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Organizational Church – Here to Stay?

It isn’t hard to find articles, books, blogs, or speakers that cover the topic of church structure and missiology.  Pete Wilson asks a great question today on his blog, Without Wax and Randy Morgan has some deep discussions going on at his site, Your Best Life Later.

Randy has linked to a video on his latest post where the speaker, Alan Hirsch, presents some compelling findings about the current position of the American church.  After watching the video, I responded with some thoughts on Randy’s blog but I thought I would record them here for my readers as well.

Attractional versus ‘Extractional’

A question was raised about whether churches should be attractional (people come to them) or extractional (the church goes to the people).  Before I had watched the video I responded in this manner:

As far as the topic raised, I believe 2 things:

1. Christ said if He was lifted up that He would draw men unto himself. (Call it attractional)

2. Christ said Go. (sounds like extractional)

I believe number 1 is accomplished by effectively carrying out # 2.

The local gathering of the church as recorded in Acts chapter 2 was for the following things:

1. Dedication to the apostles teaching (doctrine)
2. Praying together
3. Fellowship
4. Meeting each other’s needs.

How many of those things do non-christians benefit from on a spiritual level?

My opinion is that those 4 things equipped the local body to help them present a living Christ through their transformed lives. This is what caused thousands to be attracted to what was going on.

Response to the Video

I had these thoughts after watching the video:

I finally got around to watching the video and came away with the impression that the speaker was saying that we need the attractional church but we also need a new paradigm to work in the areas that the attractional church doesn’t reach.

As I thought about that, it made me think about home or small groups or smaller satellite campuses that many churches are trying to incorporate today. While these bring some level of the ‘GO’ or ‘extractional’ church mentality to the discussion, they also present their own issues:

1. The same mentality exists that if we ‘build it they will come’. A church in my area presented this very issue. They have a large central church and many satellite or ‘sphere’ meeting places. I can almost chuck a rock at one of the sphere’s that meets near my home because it is that close. However, they have been there a couple of years now and no one from that sphere has ever been to my house to let me know that they are there or who they are. They just put out a little placard on Sunday mornings and that has been the extent of it. So they have created an extractional model but haven’t changed their methodology from an attractional one. By the way, I visited this sphere on my own accord and enjoyed the teaching there.

2.It reinforces a centralized governing body with subject outposts. Think of the Roman Catholic church with Rome being the center of the Universe or the Mecca for their believers. While there is good that can come from collaborative efforts, there is also a lot of bad. The leaders of these centralized, over-arching organizations become demi-gods to some degree. Not by their own choosing but via their forced popularity. We continue the call of the Israelites, “Give us a King!”. This can create tension when the centralized body wants to harmonize convictions for the whole organization. If a satellite body doesn’t align with the conviction, contention is created where none should be. An example may be the standings on alcoholic consumption. I personally believe the bible allows license for usage based on the individual’s convictions (It is worth mentioning here that I don’t drink but my choice is not purely based on religious reasons). What happens from this type of practice is denominational isolation along personal convictions instead of doctrine. What happens in large, as described here, can then be seen to happen in small with the home church/small group model.

3. The satellite small groups are not looked upon as a church body and are not empowered to carry out the duties of a church body. I can’t speak to all of the models that exist for small group structures, but the ones that I have witnessed are still outposts for the larger collective that is located elsewhere. Instead of empowering the small group to be effective in their community, the larger collective requires resources from the smaller groups to support the missions of the centralized gathering. I am not saying that there should not be collaboration but it should be more equitable towards the small group in order for it to be effective. Case in point, monies that are collected by the small groups, does most of it stay with the small group in order to further the impact in that community or does most of it end up back at the centralized body? How about volunteer service hours – do the satellite posts spend time serving their community or are they asked to support the efforts of the centralized gathering? I guess the question here is how autonomous can the small group/outpost be and does their level of autonomy affect their success?

What are your thoughts about the Organizational Church – is it here to stay?

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