A Fundamental Misunderstanding:
Organization vs. Organism
There is, I believe, a fundamental misunderstanding that hinders our congregations’ ability to fully appropriate the power and the influence of the Church in today’s world. I sense a continuing tension displayed in the dichotomy between the Church needing to exist as an organism and the congregation trying to be Church as an organization. Congregational leaders (and leaders at other levels of the Church) fall into the common trap of trying to fix organic relational problems through administrative means. One example of this is attempting to correct a budget problem by administering a new stewardship campaign while ignoring the reality that stewardship is a spiritual issue related to the members’ relationships with God and with each other. Such an effort is doomed to failure.
The problem is not that we don’t know better. We teach our children that the Church is the people and not the building(s). (Remember that song from your childhood?). We even preach sermons from Paul’s epistles on the theology of the Body of Christ. Those teachings not withstanding, when it comes to decision making in the Church we tend to organize ourselves more like a company with a CEO and a Board of Directors. The theological concept of corporate “discernment” rarely comes into play in many congregations when there is a problem to solve or a decision to be made. Robert’s Rules of Order and local by-laws usually dictate how congregations “do business.”
Until our thinking about being the Church changes from an institutional organization that we grow and manage, to a relationship system that we need to nurture and develop, we will continue to fail to appreciate the power of the unseen dynamics at work in the congregation. Unless we understand the nature of what a congregation is, we risk being unable to provide the kind of leadership it needs.
The Healthy Congregations Initiative of the Presbytery of Carlisle is designed to help your congregation’s leaders grow and mature in many areas, including how to help your congregation function as an organism rather than an organization. If you would like to talk about how the Presbytery is able to assist your congregation’s leaders or, if you specific situational questions, please contact me directly.