Before I really get started on some church organization stuff, I want to clarify my position on what is the right way to “do church”. If we’re honest, what we do as churches today is mostly created by us. We like to claim that we use a biblical approach or that we do things the way the New Testament church did them, but there is really no basis for that statement when it comes to how our churches are organized and the way they are led. There’s not a New Testament directive for elders being in charge and making decisions. There’s no discussion on whether we should use a treasurer or a finance ministry. The hiring and firing of ministers and staff is a completely foreign concept to the New Testament church.
In fact, the claiming of the New Testament precedent really works against us. What we’re actually doing is claiming biblical authority for our traditions, which makes them above evaluation and change. This is very unfortunate because for most of our churches it is the issue of organization that works against us most in our efforts to evangelize and grow. Unless we can evaluate and change the way we are organized, we will continue to suffer the same ineffectiveness that we’ve experienced over the years.
So, what is the right way to do things? The truth of the matter is that there is no right way to do things. Lots of different models have been successful in lots of different places. Most genuine efforts to produce healthy organization can succeed. Whether you choose to let the elders lead the church, a single minister/pastor, or a strategic leadership committee, they can all be successful.
This may be surprising. It surprised me when I came to this realization. Having grown up in a particular church model that was very hierarchical and having worked as a minister in this type of environment I was predisposed to being anti-hierarchy. At a particularly low point in my career I did some substantial research on whether elder-led churches were biblical. What I found, interestingly, was that most of the literature addressing this topic was written about denominational organization that involved being pastor-led. The complaints were the same in both systems. It turns out that the negative aspects of leadership were consistent regardless of the system that was in place.
As it turns out, any system that covers essential basics can be successful in church organization. Any approach to church has a chance to be successful as long as specific areas are covered.
I’m going to start addressing some of these areas, but before I do why don’t you tell us what you think the essential areas that need to be covered are.