Part 2. Does the way we are structured facilitate God’s purpose?
“Structure must facilitate purpose otherwise effort becomes futile and time and money are wasted”. Written after working in local government.
“If structure does not facilitate purpose then we are in danger of becoming efficiently ineffective”. Written after trying to solve a problem with telephone and internet service provider.
Efficiency and effectiveness. At first glance these concepts appear to be very close, almost one and the same. However, we can see the major differences when we look at them in relation to purpose.
Would you use a road race bike to race down a rocky mountain trail or a downhill race bike to try and compete in the Tour-de-France? Only if you want to do yourself some serious harm.
All bicycles have the same general idea behind them, but the design and arrangement of its constituent parts varies according to purpose.
The road race bike is designed to convert the rider’s strength into forward speed as efficiently as possible when travelling on a relatively smooth and predictable surface.
What is it? A road race bike.
What does it do? (What is its purpose?) Enable the rider to compete in road races.
How does it work? (How is it structured?) Very briefly, the frame is rigid, the tyres are narrow and smooth with very high air pressure, the handlebars are narrow set low.
What makes it useful? (How does it fulfill its purpose?) Very briefly, it gives the rider best possible aerodynamics and minimal friction resistance between the tyres and the road surface.
Whereas, the downhill race bike is designed to effectively navigate over very rough and often unpredictable terrain, sometimes with drops that can be measured in metres.
What is it? A downhill race bike.
What does it do? (What is its purpose?) Enables rider to compete in downhill races.
How does it work? (How is it structured?) Very briefly, the frame is full suspension with maybe 8” to 10” travel front and rear. Tyres are wide and contoured with relatively low air pressure, handlebars are wide and set high.
What makes it useful? (How does it fulfill its purpose?) Very briefly, the full suspension frame, wide tyres and handlebar enables the rider to maintain control of the bike at high speeds over rough and unpredictable terrain, with drops of several metres on occasions.
All going plan, I have set the scene correctly to answer the question, “does the way we are structured facilitate the purposes of God?”
First of all by “we” I am referring to what is often referred to as the “local church” and its associated overseeing or regional/national leadership team. For example, the Pentecostal Assemblies of God in the UK, of which I was a part “we” would include the local assembly, the regional leadership team, the national leadership team and its associated ministries administered from “head” office (youth, overseas, schools and church planting ministries come to mind at the moment).
Give or take a few things, what we call “church” is pretty much the same wherever you look:
• People at the top who tell others what to do but don’t listen
• People in the middle where there is often conflict between “system” people and “people” people.
• People at the bottom where, for the most part, there is no hope of any kind of change for the better.
Now I will answer the question from the perspective I had a few years ago, when working as a small group leader.
Who are we? We are the church, the body of Christ, the elect, God’s chosen people.
What do we do? What is our purpose? We preach the good news about Jesus, we worship Him in spirit and truth, we raise disciples and send them out into the world. We are a witness and a testimony to the goodness of God and His miraculous saving power, His ability to work in the hearts and minds of men to shape them into the image of His dear Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. We equip each member of the congregation, as part of the body, because each of us have things to do for God, depending on the gifts and abilities He has given. To this end, high quality preaching and teaching is greatly valued among us.
How do we work? How are we structured? Every Christian should belong to a local church that has a leader who is called by God and suitably qualified and/or experienced. Most people think that the Pastor must go to Bible College to be properly trained and equipped for ministry.
Our church is divided into small groups during the week and then we meet as a whole on Sunday morning for praise and worship.
Each small group consists of about 10 or 12 people with a leadership couple. Home group leaders receive guidance and support from the Director of Home Groups.
