Summary: An indepth look at what it means to be the body of Christ. If He is the head of the body, the foundation of the kingdom, then we are simply body parts, cells, bricks. What does it mean to be an armpit?
ORGANIZATION VS. ORGANISM
“He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church…”
Colossians 1: 17-18a
Indeed, Babel has had its effect throughout history. We can see that time and time again the church has conflicted, communicated poorly and broken. I believe, however, that it was during the times of Constantine and Theodosius that many of the building problems would solidify. While doing some great things for the church, like ending a series of seven deadly persecutions by legalizing and ultimately making the church official, these two emperors also ushered in much frustration. Constantine, in 324 AD called together the very first counsel of Bishops in Nicaea. Eighteen hundred bishops from the Roman world were invited to Join Constantine for the first Nicaean council. Of those eighteen hundred only some three hundred showed up. Those three hundred would then become the official hierarchal bishops for the church. They were ordered by Constantine to meet bi-annually for regular synods where they would develop the canons (rules) for the early church. In many of those canon synods the bishops would decide on what was heresy, who was to be excommunicated and ultimately which doctrines the church would incorporate into their universal existence. While Constantine was friendly to the Christian world, he himself never ultimately bought into much of its teaching. In fact, he later adopted the views that one of the synods banned as heretical, Arianism. It was Theodosius who would become a Christian and ultimately force Christianity into the forefront of national recognition. He declared the Christian Universal Church to be the official church of Rome. Buildings were constructed, liturgies were finalized, rites, rituals, practices, and ultimately organization was built. The simplicity of Christ centered faith melted away into the complexity of doctrinal perfection. Much of what is now considered organized religion finds its roots in the Nicaean council.
So what was it before Constantine? From our study of history we can see that there was much freedom in Christ, from Docetism and Montanism to the Monastic movement, people were detrimentally free to go in which ever direction they wanted to. This posed a problem for the supposed unity of the church when certain brothers in Christ disagreed with change. As a result, the church post-Constantine had developed a model to deal with heresy and apostasy, so it could control membership, and liturgical ecclesiology.
How does this affect us today? While the early church appeared to have some organization, they were not an organization. As much as they gathered, broke bread together, heard words of prophesy and sang together, their ecclesia (gathering) was more organism than it was organization. Many Christian churches today are behaving like organizations rather than like the organism that is the vibrant and living body of Christ. What I mean by this is; churches today run their “non-profit organization” as though it is a business. With common hiring practices, hierarchal views of leadership, business meetings and organizational programming, churches are striving to be successful organizations. Hired staff is viewed as an employee(s) of the organization and is, as such, accountable to the democratic assembly of members. Membership must be placed, and job titles are doled out in the form of ministries. This organizational mentality hovers around the all-encompassing assembly (better known as the worship-service), with the intention of providing a product or program that will appeal to the masses. Evangelism is our sales department, attempting to sell the program that we have developed. This is all done in the name of Jesus. It is no wonder that we have so much conflict today, we cannot decide over what our organization should look like or how it should function. This is an unnecessary fight because the church was never meant to be an organization in the manner it has been built, but an organism closely resembling Christ!
In his book, “The Family of God” Batsell Barrett Baxter says the following:
“There are some who think of the church as an organization like other organizations. It is true that the church is an organization, but it is not primarily an organization. Rather, it is a new way of life. Those who have the view that being a part of the church is like being a member of a lodge, a luncheon club, a political part, or even a business are seriously mistaken. Such people feel that they should give to the church the same kind of support and loyalty which they give to these other organizations. It becomes my church,” as it is “my club, or lodge, or party, or team.” The Christian’s loyalty to Church, however, should be unique, for in reality it is a loyalty to Christ and His way of life. The church is like no other institution on earth and a person’s membership in the church is like no other membership which he may sustain. The church is more like a vibrant, living organism, than it is like a cold, structured organization.”