As our church here has grown recently, I have been thinking about church body structures. It looks to me like there are broadly three types of church in the world.
- Some churches are very well ordered, everyone knows what their role is within the body. These churches tend not to grow as new people leave after a short while. These disillusioned newcomers will have discovered both an impenetrable organisation and an established network of friendships with no capacity for anyone new and so, not waiting around until they are asked do to something and finding it hard to fit in, they leave.
- Other churches grow very quickly through enthusiastic preaching, evangelism and an open social network but when it comes to organisation, they are shambolic and tend to fall apart.
- Other churches are both ordered and growing.
For a church to grow in an ordered way, it needs two types of structure to exist independently but interdependently. Getting the balance and relationship right between these two structures is very difficult but critical.
The first structure is organisation along the lines of Acts 6:1-7, where word ministry and practical works of service are thought through, roles and tasks are specified and delegated. This sort of top-down order can be represented by an organisation chart like this:
The second structure is an expansive, outward focused, fluid, flexible, bottom-up evangelism, pastoring and teaching (EPT) ministry along the lines of Ephesians 4:11-12. This ministry is based on Christ and the teachings of the prophets and apostles the church grows by multiplying word ministers (EPTs), spreading the word through networks of people. The church structure looks something like this:
For a well ordered growing church, both structures need to be present and the latter structure must precede the former. The church must first grow and then be ordered (Ephesians 4:15-16). I tend naturally to the latter and so must work hard on putting order in place.