Traditionally, churches have patterned their organizations after the Catholic model, where leadership flows from the top down. Church leadership issues dictates and the lower levels of the organization are expected to follow those dictates in serving their congregations. In recent times, however, there has been a departure from this model by those churches who believe that church
policy should conform to the needs of the churches and the people. They believe that church policy should develop from the ground up, not from the top down. We have seen this recently in the dispute between the Vatican and the Leadership Conference of Women Religious, which represents 80% of American nuns. The nuns wanted to focus on helping the needy. The Vatican wanted them to focus on gay marriage and abortion.
All institutions are being torn apart by tension between two groups: those who want to reassert familiar and tested leadership patterns — including top-down control, uniformity and bureaucracy; and those who want to welcome untested but promising patterns of the emerging era — grass-roots empowerment, diversity and relational networks. It is not a divide between conservatives and liberals; rather, it is a divide between institution and spirit.
The word translated as "church" in the Bible is the Greek word ecclesia, which means a gathering of people. Clearly the focus of the early church was on meeting the spiritual and material needs of the people. As religious organizations evolved, however, the focus shifted to serving the needs of the organization. I believe this is unfortunate. If you read the 23rd chapter of Matthew, you will find that Yeshua did not have too many nice things to say about the religious organizations of his day. More recently, we have seen the tragic results of a religious organization protecting its employees rather than the children.
I rejoice that I serve a church where the only orders our ministers are expected to follow are the two basic orders common to most religions-love God and love each other. As long as we follow those, the organization will do just fine.