We have been discussing what church is and what it should therefore look like. In doing so, we have contrast it with the institutional church. Many people have difficulty with the criticisms of the institutional church, which is of course not surprising if we have been closely tied and committed to it. A natural route for many is to say, “All your saying about organic church is fine, but I think the institutional church is ok too.” In other words, people look at organic church as just another option that isn’t better or worse than other churches, just different, and that some people will may like that more, but some people may like institutional church better, and it is no worse—perhaps even better than—an organic church. I grant that this may be a possibility. But I would also like to suggest that this may not be the case either. I would like to use an illustration that I hope will describe how I view it.
As I’ve stated, I think the bottom, core, foundational paradigm shift is to see the church as being organic vs. institutional. So, imagine the church as being a tree—a real living, growing tree. At some point in the past, people got together and decided they could better manage trees. They went to the lumber store, bought some lumber, then went and constructed things which looked like trees. Ad they declared that they really were trees! Hey, they’re made of wood, and they provide shade, so they are trees, right?
Over time, more and more “trees” were built: some looked like oaks, some like cedars, some like pines, etc. The architects focused on building increasingly bigger and better “trees”. As the designs diversified, people starting arguing about which “trees” were the “real” ones, or at least which were the closest to being “right”. Naturally most people believed that their “tree” was the real deal. Yet after some time, some of the brighter and more gracious conceded that they were all just different types of “trees”, none better or worse than another. People could choose which ever type of “tree” that they personally preferred.
Now, how would you compare a constructed tree to a real tree? Sure, fake trees are convenient, and can even look good, but they’re obviously not a real tree, and will never grow nor produce fruit. A fake tree resembles a real tree in certain ways, and can even provide some of the same benefits, such as shade, but it’s still not a real tree. What I am of course suggesting is that every institutional church is a fake tree, while organic churches are real trees. This is the reason that I don’t see organic church as just being another equal option. I see it as being the real deal. Again I conceded that I may be wrong, but this is how it looks to me, based on my years of study.
Photo credit: Me!