The Shape of the Church (Part II)

I’ve just gotten a great post in my Reader today, from Kingdom Grace .. and she’s pointed me to another great website that goes along the same topic as we’re discussing here Wayne Jacobsen’s blog LifeStream is dealing with “Starting A House Church”.   So I’m delving into what even more people are saying about this topic of the shape of the church.

This is part of Wayne’s opening statement:

The unspoken thought is that systems will work pretty well if the right people are in charge. The reality is that systems themselves are destructive to relational and organic growth.

Really? All systems are destructive to relationship and organic growth? 

It seems all of this stems from the fact that we really don’t trust that Jesus is capable of building his church—that he cannot give rise to the reality of his family if we don’t “start something”. It’s as if living loved and loving just won’t be enough to let him do all he wants to do.

Ok, I understand the implications of letting Jesus build his church, but like I say in my previous post,  structure is important, even for fluid organisms, right? I am not a fan of ‘starting something’, either, but the statement seems to demean all structure, which is thinking I’ve had to get away from.

Wayne was having a conversation with a brother, Mike, who felt called to start a church.  Wayne’s responses try to disuade him from ‘starting a church’, per se, but being open to sharing life organically instead.  To Mike’s initial comment that he felt led to start an open church, Wayne says, in part: 

People who start a church end up basing it around their vision or gifts and it will either bog down or simply become the outgrowth of one person. I am convinced real church emerges as an organic outgrowth of relationships people are already sharing. So the question is not, how do we start a church, but rather, how do we facilitate people caring for each other and growing spiritually together and see over time whether or not church life emerges from that reality?

I like what he says here:  “… real church emerges as an organic outgrowth of relationships people are already sharing.”  In my personal experience, “facilitat[ing] people caring for each other and growing spritually together” happens naturally as I extend myself to love – that part I can see.  I’ve grown to love my interactions on the blogospshere because of the deep abiding relationships that have formed and are being formed as I make myself available to love, without the structure.  However, I did find the tendency to build a structure…. was it necessary?  I don’t know – I’m currently in a time of reflection and seeking God. Maybe when I come out I won’t need that structure, who knows? It’s too early to tell….  I do find it easier to just love and be loved, at the moment.

I like this quote: 

I really don’t think we need to start churches. Jesus started the only one that matters at Pentecost 2000 years ago. We just need to live in that reality instead of starting more institutions that only further divide the body. That’s probably not what you wanted to hear, but I honestly thing the way God works is very different than the way we do…

That God works different to us is definitely on target!  Just more to chew over…

He comments that, “If I could encourage you in anything it would be to share your life freely, but look to come alongside someone else’s journey.”  Now that I can relate to.  Coming alongside someone else’s journey is the most fulfilling thing I have found, myself.  I love how God enocurages me as I encourage others….

Once we try to get people to have the experience we have, we’ll manipulate them instead of serve them. Jesus just wants you to come alongside folks and give them truth as they are ready for it. Once we start trying to manage people’s spirituality, people will run from us. God will show you. I love your heart and passion, but church leadership has done this wrong for a long time and its why people are fleeing from the church instead of finding God in her.

Hmmm.  Is ‘church life’ just trying to get people to have the experience we have?  Is it a case of ‘managing people’s spirituality’? In every case?  That’s the question.  You don’t want to throw out the baby with the bath water….

Another response to Mike:

My response: What should you do? Follow him. If you don’t know what that means yet, just live in his love and love others around you. In time it will be clear what he wants you to do. If you don’t know now, other than to follow someone else’s form, then maybe you are moving ahead of him. I’m really serious about this. We’re just asked to love like he loves us (John 13:34-35), to proclaim the gospel as we have opportunity and to help others follow Jesus who want to follow him (Matthew 28:19-20). We are not told to plant a church, for he said he would build his own. He’s good at this. He knows what to do. Just help others as God gives you grace. 

He continues with an interesting statement:

Don’t try to start something. Don’t try to ‘get people’ to do anything. Live your life before them until they are hungry enough to ask for help. Then help them learn to live loved and follow Jesus. And the gospel will spread…

I like that.  “Helping them to live loved.”  I think that’s a great way to describe how I help.  I’m always showering those who are broken with love, telling them that they are loved – not just by God, but by me.  It’s awesome to see the love of God creep under someone’s defenses until they don’t even know that they are out of their pain…

We must not forget that the ‘early church’ did not arise out of a plan to get people to do anything. The early church emerged out of a revelation of who Jesus is, and hungry hearts responded who wanted to know God and live in his life. There was no recruitment campaign and no strategy to manage people through a hierarchical system. They lived as a family and grew to discover how they could embrace his life together and live transformed in the culture.