Then each of us can join other ministries as we feel called, but only with the agreement of the Pastor and the Leadership Team. There are many ministries that need workers and leaders:
• Sunday School
• Children and Youth and Schools Work
• Evangelistic outreach teams
• Seniors Work
• Visitation Team
• Counselling team
• Music team
• Praise and Worship team
• Caretaking and cleaning of church building
• Drivers for the bus
• Finance, accounting and legal team
There are six or seven leadership couples who help the Senior Pastor and the Associate Pastor with the ensuring all legal requirements are being met (Child protection Policy, Charitable Organisation Status and so on) and to participate in major decisions as to the direction and spiritual status of the congregation).
The Senior and Associate Pastors have guidance and instruction from the regional leadership team, which is lead by the Regional Superintendent. The Regional Superintendent is part of the National Leadership Team which is lead by the National Superintendent. Instructions flow from the top-down and the money flows from the bottom-up.
Why are we valuable? What makes us useful to God? We attend every meeting and give 10% of our gross income to God, and then some more. Giving money is one of the best ways we can further God’s work because most of us are too busy with work, family and church commitments to do any more than we are now.
We have a worship leader and a worship team that ushers us into the presence of God, where there might be tears from some and shouts of joy and praise from others. We always give God the praise and the honour that is due to His Name.
We have a building that makes a real statement about God in our community; we have been able to have it totally restored to its original looks on the outside with help from a government grant. We had a free hand to modernise inside and we raised the money for that ourselves.
By attending meetings and singing joyfully, even when we don’t feel like it, this is a powerful testimony to our local community.
By going to services and meetings at every opportunity, we show how devoted we are to Christ and how obedient we are to His Word.
Sometimes we mess up a bit, sometimes there’s a real scandal, but God knows our hearts, we are only human after all, sinners saved by grace.
Wherever we go and whatever we do we always try to find a link to scripture that we can talk about, this is how we get the message out. Then we invite the people we have spoken with to church so that they can hear God’s Word being preached and they can get saved. Christmas and Easter are ususally the best times to do this. People feel the need to get closer to God.
We have people who go to visit the sick and the elderly, but that is difficult work and highly demanding of time and energy. There’s only one person who has kept at visitation faithfully. He’s retired now, so he has the time.
Then with the Children, Youth and Schools work, we “plant seed”. We teach about God and Jesus and the need to have Him in our hearts using stories and quotes from the Bible. We always do our best to make things fun and enjoyable so that the youngsters will keep coming and bring their friends as well. We organise events where the children can invite their parents.
The best thing we have found is to have the children perform a play and sing, that gets the Parents in. Then at the end of the event the Pastor will preach the gospel. I’m not sure if anyone’s been saved that way, I haven’t heard anything.
Altogether, we had about 25 people get saved last year. Some don’t stay for long after that, especially the youth and children, but at least they have God’s word in their hearts, and He will bring them back eventually. Our part is to keep pressing on until they do.
The small groups that meet in the week enable people to be discipled and to grow as Christians. Some of them become workers, some go on missions overseas, some even go to Bible College and go into full-time Ministry as a Pastor with their own church. In these groups, we can spend more time “healing the sick and wounded”, spiritually that is.
Sometimes Christians can be so hurtful even hateful to one another. I’d kick the offenders out, but the Pastor says there’s always two sides to a story. So we love them through their pain and pray for them. Keeping unity amongst the body of Christ is one of the most difficult tasks these days, but that is what we are required to do in line with scripture.
If all the people who had come to our church over the last few years had stayed, we would be over 700 strong now. But people don’t always like to hear the truth, or they don’t like the way we do things here. Still, at 150 strong and a good amount of tithes coming in each week, we are doing much better than most. In fact we are recognised as the largest, most progressive fellowship in the region. The National Leader and his team are very pleased, they see us as a central part of their vision for the nation and the work of building God’s Kingdom.
I am sure there are things that go on that we as a whole know nothing about. I think there are couples who invite people to their home for a meal, give to those in need in their community, even help young mothers with the family and household chores. I have heard of one of younger men, a builder by trade who has repaired people’s property and maintained their furnace without charging them. Yes, I’m pretty sure we have those in our congregation who look after “widows and orphans” and they don’t let the one hand know what the other one is doing.