I genuinely love the church; the community of God’s people who are together striving, and often failing, to pursue Christ and his mission. I love the men, women, and children that I share my life with, worship with, and serve alongside. I have even found myself feeling an unexpected love (although not always) for a critical church member complaining in my office, or the cantankerous person who seems to delight in disagreeing with my perspective on even mundane issues. Admittedly, mine is an imperfect love of the church, but it is real.
What I don’t love is the 501c3 tax-exempt institution we incorrectly refer to as “the church.” For decades we’ve heard the old adage, “the church isn’t a building, it’s the people.” We’ve come to recognize that the brick and mortar structure isn’t the church, but somehow we haven’t had the same epiphany about the intangible structures of the institution. In many peoples’ imaginations the church remains a bundle of programs, committees, policies, teams, ministries, initiatives, budgets, and events. Most people speak of “the church” the same way they refer to “the government”—it’s a hierarchy of leaders managing an organization that they engage but remain apart from.
—Dan Kimball, Blog: Out Of Ur, Christianity Today
I agree that the church is the people and not the building and that it is the people and not the structures or administration we have built…but… I do believe that God has built a structure or administration by giving us the Spiritual gifts. For every person who is a follower of Jesus Christ God gives a special spiritual ability that is to be used to serve other people who follow Jesus Christ. These gifts come with a structure of apostles, pastors, teachers, leaders and evangelists. Then there are the other gifts that form other structures. The people who have these gifts are the ones who then, in the exercising of their gifts, develop structures or an administration that best expresses their gifts to meet the needs of the other followers of Christ.
What I am saying is that there is no way to avoid having church structures. Now, maybe some structures are obsolete or irrelevant. Ok, in that case we may have institutionalized something that should be dismantled.