. . . continued from Part I.
So, when we look at how the church should organize herself, we must perceive of the 1,400-year-old model that the first believers in Acts 1 understood! If we don’t look to the original tribal model in the Sinai desert, then we are left to our own imagination when it comes to building or growing the church. And, so far, human imagination has blown the church way off course!
The organizational models that we’ve chosen, and continue to choose, will never fulfill the vision Jesus had for the bride of Christ because our structures are also built on mistaken beliefs:
It’s a good idea to organize the church with layers of polity and government
Jesus knew that God’s Law was paramount. Jesus knew that the Ten Commandments were a supreme blessing to all people—a pathway toward a good life. He wanted people to have an unhindered relationship with God’s Law. He wanted nothing to come between God’s Law and God’s people. But the 600+ laws added to the Commandments had become burdensome to everyone inside and outside of Judaism. The law of Moses had become a hindrance.
So Jesus did away with them by adding the two laws of love, thereby sealing God’s Law with a new commandment to love God and one another (which actually came from the very old writings of Deuteronomy and Leviticus.) Again, Jesus never abandoned God’s Law. He simply added the two laws of love to the original ten and called it good, forever!
Nevertheless, as the church developed, she ignored the teachings of Jesus in favor of forming her own set of rules and laws – her own personal government! The church intentionally placed herself between God’s Law and God’s people—doing precisely what Jesus wanted undone! Oops!
Today, millions of faithful people are stuck in the muck and mire of local, regional, or global church government and its polity. The spiritual leaders of today want to find “The Way” of Jesus—but we will never find his way if we cannot remove ourselves from present day church polity and government!
Christians have spent centuries preaching, teaching and attempting to govern societal morality. There are Ten Laws + Two Laws of Love, which summarize the Ten. In Jesus’ mind, there will never be a government—church or secular—that has the right to come between the human spirit and God’s Law. That was the whole purpose of his choice to eat with sinners and condemn the religious leaders of his day. He wanted people to know God and God’s Law without hindrance. The church must learn how to respect God’s spiritual space. She’s been unknowingly violating it for 2,000 years.
Jesus gave his life defending the idea that all human beings must have an unhindered relationship with God’s Law. It is not the church’s place to step in and govern society when God alone has the power and authority to govern. Eventually people will realize that church government is completely unnecessary. That day is coming and not a moment too soon!
Continuing on . . .
It’s a good idea to organize local ministry around a personality, a gathering place, or a missional effort
Additionally Christians continue to build local organizations around the temporal aspects of life on earth! The pastor, priest, or worship leader, to whom people flock today will inevitably die, disappoint, or disappear tomorrow, but many churches are built around the personalities of their leaders. Likewise, the building or the gathering place will crumble, if not maintained. Buildings become a financial burden carried by people who didn’t build them and may not feel invested in maintaining them. Yet, we continue to build buildings, hoping that future generations will want to maintain them. The missional efforts that the previous generation thought important will eventually fall by the wayside as younger generations, with different priorities step into leadership positions. But, we continue to think it’s a good idea to gather people together in support of a particular cause or mission that has a temporal life.
When churches are grown around these temporal aspects of life, the organization seals its temporal fate. Such efforts will die, disappoint, or disappear in due time. Creating church around a temporal entity is an exercise in spiritual suicide because it forces the local church to reinvent itself every generation or two with new mission statements, new goals, new objectives, etc. It perpetuates a vicious cycle of growing and re-growing. Inventing and re-inventing.
In contrast with these temporal efforts, the spiritual identity of the church is the bride of Christ—the wife of the Lamb. She has an eternal identity that must transcend the temporal push and pull of life on earth. Instead of succumbing to the fickle nature of temporal ideas, tasks, people, and buildings, today’s church leaders must build an organizational model that functions for the good of everyone all the time. Such a model does exist!
So, what was the 1,400 year old vision that Jesus claimed for the church on earth?
That’s the best question Christians can ask at this moment in time!
It is the vision of a net! A net is the symbolic image of the kingdom of heaven. It is an organization of people who care about the needs of everyone living in a specific geographic area without any attachment to the personality of a church leader, a specific gathering place, or a particular mission. A net functions as a network of leadership that eats, sleeps, lives, plays, laughs, gives birth, and dies within the specific geographic area. A net operates without a place to lay her head. A net tackles all of the tasks and missions needed in the geographic area she serves as life goes on . . . never needing to reinvent herself, or grow herself, or house herself in a physical structure.
A net has the singular purpose of empowering people with God’s Law so that the net can take care of herself, generation after generation. It’s that simple! But we can’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. We must deal with our mistakes and move on from them. If we can imagine the church as an entity that casts a fishing net over the spiritual waters of an entire village, town, or city—catching fish regardless of their kind—then the vision Jesus imparted for the church will also be captured.
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