"But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander." ~ 1 Peter 3:15-16

A Structured Church, Anyone?

Being outside of organised religion (i.e. christianity), it is not uncommon to be questioned in regards to the structure of the organic church. "What is your structure like?" "How do you organised yourselves?" "What do you do when you come together?" These are just some samples of the multiple queries of the same substance often raised during a conversation, usually between two believers, and especially when the other party found out that you are out of the institutional church (see previous post on the Definition of Church).

Before going further, it is good to clarify that all forms of matter, living and non-living, do have some degree of order or structure. Anything that is unstructured is random chaos and cannot possibly even exist. Okay, I suppose that gives my position on Intelligent Design away! So you see, it's not an issue of structure vs non-structure, but a matter of which structure.

Having said that, this is not to mean that structure necessarily equates institutionalism with the full-blown hierarchical system. At any rate, it is helpful to note that even the organic church has an organisational chart. However, it is not a multi-layered hierarchical chart but a flat chart with all on equal position under the common Headship of Christ. Strictly no other intermediary agents except the One and Only. Or you could also say that there is no other Foundation other than He Himself.

The philosophical usage of the term "structure" aside, here are (at least) three scenarios whenever someone asks, "What is the structure of the organic church meeting?"

1. They are looking for an organisational structure of the church. Most probably, they are looking for the in-charged and thus has looked at the wrong area. The organic church has a flat hierarchy, remember? Further, the functions of the church as a whole is much dependent on the spiritual gifting of the living stones, and not an iota on the creation of official positions for the discharge of an intended duty. And the combination of the different gifting is a matter of a dynamic relationship.

2. They are asking what happens during the meetings and hope to replicate the programs, activities or "order of worship" wholesale. While this is a big step forward than the above, it is however still program-centric. It is not what we do that constitutes the church, but who we are. Knowing that we are already what we are in Christ, both individually and corporately, before doing anything in our lives or during our meetings, it just might be relaxing or liberating for us to really do something - the organic way.

3. They are totally clueless about how this organic stuff works and sincerely wants some guidance on the how-to when the saints gather together in an organic setting. Remember the first time before you go out with your spouse-to-be, you also asks the same question! *smile* So do we need to sing, pray, read straight from the Scripture or dance around the coffee table every time we gather together? I think the safest guide is the one who is as clueless as you are. I am dead serious. :)

As a concluding remark, I think it is worth mentioning that the above has assumed that the Church has only one valid structure, but with different expressions. Even if you think that there is more than one valid structure, I am sure you would agree that there are good and bad, healthy and unhealthy structure. It is critical that we understand the principles of our coming together, nothing short of the eternal purpose of God.


Anonymous said...

There are several meetings that stick out more than others. Though, I can't remember a time lately that I thought, "Where is Jesus?" I did wonder this many days in the institutional church.

I remember we had a meeting not long ago where we began with singing and prayer. Each person calling out a song to sing and the singing commenced. We did not follow any man's direct leadership. All the songs that we sang, whether it came from children or adults, expressed God's grace. Clearly, this was the theme of the morning that Jesus chose for us. It was during the singing that we passed around the bread and the cup.

The singing time faded into each one sharing insights into the mercy and grace of Jesus. Prayer and Scripture reading was laced throughout the sharing. The meeting came to a close with a few brothers briefly teaching Christ from the Word. We sang, prayed, and spoke as if Jesus was right there in our midst. And he was there in our midst. He was directing the meeting and glorifying himself. Christ was worshipped and the Body was built up that morning.

Afterword we shared a meal together and continued to fellowship in the Spirit of Christ.

Elvin said...

David, thanks for painting the beautiful mural of your recent meeting. How wonderful it will be, if we witness more of these meetings.

By the way, I am surprised that the meal was not considered as part of the meeting. :)

ravi4u2 said...

The Church is not about meetings and more meetings. It is the family of God. So, how does a family get together? Do we plan the food, the songs to sing, the message to share??? We just 'be family'. In the same fashion, 'Church happens"! When 2 or 3 come together for whatever reason.

My thoughts on real leadership here: http://lifegathering.bravejournal.com/entry/22943

Elvin said...

Great questions, Ravi. I am absolutely positive that church is about being rather than doing. If there is any doing, it stems from its being and not the other way round. What we do doesn't make us more or less than what we already are. While the church is not about meetings but Christ alone, the church does meet together and as frequent as possible. Strong relationships with one another will actually gravitates all of us together. And this coming together can happen anywhere, anytime in the week, with no fixed number of people (more than one of course!). The weekly meeting can actually be dispensed if we meet on all other six days for that matter!

In regards to the part on planning the content of the meeting, in my mind no planning means everyone coming unprepared for the meeting and see where the Lord leads as we interact. Therefore, planned means everything has been dictated beforehand and there is the "order of worship", which can either be touchable or untouchable. Since we are relying on the Holy Spirit, the "order of worship" cannot be untouchable. So we are left somewhere in between no planning and some planning beforehand (which can be changed during the meeting). May we then not be so structured to say that it has to be no planning or there must be planning beforehand. Did we just planned that? The organic way is to be led by the Spirit for each season. Not program-centric, but Christ-centric.

And I agree wholeheartedly on your thoughts about leadership stemming from relationship. In fact, that is one reason why I left the Matrix! If only Bernard is reading this. :)

ravi4u2 said...

Borrowing a quote from John the Baptist, "being must increase; but meetings must decrease". Of course being led by the Spirit does not mean that there is no planning. Where do we eat? Who pays? Where do we park? Everything requires planning. To be truly 'Christ-centric', the focus should shift from the contents of the meetings, to the mind of Christ.