It is funny how many people I meet that say,

“I am not a fan of organized religion.”

My quick response is always something like,

“Then you should come join my church on a Sunday morning–we are very disorganized.”

All kidding aside, comments like these do expose a weakness in the crazy complexity of modern church, but for some Christians they also expose a selfish ambition to be a follower of Jesus without the accountability, intimacy, and risk of community as God designed it.

The following quotes from Kenneth Flemming get right to the heart of the matter.

It is true, Church is Organic.

Paul looked at the local church as a dynamic organism. Its life was that of Christ Himself. Its unity was maintained through His presence. Its direction and purpose were from Him. Paul expected to plant these organisms wherever he went with the gospel. He nurtured them with a view to growth both qualitatively and quantitatively. He established them so that they could thrive and grow in the cultural setting of the community. He encouraged them to reproduce themselves in the surrounding communities and, by extension, in distant places. Living organisms grow and reproduce if they are healthy. Paul viewed the churches in this way.

But, as I have written before, the Church has structure.

Paul’s concept of the church as a living organism must not be construed to mean that it was formless, a mere blob of living cells. He saw the church as having form and structure. In creation, biological organisms all have highly complex structures. One of the wonders of the life sciences is this very complexity. The deeper scientific investigation is able to penetrate, the more the awesome wonder of God’s design is revealed. Just as every living thing in creation has order and form, so the church, which is a spiritual organism, has order and form. For a church planter like Paul it was important to have the form clearly in mind, because it was his responsibility to set the pattern in the beginning.

Flemming gives a great summary of how this organic nature of church fits with the biblical structure.

In my view, the reason for relatively little Pauline teaching on church organization is that God intended it to be simple and basic. The organization was to go no further than the autonomous local church.

The symbols used indicate structure. We have already mentioned the building with its plan and builder. The symbol of the body indicated order from the head and cooperation and control of all the members. The church as a household indicated headship and order. The church as a priesthood presumes ordered activity and a high priest. The truth is that there is no organism which is not organized. Order and structure are New Testament principles; there is no room in the writings of Paul for an unorganized church that exists strictly as an unstructured fellowship of believers doing their thing.

The Organic and Organized church is central to God’s plan (Acts 15:4; Eph 1:23; 1 Thes 4:16-17).

  • The church is important for the health of God’s people.
  • The church is efficient for evangelism.
  • The church is a training ground for future leaders.

How well does this describe church?

FOOTNOTES

Fleming, Kenneth C. “Missionary Service in the Life of Paul, Part 3: Paul the Church Planter.” Emmaus Journal 2, no. 1 (1993): 217.

Dr. J.R. Miller is a Professor of Applied Theology and Leadership & Dean of Online Learning at Southern California Seminary. Outside work, he is a church planter. Dr. Miller has a diverse educational background and authored multiple books on church history, biblical theology, and Leadership. Joe and his wife Suzanne enjoy the sun and surf with their 3 sons in San Diego, CA.

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