Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Fueling the Machine

One of the great dangers of any organization is that it can forget its purpose and work to perpetuate and exalt itself. You create an organization to accomplish some needed purpose. But once it is in place, focus shifts from really solving the problem to continuing the organization. The prestige of the people involved becomes caught up in furthering the organization and maintaining its importance. In the end the organization can even end up inventing crisises in the hopes of justifying itself . The organization of the Christian church can have the same problem. Its focus can go from its real purpose to perpetuation of the organization or even the perpetuation of one of its internal structures. Egos become involved. And we forget what we were supposed to be doing in the first place.

The purpose of the organization of the Christian church is to build people (Matthew 28:18-20; Ephesians 4:11-16; Colossians 1:28,29). This involves introducing people to Jesus Christ and then building them up in that faith. But the problem is, we can confuse the things that further the organization with the things that really fulfill its purpose.It is easy to confuse externals, such as numbers, large buildings, full offering plates, or exciting programs, for real conversion and spiritual development. One of the things that aids this confusion is to focus on that part of the larger body of Christ which is perceived as mine: my Sunday school class, my home group, my church, my denomination. And this is diametrically opposed to the attitude Christ requires us to have (Philippians 2:1-4; Romans 12:3-5; 1 Corinthians 12:25-27). Christ is at work building His church (Matthew 16:18; Colossians 2:19; 1 Corinthians 3:6,7). But we have fallen into the error of the Corinthians, of dividing into factions (1 Corinthians 1:10-17; 3:21-23; 3 John 9,10). Now I am not speaking of fundamental doctrinal distinctions (Galatians 1:8,9; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:4). I am, in fact, not dealing in doctrinal distinctions at all. I am speaking of the attitude that wants to exalt my faction at the expense of other ones, even those with which I have little or no actual disagreement.

But even if we can avoid competition with others, we need to realize that it is easy to confuse furthering the organization with really building people. It is not merely a matter of advocating change. Change can be what is needed to break out of being trapped in the machine. But it can also simply be an attempt to build a bigger and better machine. Nor is it merely a  matter of eliminating all organization. Scripture commands that we be organized (1 Corinthians 14:40: Hebrews 13:17; 1 Thessalonians 5:12,13), and we need organization to be effective. However, organization is a good servant, but a poor master. So we must be constantly on guard so that, instead of building Christ's kingdom, we do not end up simply fueling the machine.

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