Get Organized But Don't Lose The Love
It's funny how the conference theme of love was so impactful for everyone, yet Ryan Fullerton’s comments in Sunday School about organization in a growing church really resonated too.
I have to admit that I had an agenda in asking Ryan about it. I wanted Ryan’s voice as credible outsider to give everyone a taste of the changes that our church will likely need, but also how the changes will affect everyone. We had both spoke about the common observation that as churches grow, they need more administrative work, but they also need everyone to buy into the changes of intimacy and accessibility that a larger church brings.
This is illustrated in the church size question. Do you know everyone when a church is 60 people? How well do you know them? Do you know everyone at 160? Church size changes the how the relationships work, but as Ryan put it on Sunday, at church you may not know everyone, but everyone is known.
From the earliest days of Calvary Grace there has been the principle that form follows function. What that means is that instead of building a complex administrative institution, we have aimed to see spiritual growth among people. Yet we have always played catch up with our spiritual growth to add structure to the forms. As the book The Trellis and the Vine outlines, vine growth is the point of things, but you need to work on the trellis when growth happens. This is what we are constantly trying to do, while avoiding the showcase of nicely painted trellises towering over meagre and sickly vines.
So now that we are all stirred to work on our organization and administration, our greatest danger is to slip away from servanthood as a way of life, and position ourselves as the judges and arbiters of others’ efficiency. We can quickly move from a selfless attitude to one that has high demands on everyone. We subtly move from being open-hearted servants to highly critical consumers. Yet things don’t need to turn out this way.
We can continue to be marked by love. Love was the theme of the conference. And love will carry us through the growing pains of numerical growth, as well as challenges of structure, planning and organization. Gospel love was shown to us by Christ as part of the great plan of salvation inaugurated before the foundations of the universe. It’s no wonder that Jesus would make that love, the foundation for ours: “love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another” (John 13.34).