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Is Church an Organization or an Organism?

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There seems to be a lingering resistance to thinking about church as an organization. It’s common to hear pushback like, “the church is not an organization, it is an organism”, as if saying the words suddenly makes it so.

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Actually, I agree the church should behave like an organism in the sense it is a dynamic, living, and life-giving entity.

But when you think a little deeper, organisms consist of a set of systems with some kind of organizing intelligence – typically a brain – that causes them to function in harmony with one another, with or without conscious effort.

For example, the human body contains at least 10 critical systems including the circulatory and respiratory systems, digestive system, nervous system, and the reproductive system. The brain keeps them all functioning harmoniously.

That’s exactly what a healthy organization is…a set of systems with an organizing intelligence that causes them to function in harmony.

How organizations and organisms are alike

Organisms and organizations share some common features. Both have some kind of organizing intelligence, both have structures, and both have systems.

People can call church whatever they want but it is wise to recognize that it will not organize itself and it will not run itself. Church has an organization component that begs for intentional leadership.

A leadership opportunity

It’s possible for a church to be under-organized and it’s possible for it to be over-organized. For a church to be healthy in today’s world its leaders must develop competencies in organization design.

This is a good place to repeat my mantra. I’m convinced that organization innovation is the most overlooked opportunity for churches to raise the bar in fulfilling their mission and impacting their community.

Question

Why do you think many church leaders are resistant to the idea of church functioning as an organization?

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