The Church – Organic or Organizational – Part Three

As we look at the Church as an institution or an organization – as contrasted with the Church as an organism – we see a number of basic characteristics of the institution…

  • The form of the church precedes the life of the church. So, the institutional church begins with clergy, staff, programs, rituals, and other expected and normal elements of what a church is viewed to need.
  • The church is sustained and maintained by professional clergy – called a minister, a priest, a pastor. In the mainline denominations – these professionals are usually well trained having a Master’s degree in theology from a seminary recognized and approved by the sponsoring denomination or network. 
  • The Clery lead the laity and seeks to energize them so that they volunteer for many of the church functions that the laity are allowed to be involved in.
  • The church limits many of the spiritual functions to those who are officially ordained and recognized as leaders and who are trained for the positions they hold.
  • The organizational structure of the church render the bulk of their congregants passive during the church worship services. The professionals lead and minister. The laity (word means ‘the amateurs’) are generally passive and simply receive.
  • Members of the church associate ‘church’ with a building, a denomination, or a religious service (typically Sunday mornings).
  • People are unified around a shared set of customs or doctrines. Even adhering, at times, to the old order of service versus the new order of service. or, as in my former denomination, the old prayer book and not the new prayer book.
  • The ‘life’ of the church is sustained by programs and specials. The specials can be guest speakers, scheduled revivals, seasonal events.
  • The organized church needs finances to survive – their main costs are buildings (mortgage and maintenance) and clergy and staff salaries.
  • Decisions are made by the clergy or a specially elected ‘board’.
  • The pastor (or, in some cases, the elder board) is the recognized leader and minister in the church. This is positional leadership – leader because they have the title ‘pastor’ or ‘elder.’ This is the lowest level of leadership held in any organization. 
  • There is a seriously strong focus on attendance to the services, maintaining the building, and increasing the budget. The ABCs – attendance, buildings, cash.
  • The church does essentially the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year. It is locked into a ritual.
  • Spiritual gifts are viewed as ‘offices,’ and people are put into those offices (and receive titles) at the very beginning. Board member, pastor, assistant pastor, intercessor, evangelist….
  • It is typical for members not to know one another very well, only seeing each other at weekly church services.