It’s easy (and deadly) to focus on structures rather than friendships.
A student of mine recently wrote: “God is asking me to build relationships that will eventually need organization, not the other way around.” What a clarifying observation.
Jesus modeled something entirely different from our usual infatuation with institutions. Despite three years of ministry, he did not write a Constitution and Bylaws. He did not establish a Board of Elders and/or Deacons. He did not formulate programs or erect large buildings. He did not negotiate a personal contract with financial terms and conditions. He did not buy property or organize a movement—no publicity, no marketing, no promotional pieces, no advertising.
Quite simply, he wouldn’t make it today.
Instead, he went to the people; lived among them; ministered in the ditches with them; touched their lives; ate in their homes; listened to their hearts; shared their hardship; and pointed them to God.
We have grown so accustomed to structures and structuring that the simplicity of Jesus feels naïve. And we have a thousand misdirected but well-rehearsed reasons to justify our complexity.
In the 1989 movie Field of Dreams, Ray Kinsella is a corn-farmer who hears the words “If you build it, they will come.” In what seemed like craziness to his family and neighbors, he built a baseball field where a cash crop once grew. The movie finishes with touching scenes of Shoeless Joe Jackson and other (dead) greats of the past coming to play baseball.
Somehow, that whisper “If you build it they will come” defines the mentality of our culture. So, we busy ourselves building it—policies, procedures, facilities, staff, etc.
In reality, however, the structures slowly sap our souls. They incrementally absorb our attention until we have energy for little else. They can enslave us. We become workers for programs, participants in events, “giving units,” statistics in attendance counts, consumers and customers. Subtly, indiscernibly, we grow more concerned with sustaining the vision of the organization than nurturing the people within it. “The show must go on.”
We need structures. No society exists without them. But we distort the priorities to our peril. “God is asking us to build relationships that will eventually need organization, not the other way around.” Does that ring true for you?