One of his concluding statements is

Somehow we have to think differently—that our calling is not to build the church, but to present an authentic demonstration of the Gospel in how we live and what we say. Then, we take the time to equip those who want to know him, how to live in a relationship with him. As a pool of people discover how to live loved and love, then the church can take on a variety of forms and expressions in various times and seasons.

The whole article is well written, but has caused some healthy debate in the blogosphere.  Is he ‘bucking the system’ out of a lack of respect for structure?  Does he think we should just ‘hang loose and let Jesus do his thing?’ as one of his commenters on his blog asked?

I’ve been debating with a fellow commenter on Kingdom Grace’s blog who said, in part:

Jesus personally appointed Paul to ‘plant churches’ amidst the Gentile nations. Yeah, he got persecuted too. Just the term ‘plant’ indicates something organic. But didn’t Paul also place structure into those organic families of believers? Didn’t he have the leaders he mentored (e.g. Timothy and Titus) mentor others for appointment to leadership? There must be some middle ground here somewhere.

He called this post and others like it a ‘backlash against the institution.’

To my and other’s call to ‘obedience to God, whatever it ‘looks like’ he said:

 Having served in both church leadership and in international missions I have had to work with people who were absolutely convinced that they were being obedient to God’s call – and they ended up offending hosts, abandoning commitments, and making my job a whole lot more difficult than it should have been. It got to the point that I became very cynical of those who began their sentences with “God spoke to me … ” or “I feel led of the Spirit … “, etc.

He also said, in part, that

When working with volunteers in the mission organization there needs to be a sense of maturity, and certainly the younger volunteers who may not have had the proper experience to mature yet should at least be under the guidance of a mature leader. A leader who has the wisdom and influence to instruct these youngsters to minimally stick with the commitment they made in the initial agreement.

I agree with Ken’s assessment that leadership is necessary… but I don’t get that Wayne is trumping leadership at all.  In my opinion, he’s saying that the structure of top down leadership misses the mark.  Paul and the other apostles were well known and defined leaders in the early church, yet the early church did not have the goal of ‘starting something new.’  I agree with Ken’s last statement:

Thus, I agree with you up to a point, but from my experience in real life, much of this sounds idealogical. Life and people (yes, even Christians), are unpredictable and messy. I am a father and grandfather and I love my wife, my kids, and my grandkids more than I could ever express in words. But even within our family relationships it takes a lot of work to keep us moving through life together. We all ‘hear from God’ but we don’t always agree on what we’re hearing. It takes structure, collaboration, patience … and leadership. That’s how a healthy family functions.

I agree, brother, I agree…

In my experience, being relational doesn’t divorce from leadership at all… it is necessary, absolutely necessary – in my own network (which some call a house church) there are clearly defined leaders that we all look up to for advice and counsel, even as each group explores what God’s kingdom might mean for them. So I’m agreeing with you, brother… it might seem ideological, but there are places where ideology seems close to reality :)

What are your thoughts on this?


10 Responses

  1. Hi,
    I visited your blog a few times before.

    I like the way your posts make your readers think, or re-think what we have just taken for granted.

    “Coming alongside someone else’s journey” is also my kind of church.

    Authority from below is the way of the kingdom, servant leadership, the way Jesus demonstrated it.

    The world will know we are His disciples if we have love one for another.

  2. True that, Lidj 🙂 You are welcome to visit as often as you can 🙂

    I like the way your posts make your readers think, or re-think what we have just taken for granted.

    Well THANK YOU! That’s a great compliment! 🙂 Your posts are so deep, too … I must make a point to read there more often 🙂

    The world will know we are His disciples if we have love one for another


  3. way bajan. this is some intense stuff. very thought provoking. i love hearing the thoughts of others on church and discipleship. we need to be willing to be stretched and our current thinking challenged. because often times…our current thinking is someone elses and not biblical.

  4. What are my thoughts on this?

    Back to basics – it’s important to define ” church” and “leadership”.
    I believe the Bible tells us that the church is simply all the believers – a body.
    Leadership – looking at Acts and summing up very briefly – the leaders seem to be teachers and enablers.
    In the body everyone has a role and gifts which are one as important as the other.
    We are all accountable to one another and to Christ, who is the head of the church.
    Just a few thoughts – shall be reading Acts again!
    God bless you!

