Contributing Units vs. True Community
Productivity dictates that we pay attention to the life cycle of the organization.
Efficiency demands that we never let our leadership pipeline run dry.
Fiscal responsibility decrees that x number of people in seats translates to x number of dollars in the budget.
And all of those things can be true. All of those things can be healthy. Far be it from me to wag a disapproving finger at productivity, efficiency, or fiscal responsibility.
But we must hold our work in the organization in tension with God’s work in the individual. Left to themselves, life cycles and leadership pipelines and budgets become the tail that wags the dog. But seen in conjunction with people… real, honest-to-goodness, flesh-and-blood, image-bearers-of-God people, all of those things can be useful tools.
Eugene Peterson says it like this in A Long Obedience in the Same Direction:
[A] common way to avoid community is to turn the church into an institution. In this way people are treated not on the basis of personal relationships but in terms of impersonal functions. Goals are set that will catch the imagination of the largest numbers of people; structures are developed that will accomplish the goal through planning and organization. Organizational planning and institutional goals become the criteria by which the community is defined and evaluated. in the process the church becomes less and less a community, that is, people who pay attention to each other, “brothers and sisters,” and more and more a collectivism of “contributing units.”
Let’s not confuse organizational effectiveness for personal transformation. Let’s not mix up corporate goals with face-to-face conversations. Let’s continue to do the long, hard slog of calling out God’s gifts in God’s people, personally investing in and equipping the saints for the work of the ministry. And when we do that, we may just see that type of investment yield a far greater return than the best of corporate goal-setting.
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