For a church to have order, there must be coordination happening. Decisions must be made about what to do, when to do it, who’s going to do what, etc.
Order that is manufactured mechanically in a church is coordinated one way. Order that emerges organically from the Life of Christ in a church is coordinated another way.
Your soul longs for the 2nd way.
Taking cues from one another
Mechanical order coordinates through plans and programs that ask people for their cooperation. One or a few people make coordination decisions and then ask people to submit to those decisions. They ask them to cooperate with the created plan.
Organic order coordinates by life as participants work together in collaboration. For healthy community to develop, life must bring forth coordination through the relationships of those in the group with one another.
For a group to be truly coordinated together, everyone must be involved to some degree in the coordinating.
Why? Because when people coordinate, they can’t just take into account what they think and what they want to do.
If people did that, they’d be running into each other all over the place when walking in a busy crowd or driving down a busy road.
To have healthy coordination, we have to take cues from one another. What one person does is affected by and depends on what everyone thinks and what they want to do.
What’s really going on with the cooperation approach
So why do we see so many churches that operate with one or a few people asking the rest to cooperate?
It’s what we’re taught by every worldly system we’re a part of. It also fits best with fleshly tendencies to fear losing control by some and to shirk responsibility by others.
Government, education, business, etc. tends to coordinate through cooperation. This is even the case in many households.
Joseph Myers gives a glimpse of what’s really going on when group coordination is based on cooperation in his book Organic Community…
People are not primarily looking to cooperate with our plan for their lives. Cooperation is an effort to control participation. Sometimes cooperation’s themes are: “Don’t rock the boat,” “It will be easier this way,” or “We don’t want any conflict here.” It squashes the human spirit.
Real participative power resides in an environment of spontaneous, oscillating synchronicity, not in an illusion of control.
The cooperation approach opens the door for people to do what’s necessary to get people to cooperate. People justify the use of tools like manipulation and guilt with themes like the ones above because they’re “trying to help” and they “know better what’s best for us.”
They likely don’t even realize they’re doing it, but what they really want you to do is help them make their plan or program work.
At the root is a fear of the wrongheaded conclusion that collaboration will only result in chaos. So they buy into the illusion that controlling the coordination of a group is not only more convenient, but safer.
But that isn’t reality because authentic community doesn’t emerge from controlled coordination. Authentic community can only develop in environments that operate by collaboration.
Myers goes on to say…
We can help people live out a healthy process of connecting, but not by asking for their cooperation. Do you ask your friends to cooperate with your master plan of friendship? Of course not. Friendship grows out of what you experience together—from connecting, not from falling in line with someone else’s program.
What God is like shapes how humans behave
Ultimately, the approach that is taken to coordination ties in to what is believed about God, humans and how He’s designed the world to operate.
If one’s concept of God is more like a boss who makes plans and then asks for our cooperation with them, then human relationships will be seen through that lens.
People with this mindset can be caught agonizing over every decision to make sure they “do God’s will.”
But God’s not like that. Relationships weren’t designed to work that way. God’s a Lover who wants nothing more than to collaborate with us in forming the future. God doesn’t control us, and in this way He demonstrates His Love for us.
What it means for church life
So what does this all mean for church life together?
It means that we learn how to collaborate with each other rather than forming relationships where one or a few coordinate and then ask others to cooperate. This will result in more of what we hope for than any manufactured plan or program.
This is what it means to be organic.
The rest of the posts in the What It Means To Be Organic series are here.