  5. Good posts, Rob.

    I like your balanced approach to reading the post you referenced. I tend to agree with you.

    I believe the Greek is rather revealing as to what Paul (who wrote most of the New Testament and was an apostle among the Gentiles and therefore the first ‘church planter’) saw as to the structure of the local church.

    I’m working on a study right now which … doesn’t really pertain to this exact subject, but it does overlap on a couple areas. I believe it will be somewhat revealing on this topic. (therefore I won’t post here. 🙂 )

    Good stuff, Rob! Thanks again!

  6. […] off of the last two posts on The Shape of the Church (part 1 and part 2),  this series, taken from the Purpose Driven Connection – the weekly email devotional from […]

  7. Hey Bajan – been a while.

    Deep stuff. i like what Annie has said previously and what Jonie said above – we are different parts of the body of the church, we don’t all have the gifts to do all the functions of one body.

    Who is the ‘head’ of the church? Who are we to follow and – as stated previously – we are to ‘come alongside another’ – the widowed and the fatherless. Being a light to the world ( Matt 5:14-16)

    Concerning discipleship – we should follow Jesus’s examples (ALWAYS!) 😉 He taught His Disciples over many years by reason of knowing far more than they – a disciple who knows little of himself or of Jesus or of Scripture or of his Father is probably not going to make a good disciple and certainly should not be too involved in discipling others as someone who is looked to for guidance.

    Again Jesus said that before we would try to take the speck out of our brother’s eye we must needs first remove the beam from our own.

    As keen as we may be to see the expansion of His Church it requires of each one of us to first work towards the removal from within us of that which would lead others away from Him instead of towards Him.

    Before we are capable of leading others to truth we have to be able to light the way with a pure light – not a dim one.

    God ensures there is both rigid structures and flexible structures in every ‘organism’ both are needed as a part of a single, functioning healthy body Any ‘structure’ we are responsible for helping to build has to follow His Guidance truly if it is to glorify Him.

    He must always be our first thought and in every subsequent one in some ‘form’.

    just my thoughts 🙂


  8. “church”?

    king james sure made that a popular word when he used it in his version of what this world call’s it’s “bible”…….

    However, most today believe “church” to be what king james and others intended it to be, a building of one kind or another.

    Now why use a word favored by a worldly king?

    Most certainly “The Body of The Messiah” would better be served if known as a “community”, “tribe”, “family” or even “assembly” instead of the english translation of “church” for the pagan greek “ecclesia”.

    As for house “church”? How about Family Gathering?

    i offer the following for your discernment.

    “Pure And Undefiled Religion”

    “Pure religion and undefiled before G-D The Father is this, to visit the fatherless (those children who know not The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL) and widows(those who have not “experienced The Messiah and The Power{Our Father} that raised Him from among the dead”) in their affliction and to keep oneself uncontaminated by the world…….” (James 1:27)

    Simply, all other religion is impure and defiled…….

    And notice that “pure and undefiled” religion is the individual, a Brother or Sister doing The Will of Our Father, led of The Holy, Set Apart, Spirit…….

    Pagan “religion” is corporate…….

    And “Brothers and Sisters” is not “religion”, for what are Brothers and Sisters if not Family? Would not The Family of The Only True G-D, Father(Creator) of ALL, “The Body of The Messiah”, be much closer than a natural, fleshly family?

    What is declared to be “religion” today is truly the devil’s playground…….

    And Faith will not create a system of religion…….

    Hope is there would be those who take heed unto The Call of The Only True G-D to “Come Out of her, MY people”!

    For they will “Come Out” of this wicked world(babylon) and it’s systems of religion, into “the glorious Liberty of The Children of The Only True G-D”.

    They will no longer be of those who are destroying the earth(land, air, water, vegetation, creatures)” and perverting that which is Spirit(Light, Truth, Life, Love, Peace, Hope, Faith, Mercy, Grace, Miracles, etc.).

    Peace, in spite of the dis-ease(religion) that is of this world and it’s systems of religion, for “the WHOLE(not just a portion) world is under the control of the evil one” (1John5:19) indeed and Truth…….

    Truth is never ending……. francis

  9. […] The Shape of the Church – 2 […]

  10. […] The Shape of the Church – 2 […]

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