In the church world, we’ve become conditioned to believe that the right way to “do” church is found in Scripture. And to a certain extent, I agree. We want Scripture to guide us when we look at how we do church. However, when we look at Scripture, there’s no manual for how to run church. Many point to Acts Chapter 2 as a guide, but this doesn’t give you a manual of how church should run in every scenario, rather it paints a picture of what authentic Christian community can look like.
That means that we should attempt to achieve the Acts Chapter 2 outcomes, but the methodology should be able to be changed based around culture, setting and people.
We’ve also lulled ourself into a belief that’s only been around for a couple hundred years, that there is a separation between God-inspired things and worldly things. This belief perpetuates the belief that Scripture alone can give you good practice for anything. This explains why Christianity and Science have had a rocky relationship over the years.
However, what’s been believed for much longer is that God can use seemingly natural things for Kingdom purposes. A doctor’s scalpel can be as much an instrument of God’s healing power as a declaration of faith. We should not suggest that one is not of God and the other is. Both are valid.
This leads on to the strategic sphere. I’ve heard many church leaders talk about the dangers of importing business practices into the church, the connotation meaning bringing worldly practices into a sacred space. However, this doesn’t stack up, even Scripturally. When Peter declares to the Sanhedrin, “for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved.” Peter is using a slogan of the empire. The original was a slogan which attributed salvation to Caesar. Peter has taken the slogan and flipped it. Jesus is now that name, not Caesar.
This means that taking concepts from elsewhere and using them in the church is actually how the early church operated. The ideas aren’t just ported straight in, they are redeemed, made obedient to Christ. When the Apostle Paul talks about taking every thought captive, he wasn’t referring to a form of Christian CBT (although this is a great practice), he was referring to taking the philosophy of the day and making it obedient to Christ. We are redeemers of culture, not separationists.
So with that in mind, I’ve tried to look at some other industries for examples of how we can learn from them, making it obedient to the teachings of Christ.
This sounds so crazy to anyone in the church world, but to other industries, this is commonplace. Think about football. Football is all about… football. However, the football head coach is by no means the head of the organisation. They are often a few layers deep in the organisation. Take Manchester City as an example. The most famous man at the club is the head coach, Pep Guardiola. However, he isn’t the head of Manchester City Football Club, his boss is Director of Football Txiki Begistrain, whose boss is Managing Director Kaldoon al Mubarak, whose boss is the owner – Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
Here’s where it gets even stranger. Most people can’t name many of the owners of football clubs and virtually no-one has ever heard them speak. I’ve never heard Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan speak. He delegates the running of the organisation to Kaldoon al Mubarak, who I’ve very rarely heard speak. Guardiola, plays only one part in the organisation. If he fails at his job, the club doesn’t fall apart, they just slot someone new in.
What if our pastors were not given the task of having to be heads of organisations, but instead could do what they do best… pastor? What if we could have more quiet heads of organisations, so should the worst happen with one of the more visible mouthpieces (and it seems to be happening a lot recently), the whole church is kept safe?
This doesn’t mean that the quiet head of the church is given free rein to live an ungodly life. But what it does is it breaks the pedestalling that happens in churches. Pedestalling elevates people to a level of fame that can only ever be unhealthy. What if our preachers were less well known? If we want to stop creating ‘Celebrity Pastors’, I think this needs to happen.
The Houses of Parliament is often held up as an example of how not to run organisations – politics produces politicians, and that is always a bad combination with churches. However, The House of Commons has a fascinating role – The Father (or Mother) of the House. This role is given to the longest serving MP in the house. They are usually an elder statesman and it’s a ceremonial position with virtually no remit except one: overseeing the appointment of a new Speaker of the House.
There have been a number of famous Fathers of the House over the years, including Sir Winston Churchill (1959 – 1964), James Callaghan (1983 – 1987), Sir Edward Heath (1992 – 2001) and Ken Clarke (2017 – 2019).
The concept of the Father of the House is a great one, it celebrates longevity as well as honouring age and wisdom. In a churches are being leader by more and more young people, I think this is something that could be incorporated into the life of churches, honouring a significant leader in later life with a role that honours their past contribution and seeks their wisdom for the future.
The current model of modern, western church is constructed a bit like the Death Star. A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the Death Star was a massive star-sized space craft which was powerful, but had one fatal flaw. As long as you hit one bit with a laser, the whole thing would blow up. Super handy if your name is Luke Skywalker and you have a perfectly-sized X-Wing Fighter.
Our churches are structured just like the Death Star, take one man out and the whole thing blows up. Would you ever recommend creating a structure that weak? Yet we do it in churches all the time. How many churches have you seen collapse due to the failure of one person?
A better structure is the pyramid. The problem is the world has consigned the pyramid to just a tourist attraction now, and everywhere else it is used negatively… Nobody wants to join a pyramid scheme after all.
The other problem we have with pyramids is that we think its all about climbing to the top. However, a pyramid is not about the top. If you remove the top stone of the pyramid, nothing happens. It’s the base that is the crucial part of the construction. Take one stone out of the base and… nothing happens again. That’s because the base isn’t reliant on one stone. It’s so much stronger than that.
In Ephesians Chapter 2, the Apostle Paul describes the church as a household built on the foundations of the Apostles and Prophets, with Christ Jesus as the Cornerstone. Paul clearly is thinking more about the base than the top. The cornerstone is the first stone laid and therefore the crucial stone for setting the entire direction of the pyramid. Leaders in our church should follow Christ and share the weight evenly.
That’s all well and good, but how do you make decisions? Someone needs to make the final call. This is where the idea of “first amongst equals” comes from. You can still have a senior leader, someone who makes the final call, but the leadership team take much more responsibility, and decisions are based around group consensus than one leader calling the shots.
If you need to change your structure, we can help. We provide facilitation for churches through key areas that lead to health. Email us on firstname.lastname@example.org.