I would like to lay out a few things that I've been thinking about and would love some feedback from you about these ideas. Lately I have been mentally trying to dissect the spiritual organism of the church from the structures and organizations that we know as the church.
I'll start with this quote from George Hunsberger that I read at Brad Brisco's blog, The Missional Church Network:
"Increasingly, formal organizational structures are what we use the term church to designate. The structures have thus become a functional substitute for the social organism the New Testament calls “church.” In the end, in America the church has come to be understood as a “vendor of religious services and goods” in what Roger Finke and Rodney Stark have dubbed our “religious economy.” We live then in a world of religious consumers and religious firms in the business of serving them."
This isn't necessarily to say that structure and organization are the problem. In fact, when a group reaches a certain size, structure and organization are inevitable. So based on the size of the organization we are involved in, there will be a certain amount of necessary structure and organization.
Gary Goodell has an interesting article at epermission about the group dynamics of various size groups. He has this to say about the administration of groups:
"In a culture stung with the marketing ego that "bigger is better," we must always be cautious as to why we "count" certain things. Again, numbers are not to be used against one another, but as in the cases in the model of Jesus and Scripture, the truth is that we can better steward what is happening relationally when the group is the right size, and become aware of the shifts and changes that can occur so we can accommodate different sized groupings and thus different dynamics."
When I was writing the leadership articles, I touched on the idea of divorcing administrative leadership from spiritual leadership.
“We have blurred the lines within the church between the administrative organization and the organic spiritual life of the church body. While a person may be needed to administratively lead an organizational structure, if that structure happens to be a church group, he must not assume that his organizational rank presumes an elevated spiritual position in the group.”
In my comment to Jonathan Brink at Missio Dei on his recent post about leadership, I added these thoughts:
"I see that this is where the confusion often occurs within the church in regard to leadership. It is often assumed and taught that spiritual authority follows the same lines as organizational authority.
There is nothing wrong with organizational leadership within a church if we recognize it as an administrative function for the purpose of structural organization. If our church structure is an organization, it is helpful to have effective administration of that organization.
The problems begin when we believe that the church organization is the same as the organic church body. Within the church, we have tried to combine a role of spiritual and organizational leadership into one person called the pastor. In that, we end up with a perverted role that fits neither description."
Is it fair that we employ someone for the role of administering an organization and then put a spiritual title of pastor on them? Yes, perhaps they will pastor as a part of their role in the organization. But should the spiritual ministry for an entire group fall on the shoulders of one person? Perhaps it would be more accurate to refer to them as the director or administrator. I think that we frequently substitute administrative leadership in the church for spiritual leadership.
Which leads to further questions of whether we pay someone for spiritual ministry which is being addressed by Alan Knox at his blog. I tend to lean towards the ideal that spiritual ministry should be shared among the body. However, depending on the size of the group, it may be necessary to employ organizational and administrative services.
Looking at the church we are attending as an example, they are a large organization that puts on a Sunday morning service for the purpose of attracting seekers. They are up front in stating that "church" doesn't happen in the Sunday service, but rather in the small groups that meet during the week. While the leader is doing a fine job of directing this organization, his personal level of involvement with people doesn't suggest a role of pastor, in spite of the fact that his title is Senior Pastor.
So back to dissecting:
In examining our organizations, where is the organic life of the church?
Does it occur in a Sunday morning service?
Are there some occasions of gathering where church doesn't occur?
What about the role of the pastor?
What is the difference between gathering as the church and having a religious service?
Feel free to address any or all of these ideas and questions.