At a prayer group in 1988, I felt urged to pray over a man. As I prayed I felt God say, “If this man left this prayer group, it would make no difference. And that is a tragedy.”
Immediately I heard God respond, “No, his life is not the tragedy —I’ll take care of him. The tragedy is the loss to this body because he was not allowed to offer what I put in him to give. This body will never be what it could have been.”
I deeply long—I believe it’s a God-given ache—to be a part of a Calling Driven church.
(By church—small “c”—I mean neither the Church through the ages nor an Institution like the Roman Catholic or Lutheran Church; I mean a grouping of “two or more” who regularly gather to worship, pray, and care for each other, like a parish, congregation, intentional community, or prayer group.)
I long to see a body (church) which realizes the clues to its own identity are found in the identities of its members—one that helps each member discover their unique purpose.
Mechanical and Organical
Consider two different models of organization, mechanical and organic. A mechanical organization looks to its mission to find its “parts.” These parts are replaceable commodities. A car engine needs pistons, bearings, spark plugs, etc. When a spark plug fails, we replace it with the identical model, and the car runs as it did before.
Corporations are mechanical organizations. If they lose a receptionist or CFO, they “buy” another receptionist or CFO, and they run as they did before, without missing a beat.
An organic structure functions completely contrary. It looks to its parts to find its mission. Its parts are unique and irreplaceable. A human body has fingers, toes, lungs and elbows. As an infant grows, it learns its life through discovery of its parts and how to use them; it learns how to grab with hand-eye coordination, how to walk with inner ear balance and feet, and what to pursue with its heart and passion.
When a body part is lost or injured, the whole body suffers. A lost limb is irreplaceable. I once jammed my thumb. I was amazed at the life effect of this smallest injury; typing, shaking hands, and grabbing a fork … all hurt like heck.
Most churches—alas—are mechanical organizations. If we lose a Sunday School teacher or piano player we get another “member” to take their place, like a spark plug on a car, and we run just like before, without missing a beat.
Mechanical organizations have human designers who create a mission and find parts to fulfill it. Organic structures have a Divine Designer, and they find their mission through discovery and examination of the parts that the Devine Designer provides.
Most churches—alas, maybe all—operate with human designers. Leaders design missions and programs and then look for members to be spark plugs. We turn elbows into toes, and livers into lungs. We wonder why we are ineffective and unattractive.
Because it hurts like heck to walk on our elbows. And it looks weird.
Several years ago I attended a Calling Exploration Experience retreat.* It included twelve hours of small group time with three other men I had never met. In our meetings we applied Calling principles into each man’s individual life. We helped each other discover our God given gift of what to offer to the world.
It was instant community. I came to know each man more deeply than I had in any other small group experience. We looked into each man’s life. We saw and affirmed God’s imprint there. I experienced deep joy—joy in discovering my Calling, yes—but 75% of the time I was helping others find their Calling. Helping others was equally joyful, perhaps more so.
I long for organic community—church—for every day of my life, something like we had on that weekend.
I long to belong to a Calling Driven church, where we daily help each other discover and develop each other’s calling and character.
I long to belong to a body where we look to the God given unique body parts in order to discover our corporate mission, where we ask, “Why did God bring us Tammy and Tim? How will their new membership change who we are?”
Imagine a body whose leaders could honestly say, “Join us to discover what God designed you to bring to the world and how to deeply experience love, joy, and peace.”
Our buildings would burst like overfilled balloons.
I’m not alone. We all long to belong to a body like this. Besides, our elbows are getting sore.
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