Monday, July 14, 2008

Family Business: How Should We Organize the Church?

The church is a family. Jesus constituted the church as such (Mk 3:31-35), and Paul followed his Master's lead by employing sibling language to talk about fellow believers. This is not a quaint metaphor, but a determinative social reality that guides believers' behavior towards one another. Why is Paul so incensed in 1 Corinthians 6? Because SIBLINGS are taking each other to court (1 Cor 6:6). Why does Jesus's judgment fall on the goats in Matthew 25? Because they do not attend to the needs of siblings (cf. Mt. 25:40, 45). Who doesn't have the love of God according to John? The one who sees a sibling in need and withholds the world's goods from her/him (1 Jn 3:15-16).

This isn't to say that the church is only a family. It's a bride, a building, a body, and sundry other things. And these images provide us with other, complimentary aspects of the nature/organization of the church. Here's the dilemma that I have encountered: when it comes to how the church should be organized in order to accomplish its mission, we run into all sorts of value conflicts. If the church is to be effective in reaching the lost, there needs to be some means of organizing people around a common task. However, all human organizational systems are flawed, and thus have unintended consequences. Some can turn pastors into project managers who never get around to discipling brothers and sisters. Others can make pastors passive and subject to the whims of their congregations. Others reinforce an unbiblical clergy/laity distinction and so stifle ministry. Families and businesses operate with different assumptions and values. Accordingly, here are some things I've been mulling over (n.b. some of these are compliments of my dad)...

(1) When do models of organization stifle pastors from actually leading the church? When do they stifle church members from taking on ministry?
(2) How should we evaluate ministries, especially since they are being run by brothers and sisters?
(3) What does ministry-accountability look like when we are dealing with siblings?
(4) Is it ever okay to fire a staff member for job performance when sin isn't involved? If so, what biblical rationale would you use to fire said person?
(5) When do organizational systems run counter to the principle of the priesthood of all believers?

Take a crack at any one of them, or all of them if you are so inclined.

3 comments:

Andy C said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Andy C said...

Maybe I am being a little simplistic, but I think it is OK to fire someone for job performance issues, although any type of termination activity should never be pleasant or enjoyable. I think of the Colossians 3:23 instruction of doing your work heartily for the Lord as opposed to men. However, you need to be sure counseling has happened, performance improvement planning steps have been designed, and that the person relaizes that job performance is a significant issue for continued employment. You have ot balance it with Christ instructing us to forgive, as He did in Matthew 18:22 (seventy times seven).It is not an easy balance, I think a lot of prayer need go into the decision.

bobbym said...

Should a staff member be fired for job performance reasons?

First you have to ask "Is the member a volunteer or are they paid staff?"

Taking the latter first: Any paid staff member who does not perform up to expectations, and who has been gently spoken with about the matter yet still falls short SHOULD be fired. Why? Because to NOT do so would be to waste money that was put in trust to the church by brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Further, if a staff member is nonperforming then they are, in essence, stealing from the organization at worst, and defrauding the church at best. To NOT dismiss such a person would be just as much an offense against the trust of the congregation as is the non performing employee.

Next, if the staff member is a volunteer: This changes the dynamic and makes the decision more difficult. As with the first scenario, a discussion has to take place with the member, more than once, and possibly a number of times, until the member can come to a self realized decision that someone else would be better for the job, IF indeed there were other candidates! No easy task, IMO.