Sounds like a 1950′s monster movie doesn’t it? However these two goliaths have been slugging it out for ages. In one corner, wearing the green shorts, we have the Organic church and in the opposite corner, wearing the Kevlar shorts, we have the Mechanical church! One fueled by the soil of relational growth in the Kingdom, the other infused with the power of programs and Christian “plastic covered” products. One brings slow, but long-term growth, the other can bring fast, but unsustainable growth with a growing wake of collateral damage.
As we look at the statistics of churches and ministries we can see that the apparent “Rise of the Machines” has taken a horrible toil on the Lord’s Army.
-3500 to 4000 churches shut their doors each year
-1700 pastors leave the ministry each month due to moral failure, spiritual burnout, or contention in their churches.
-1300 were terminated each month, many without cause.
- 3500 people a day left the church last year.
- Almost 40% of pastors polled said they have had an extra-marital affair since beginning their ministry.
- 70% of pastors constantly fight depression.
- 50% of ministers starting out will not last 5 years.
The numbers don’t lie.
The ministry can become a machine that will chew you up and spit you out!
Although no one single thing can be blamed for the rise in ministry casualties, I believe that the unnatural blending of the mechanic and the organic (what the English call a “Clockwork Orange”) is a common denominator. Ministry that appears organic, but is filled with the gears, springs and sprockets that can be manipulated and calibrated by the hands of men.
The Kingdom of God is organic therefore the Church is organic.
“The Kingdom of God is as if a man should scatter seed on the ground. He sleeps and rises night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows; he knows not how. The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear. But when the grain is ripe, at once he puts in the sickle, because the harvest has come.” Mark 4: 26 – 29
“I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he that waters is anything,but only God who gives growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.” 1 Corinthians 3: 6 -9
“It is the hard-working farmer who ought to have the first share of the crops.” 2 Timothy 2:6
One of the greatest challenges of church leadership is “organizing the organism” known as the church! (1 Corinthians 12: 12 – 14; Ephesians 4: 11 – 16)
In these texts, we see that both Jesus and the Apostle Paul used organic, agricultural language when speaking of things concerning the Kingdom of God and the church. This verbage is not being used just because they lived in an agrarian culture, but because this is how spiritual things work! There is absolutely no other process on earth that describes and exhibits the principles of the Kingdom better than agriculture.
However this wonderful organism called the church can lose its organic, cultivating and reproductive attributes by the “grafting in” of mechanized, secular, corporate values. Now granted I believe in “best practices” when it comes to my church. We have administrative processes and solid stewardship built within our organization to guard against mismanagement and abuse. Any leader that ignores basic business practices in governing the church does so at their own peril. What I am talking about is the “bottom-line – winner takes all” values that create alot of BUZZ, but no lasting growth.
Churches that focus on God’s part (“God gives increase”) and neglect their part (“one sows another waters”) are mechanized and not organic. They strive for increase and fruit, rather than doing what God has asked them to do.
Mechanized churches have different gauges for the pathway of success that are generally statistically in nature while ignoring the plethora of intangibles that makeup a healthy church.
Jesus addressed a church like this in the book of Revelation.
“For you say, I am rich, I have prospered, and I need nothing, not realizing that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.” Revelation 3: 17
Personally, I have seen churches abandon the organic principles of growth for “corporate structures” that repel healthy church culture. Replacing it with a cold, but well-organized, business structure that alienates the lost, confuses the sheep, and paralyzes leaders.
God creates organisms, man creates machines.
Organisms create people and progress, Machines make product and programs.
Organic churches can adapt and change, Mechanic churches cannot change.
Organic churches breed unity, Mechanic churches breed competition.
As leaders in our churches we are first of all farmers cultivating the fields of the Lord, working in His harvest, expanding His farm! How does your garden grow? When we focus on the wrong things, like trying to make our church increase, instead of cooperating with the Lord of the Harvest by sowing and watering we will lose the joy of serving, our passion for the lost, and our love for people.
I think stats are good! We count the people in the house and keep tabs on our finances, but when those things determine whether I am having a good day or a bad day, well, I am well on my way to mechanization! As a pastor I have had to find the joys of seeing gradual growth in people and my church. I have had to remind myself many times “Look what the Lord has done!” Cultivation is work, and sometimes seemingly unrewarding, but when growth happens its magnificent, rewarding and satisfying (Ask any “Green-thumb” gardener)!
I take great consolation in knowing that I have a job as a pastor of sowing and watering God’s garden. This has sustained me through the good, the bad and the ugly of ministry. In continuing to cultivate I have seen stable, solid growth in the people I pastor, and that is the most wonderful part of being a leader!
So don’t get weary in well-doing pastor, church leader, for in so doing you shall reap if you faint not!