Sunday, October 28, 2007

[THO] The Corporate Church

I get a few different ministry newsletters that point me to web articles, often of dubiuos quality. But occasionally a topic catches my attention. Today I was directed to a short little list on the difference between Corporate Strategy and Ecclesial Strategy, I think it is worth perusing. It is also one of my frustrations with modern ecclesiology and I'm not sure that we can just blame an incorporation of corporate methodology. There is a deeper psychosis at work in the Church, an inward turning that has left it with a diminished witness in the world. The corporate methodologies only strengthened a trend that was already present in the Church.

The core of this is an inward turning of the Church. We have reigned so long that our self-importance has left us unable to cope with any other reality. So we bolster the structures that protect our identity at an organizational level at the expense of the people who are the true Church. Theologically this is rooted in a false equation of the Church with the Kingdom of God. But it lives in a fearful protectionist stance towards the encroaching secular reality of the world we live in.

What the world needs is not a starkly isolated and corporately driven, albeit slickly organized, Church. What it needs is a people in the world, yet not of the world. What the world needs is a Church that is struggling with the reality of this world, just like everyone else, and crafting hope wherever she finds herself. There is a lot I can agree with on Mattera's short list, but a lot of it needs to be properly unpacked and meditated on.

5 comments:

Hank said...

Hmm. I'm not sure that it is wrong to equate the church with then Kingdom. I believe that it is God's will that the Church model the Kingdom on earth. Sadly, we have done a poor job of it...

Check out these two blog posts from Leadership Journal's online presence. They reveal the results of a study commissioned by Willow Creek church that really opened some eyes:

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/willow_creek_re.html
and
http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/10/willow_creek_re_1.html

Let me know what you think.

One of Freedom said...

Hey Hank,

It is important to make a distinction here, and it is lamentable that I haven't had time to put together my series on the Kingdom of God yet.

First the Kingdom of God is properly understood as the manifest reign of God (See Ladd, Dodd, Fuellenbach) rather than a temporal reality.

Second the Church is a temporal reality.

So while there is some connection, for example the Church is the community that the Kingdom of God brings into existance. It is not an Earthly representation of the Kingdom reality. Only the Kingdom of God is the Kingdom of God.

Another distinction is that the Kingdom of God bears quite distinct characteristics in the NT. This is in keeping with Semetic thought which would equate the Kingdom of God as a metaphor with the numinous or shekanah of God. The features include healing, deliverance, liberty, etc. These are the realities that come into being in the presence of the King. So as a Church we do point to that reality, and definitely we invite the King to reign in our midst. But this is quite distinct from the institutional Church.

The danger in confusing the two is that it places unrealistic expectations on the Church. What do you do when the Church fails? If the Church is the Kingdom then you have a problem, but if the Church is a people committed (as fallible humans) to the Kingdom then it is tenable again.

I'll check out the posts.

One of Freedom said...

Those are great posts Hank. They show a great level of maturity. I think the danger with adopting programmes is that we might find something that looks like it is working, but in the end no real maturation is occuring. In fact I've seen local churches so buy into programmes that when they jettison them those who were pidgeon holed into roles are terribly hurt in the process. I think we need to find mature ways to do/be church, and part of that is celebrating our diversity.

Hank said...

I'll let it go, although I still think that the church has a greater connection than what you allow to the Kingdom.

Having said that, I think we need new metaphors that explain the function. I have heard the church described as a 'hospital for sin-sick people' and 'filling station,' Just last week I was gratified to see another one which caused me to go 'doh!'

As I was driving to a meeting in the Houston area, I saw a corporate office building that had been taken over and converted to a house of worship. It still looked like a professional building, but the new name told the whole story:

The Embassy.

Hank said...

Here's another link from the same Blog 'Out of Ur:'

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/outofur/archives/2007/11/out_of_context_23.html

There is a lot of good stuff here.