The church – organization vs organism

For years, I have been told that a local church is not an organization but an organism.  For the same amount of time, I have thought those people are crazy.

Webster’s Dictionary defines an organization as “a company, business, club, etc., that is formed for a particular purpose“. This sounds like a church to me.  From a systems aspect, each local church is a 501(c)3 organization.  Each local church has employees.  Each local church lives under IRS tax codes.  Each local church is accountable to the government in some fashion.  Each local church plans, programs, and implements a service that is available to the community.  Such service is organized by “professionals”.  Those professionals regularly ask for financial contributions from its constituents to keep the service functioning.  Each local church provides a great service that people desire to check out.  These reasons make us an organization.

Unfortunately, many churches do not expand beyond the weekend service but refuse to be called an organization.  Many churches believe they are something called an organism.  Webster’s Dictionary defines an organism as “an individual constituted to carry on the activities of life by means of organs separate in function but mutually dependent “.  The vast majority of church attendees do not carry on the activities of life during weekend worship.  The vast majority are not the ones that organize the service.  The vast majority come to the service.  The vast majority are spectators and learners at best.  These reasons also make us an organization.

The problem with simply being an organization is that Jesus Christ requires more local churches.  1 Corinthians 12 describes us as a body.  Even though we are separate in function, our purpose is to provide life as we are dependent on one another.  This sounds very much like an organism.  This might happen during a weekend service, but those occasions become the exception and not the rule.

Here are three ways to actively engage in the organism of the church.

Feed yourself.  This seems like common sense and it is.  Every morning, I want a cup of coffee.  I don’t wait until another makes coffee and brings me a cup.  I make my own coffee.  When I want ice cream, I buy some ice cream.  When I want a different snack, again, I don’t wait for another person to offer something.  I find what I am craving.  If you want to make the shift from attending the organization of the church to engaging the organism of the church, you need to begin feeding yourself with a daily dose of Scripture.

Find your “sweet spot” during the weekend service.  Church attendees make this more difficult than it needs to be.  Be a greeter.  Run a camera.  Help collect the offering.  Be on the team that runs worship slides.  Rock a baby in the nursery.  Make the coffee.  Say hello to a person you don’t know.  Be a teacher’s aide in children’s ministry.  Park a car for a retired person that has difficulty walking.  The point is do something more than just come and take in the service.  If you participate in something small during the service, you will begin to shift into engaging with the organism of the church.

Find a community group.  The expectations that people have about any local church will never be met outside of a community group.  This is the place where church (the organism) happens.  This is the place where you discuss Scripture and how your life intersects with the Bible.  This is the place where you find help with your parenting.  This is the place where life’s questions find answers.  This is the place where your failing marriage becomes stable.  This is the place where you find help with your Saturday project.  This is the place where people know who you are.

The organization of church and the organism of church are both necessary parts.  It’s important that do not become disgruntled with the organism of church when we are unhappy with the organization of church.  It’s important that we understand the organism is church (at least for now) needs the organization of church.  The opposite is also true.

When any local church begins to understand both segments of a local exist, that church will become to blossom into the church God desired it to become.

Please, do not simply be satisfied with attending the organization of any church when God has so much more for you through the organism of any church.

Life is a journey and you need other people to help you through that journey.  We were not designed to take our journey alone.