Of all the subjects taught by church leaders, organizing people for effective ministry is rarely one of them. Yet, we all know that a well-organized event, or mission, is key to its success. Furthermore, we know that people are not likely to continue to participate in a mission that is not well-organized.
So . . . what does the Bible say about organizing the church? Does the Bible contain any organizational teachings? Well, the word, organize, does not appear anywhere in Scripture! But that doesn’t suggest that the Bible offers no help in this area of thought. The better question is, “Did Jesus have a vision in mind for his bride? Did he show us how to organize the church during his earthly ministry?”
Yes! Jesus did reveal his vision for the church when he fed the 5,000 followed by a feeding of the 4,000. But, we haven’t been taught to pull the organizational clues together in order to understand his vision. The organizational structure that Jesus upheld during his earthly ministry originated with Jethro’s advice to his son-in-law, Moses, recorded in Exodus 18:17-25. Jethro’s advice was to organize the tribal community in thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens.
This well-known division of leadership, during the time of the Exodus, was employed by Jesus when setting the blessed and broken bread before the people in the feeding of the 5,000, Mark 6:30-44. Then, Jesus increased the size of the organizational model to 1000s, 144s, 72s, and 12s, when feeding the 4,000 in Mark 8:1-13. The increase in size was indicated by an increase in loaves of bread . . . from five loaves to seven loaves. (The two feedings are discussed in The Net – An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow. See link below.)
This increase in organizational size, from 100s to 144s, is where the number, 144,000s, originates in the book of Revelation. It is a number that symbolizes the organizational vision of the church on earth in her state of completeness. It is also important to note that the original tabernacle, in wilderness of the Exodus, was supported by 100 silver bases, while its walls were held together by 144 gold rings. Therefore, both numbers are attached to issues of structure from the earliest time of Exodus to the visions in Revelation.
The organizational clues in the Bible give us confidence that Jesus did, in fact, have an organizational vision in mind for his bride! But, he also had an organizational image in mind. Jesus said, “The kingdom of heaven is like a net that was let down into the lake and caught fish of many kinds, Matthew 13:47. Because Jesus had a specific image in mind, he selected capable net makers when he called the first disciples, Peter, Andrew, James, and John—four fishermen who made nets for a living.
Jesus called net makers to follow him because he wanted to repurpose their net-making skills. He wanted the fishermen to learn how to make nets of people, by people, and for people. Hence they would become “fishers of people” for the purpose of building the kingdom of God. This is a critical organizational understanding.
Fishers of people was never intended to become a metaphor for bringing people to salvation through a belief in Jesus as the Messiah. The call to become fishers of people was intended to be an organizational act that would build up the kingdom of heaven on earth. When we interpret the phrase, “fishers of people,” to be a metaphor for evangelizing people by talking to them about Jesus, it blinds us to the organizational act which builds up the kingdom of heaven like a net.
When this happens, millions of people follow Jesus,
while millions of communities are left without nets!
This is a big part of the dysfunction of the church of today!
Again, the phrase, fishers of people, was intended to be an organizational/recruitment effort! Only when the kingdom is organized, as Jesus envisioned, will we, as Christians, be in a position to bring the love of Jesus to ALL people, while bringing ALL people to the love of Jesus.
When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Jesus then replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by flesh and blood, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it. I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven; whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” Then he ordered his disciples not to tell anyone that he was the Messiah,” Matthew 16:13-20
Jesus declared Peter to be the rock upon which Jesus’ vision of the church on earth would be built—not Peter’s vision, or our vision, but Jesus’ vision! Furthermore, he gave Peter the keys to this kingdom. In context, we must understand that the keys opened the doors to the organizational wisdom that Peter needed to have in order to begin making nets of people, by people, and for people.
Peter was a fisherman who knew how to make nets! So Peter took those keys and organized the first net, in Acts 1, according to the vision Jesus had imparted during the feeding of the 5,000 and the 4,000. And the vision Jesus’ imparted was modeled after the original church, born in the Sinai desert, during the time of Moses.
Question: How would Jesus organize the church?
Answer: I believe he would organize nets of 1,000s, 144s, 72s, and 12s and tie them all together to blanket the earth!
Thoughts along the way,
Carol Wimmer is the author of the acclaimed poem When I say I am a Christian, and three books entitled: The Net—An Organizational Vision for the Church of Tomorrow; The Clock—A Timekeeping Tool for the Church of Tomorrow; and The Key—A Spiritual Language for the Church of Tomorrow