Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Reconstructing the Maze

One of the basic ideas underlying a certain type of political approach is to see human behavior as determined by the organizations and structures of which we are a part. The conclusion, therefore, is that if we want to change the people, we need to change the structures. We can carry this idea over into the Christian church. If we just organize in the right way, we can change the congregation from lukewarm to spiritual. But both these views seem to be based on an idea that I cannot reconcile with Scripture. It is the idea that our behavior is the product of our environment. That we are white mice in a maze and the way to change our behavior is to reconstruct the maze. Therefore, how we organize or how we avoid organizing (lack of organization is a kind of organization) will determine our behavior. Now I am not against changing the current structure of the church organization if there is a reason for it. But I have to question whether it is the important issue that determines the organizational church's well being.

Our primary problem is that we are sinners (Romans 3:23; Isaiah 64:6; Jeremiah 17:9), and even as believers in Jesus Christ, we still battle sin (Romans 7:14-25; Galatians 5:16; 1 John 1:9-10). Our hope against this is putting our faith in Jesus Christ for our salvation from sin (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9) and as a result of that being transformed by His power into who He wants us to be (2 Corinthians 3:18; 2 Peter 1:3; Ephesians 2:10). Now this transformation is a process that happens over time (Philippians 2:12-16; 1 Timothy 4:7,8; Hebrews 5:11-14), and we decide how to respond to God's work in us (Romans 12:1-2; Galatians 5:16; Colossians 2:6,7). We are assisted in this process by the work of others in our lives (Ephesians 4:11-16; Hebrews 10:24,25; 1 Corinthians 12:12-27). The Christian life was never meant to be an individualistic exercise, but a life of growth together (Hebrews 12:12,13; James 5:13-16; Romans 12:3-8). But while it may be helpful to organize, there is no indication that the main thing involved is the nature of the organization (or lack thereof).

I do not see in the New Testament that God has prescribed a particular organizational structure, only broad principles (had He wanted to, He could have). But even if He had, there would be no basis in Scripture for seeing this as the heart of the Christian lifestyle. Further, if we are simply the products of our environment, we cannot know anything, because our thoughts are determined by our environment. And if we believe changing the organization is the key to spirituality, we make the chief motivator in the Christian life the pressure to please other people. This is not the appropriate Christian motivation (Galatians 1:10; Matthew 6:1-18; 23:25-28). Rather, our primary motivation should not be to please others, but to please God (1 Corinthians 6:20, 10:31; 1 John 4:19).

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