual organism in their midst, the Church. God majors in birthing, and He gave new life to a faith that had lost its way. He gave them their promised Messiah, Savior, King, and High Priest in Jesus, yet they rejected him.

Organisms have life; organizations provide structure. Organisms have movement while organizations, often stagnant, live off the benefits of their structure. Organisms build peer relationships and multiply; organizations use hierarchal leadership to support their structure. Unfortunately, organizations often stifle organisms in an attempt to control. It is easy, yet unwise, for growing organisms after multiplying to seek organization and structure. Structures rise, and structures fall. The Twin Towers that rose above the New York’s skyline have proven that.

I ask, “Is my church an organism built on relationships, or is it an organization built on structure?” Of course, I want to answer, “organism built on relationships”, but I know better! The Church is relational, saints as equal peers growing into the image of Jesus Christ, but in actuality, it is often all about structure and organization.

We seek safety, comfort, and stability from structure, but usually at the cost of personal relationships with our peers.  We often are willing to sign covenants agreeing with stated tenants of faith, theological proclamations, rules and regulations, and agree to disciplinary procedures in order to become members of a religious institution rather than working on building intimate peer relationships with other believers in the faith.

The clergy/laity divide is evident in this struggle. Laity, as an organism, thrives on building relationships with other believers while the professional clergy thrives on elitism through organizational, hierarchal structure for leadership. The clergy demand for laity loyalty and financial support to maintain the organization has often sucked the life out of the organism.

Throughout church history, the organization often snuffed out sparks of organism life, calling them heretical. They have opposed almost every movement of God outside the sphere of their control, but since the Great Reformation, the sparks eventually became flames of revival that caused change and brings the organism back to life.

Today, would you classify your church as an organism or an organization? If your answer is an organization, but you wish it to become an organism, your only option is to embrace change!