Our generation is watching and experiencing an avalanche of opposition to organized religion. People by throngs are leaving the churches and starting meeting in an informal way. Some of those people consider this movement a return to the primitive church, when there was no organization, building, or any kind of leadership system. People are getting together in the Starbucks for sharing spiritual feelings and experiences, and are calling that a church.
4 – The Church Is an Organism and an Organization
The New Testament compares the church with a vine, building, community, family, and body, among other images. In all of them we find an organism and an organization. The organism teaches us about the life of the church, the relationship between disciples with their Lord, and disciples with other disciples. The organization helps to understand how a group of people should live together, worship together, and serve together.
I understand and agree with some of their critics about the organized religion of nowadays. The structure is so big and complicated that the life and power of God, sometimes, cannot be found in them. They have so many rules, details, and bureaucracy that people prefer to leave. The biggest challenge is that those religious bodies, even though they recognize what is going on, they keep creating rules on top of rules, making things worse.
People that believe we do not need an organization, think that just getting together for a coffee, or a meal, in a public space, or in a home, will be enough to constitute a church. That is simply not true. The church was born as an organism and an organization. Even though they did not have a dedicated building for their meetings, they had leadership, a designated place to meet, most the time in the house of one of the members, and in the case of Jerusalem, they would meet in one of the courts of the Temple. They had a structure, among that structure was included, leadership, care of the poor members, worship with communion, outreach program, teaching of the members, and discipline, to cite a few.
Jesus was clear when he taught the disciples about discipline in the church, here it is what He said: “If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector. Matthew 18:17.” In His view, the church would discipline members, if they were behaving against the teachings of the Scriptures. On the other part we find the church sending missionaries to preach the Gospel and plant other churches. Here it is the text: “The church sent them on their way, and as they traveled through Phoenicia and Samaria, they told how the Gentiles had been converted. This news made all the brothers very glad. Acts 15:3.” As you can see with just these few examples, the church was and is more than just an informal meeting to check out someone’s spiritual journey.
Finally, I would like to bring one more text to this discussion. It is a text that Presbyterians use very well: “but all things should be done decently and in order. 1Corinthians 14:40.” The word decently means honestly. But the word order means, according to Mounce Greek Dictionary: “regular disposition, arrangement, good order, and well-regulated conduct.”
The questions that we should ask ourselves are: Can we simplify the way that we do church today? The answer is YES! We should and we ought. The other question is: Can we be and have a church without any organization? The answer is a resounding NO! The church needs to be organized and have some structure.
Therefore, my brother and sister, do not be afraid and discouraged when your church is organized and has a well-defined structure. They are important for the life and mission of the church.
Have a blessed week,