How can you determine what is “right” when it comes to doing church?
There are a number of ways to solve a math problem. Is one way more “right” than another? What about traveling? Is one route better than the other? There are fifty different ways to workout a particular muscle group.
There may be a more appropriate way to solve the math problem, a quicker way to reach your destination, or a more efficient way to tone that muscle group; but how can you truly determine the “right” way? You can’t. Without knowing the many variables and circumstances surrounding a particular situation, it’s impossible to determine if one way is more “right” than another.
So how do these examples apply to doing church? Lets take a look.
Here are some brief examples of organizational plans that we find in the Bible. These structures worked because they were appropriate for the climate of the day. The climate is a prayerful observation of the circumstances and culture of the times. As you look at each of these examples take special notice of how diverse these plans are.
The Garden – Adam and Eve had a face-to-face relationship with God. No need for organized structures, leaders, committees, or by-laws. They knew God personally and enjoyed deep fellowship with the Father.
Abraham – Abraham had a personal relationship with God. He served his family by being God’s messenger, spokesperson, and patriarch. The historical Middle Eastern family structure served as a conduit for God’s message to be shared with others.
Moses – Moses knew God. The Israelite people followed Moses. During this era, men were appointed to handle disputes, conflicts, and feuds. These men, under the leadership of Moses, sought to settle the problems in a Godly way. This was a very organized system.
Kings – Eventually the people of God desired a King. All the other nations had Kings to lead them. At this point the people of God became even more structured. Kings, priests, and leaders governed the people and the affairs of the nation. God was still intimately engaged in the life of His people but it could be perceived to be more national than personal.
Prophets – During a time of slavery and isolation from God the prophets served to redirect, challenge, inspire, and convict God’s people of their sin. They called the people to repent and return to their first love. This organization was counter-cultural. Prophets caused unrest, distrust, and confusion in hopes of pointing people on a journey toward God.
Jesus – The Leader of Leaders and King of Kings, Jesus re-established the personal relationship that was originally established in the Garden of Eden. He never opposed the government structures, never initiated riots, and never established himself as a King desiring to overthrow any established governing systems. He claimed to fulfill the reason they were originally established – re-establishing a personal relationship with the Father.
The Church – The Church was established so the people of God could come together, celebrate God, learn about God, meet the needs of other Christians, and serve others. The Church was the family of God. This structure resembled the Early Middle Eastern patriarchal family structure.
The Modern Church – Today we find all shapes and sizes of church. We find churches that are structured like the early church, churches that are structured like modern corporations, churches with no structure at all, and everything in-between.
So how do we know which church is doing it “right”? We look at the climate of the church and determine if what they are doing fits with the climate or is in conflict with the climate.
Maybe a good question at this point would be what’s wrong with having churches governed in a number of different ways?
Ultimately, the character of the leaders, their devotion to the Lord, and willingness to follow Christ’s leadership is far more important than the way they do church.
What It Takes to Do Church “Right”
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV) “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
We should desire above all else to become fully devoted followers of Christ (Romans 12:1-2)
Our purpose is the “horse.” The way we do church is the “cart.” We cannot put the cart before the horse. Doing church is organized to serve Christ’s purpose – to bring honor and glory to God!