Structures are Theological Statements

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Structures are theological statements. If our structures mirror “the way of the world,” they will shape us powerfully and unknowingly.  Structures must be developed with the theological intent to be a sign of God’s coming Kingdom.  I’m not saying that we are unable to learn from organizational dynamics in other fields of study.  But we must scrutinize our methods, realizing that the means are just as important as the ends, for the means shape us to a particular end.  It has been said that Christianity started out in Palestine as a fellowship, moved to Greece and became a philosophy, went to Rome and became an institution, spread to Europe and became a government, and finally crossed the Atlantic where it became and enterprise.  What will it take for us to return to fellowship?

JR Woodward, “Creating a Missional Culture,” page 94.

Often our structures were put in place for life giving reasons.  Yet things change.  Often as things change, or as people become more and more grounded in God’s movement in a particular time and place, structures can become a hindrance to activity if they are solely anchored in the past.  Structures end up becoming fused with tradition just because ‘that is always the way things have been done.’  Part of missional activity becomes ‘scrutinizing our methods and realizing that the means are just as important as the ends, for the means shape us to a particular end.’ 

The unfortunate reality is, that when our missional practitioners, based in praxis, engage the impotence of some of these ‘fused with tradition’ structures the practitioner becomes marginalized… laid to waste on the outskirts of traditions and communities.  All this because they dare ‘challenge’ structure that may not be functional anymore.

Our structures are theological statements!!  The way we navigate them as community is intimately linked with our faithfulness to God and to one another.

What are some healthy ways in community to scrutinize structures?  Have you seen some successful ways in which this has happened?

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5 comments

  1. Robert Martin · May 14, 2013

    The unfortunate reality is, that when our missional practitioners, based in praxis, engage the impotence of some of these ‘fused with tradition’ structures the practitioner becomes marginalized… laid to waste on the outskirts of traditions and communities. All this because they dare ‘challenge’ structure that may not be functional anymore.

    A truer thing hasn’t been said in a while… While I’m still engaged and using some of those structures, I am constantly aware that they are not the be all/end all of what things *should* be… Some of what I’m reading right now in “Prodigal Christianity” is very convicting to that end.

    • Chris Lenshyn · May 14, 2013

      Well said friend.

      I really need to read this prodigal Christianity book… ugh!

      • Robert Martin · May 14, 2013

        Yes, yes you do… I’m barely started and already it has captured my imagination…

  2. Chris · May 14, 2013

    Great post, Chris. The next part of J.R.’s book I was planning to use in discussion with my leadership team (as we discern vision/structure) was this part on structures. And I’ll be saving your post here as well!

    • Chris Lenshyn · May 15, 2013

      A great section to work through. Blessings on that all important conversation!!

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