Two Types of Church: Institutional and Organic
There are two types of church in the Bible, and there are two types of church today.
In the Old Testament, there is the temple. At the temple, the priests lead worship and guide the people, as instructed by God through Moses. The Levites provide support to keep things functioning smoothly—at least that’s how God wants it to work. Old Testament temple worship is institutional, with much structure and strict procedure.
Institutions mandate order, reward conformity, and maintain the status quo—whether it’s good or bad.
In the New Testament, the people who follow Jesus start meeting together. They don’t have a building, so they just hang out in public places and meet in people’s homes. There are very few instructions for what they do, with little oversight in how they do it. However, they do eat meals together, share their belongings, and encourage one another. They live in community; it is organic. New Testament church is organic.
Organic gatherings nurture spiritual growth, adapt to their environment, and follow the leading of the Holy Spirit—regardless of what’s planned or expected. Organic is, at times, also messy.
Today we see a plethora of options for church; most are institutions, few are organic. Most churches follow the pattern of the Old Testament: they have a building, paid staff, and leader-led worship; structure and procedure are their guides.
Few churches are organic, truly following the pattern of the New Testament. Though I do encounter these types of organic spiritual experiences, they aren’t frequent or regular—and they seldom happen on Sunday morning.
My wife feels it’s important to go to a church on Sunday morning; I feel it’s important to hone my faith in organic community.
If only we could do both at the same time.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical spirituality, often with a postmodern slant. He seeks a fresh approach to faith and following God through the lens of scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices. Read more in his books, blog, and weekly email updates.