Leader, shepherd, internist
Both of my readers know my disdain for referring to the church as a team. Yes, I do understand team dynamics and can handle implementation of team concepts to the church organizational grid to define the lower internal organs like committees. In fact, team is a better descriptive than committee any day. But, the church isn't a team. It is a body. According to Scripture it is Christ's body, and should therefore function in a more miraculous fashion that any team I know. So, rant over, again.
The body metaphor moves in a lot of directions. One I've really never considered beyond a thought was the internal mechanisms and dysfunction that can hinder the body. So, let's examine a few comparatives.
1. Most people die of internal medical problems.
There's recent site listing the 10 leading causes of death in the United States.
You can review the data right here. They are heart disease, cancer, lower
respiratory disease, accidents, strokes, Alzheimer's Disease, diabetes, influenza
and pneumonia, kidney disease, and suicide (dated September 21, 2015).
Notice that all are internal in nature with the exception of accidents and
suicide, which may or not be of internal origin. Humans die primarily because
of a malfunction within the internal system.
2. The Body of Christ is mostly hindered by internal malfunction.
Interestingly, a non-scientific Twitter survey of the most pressing issues facing
pastors and spiritual leaders indicates similar findings. The Thom Rainer blog @
www.thomrainer.com listed the twelve most troubling problems in local
churches (see the post from January 26, 2013). They are apathy and internal
focus, staff issues, keeping volunteers, time constraints, developing buy-in,
generational challenges, finances, tradition, criticism, leadership development,
majoring on minors, and lack of true friends. Dr. Rainer concludes, "What is
fascinating, if not discouraging, about this survey is that virtually all of the
challenges noted by these pastors and staff were internal challenges."
There it is, another layer of the body-body comparison that should shift our focus somewhat. Our bigggst challenge may be overcoming the mission inertia that the expenditure of resources on these internal factors presses on the body. The medical community reminds us that proactive preventive medicine is the only way to curb the alarming internal death statistics. Perhaps avoiding internal pressure would be a way to ease the internal stresses in the church as well.
Recently someone shared a church organization model that may address some of the internal gridlock that hinders the functioning of the body. A growing church in our area has re-defined their staff organization to include a pastor for the Body dispersed, and a pastor for the Body gathered. They've added in internist to their staff. What a brilliant on-point strategy for dealing with these troubling internal factors. This person will monitor the vital statistics of the congregation and treat the internal symptoms that may affect the Body. Since many of the perceived problems of local churches are internal in nature, an internist may be the right call.
OK, every church can't have that many layers of staff organization. However, it is not out of question for churches to have internists among the elder leadership or within the ministry organization at some level. There are many tools for measuring the internal effectiveness of churches, and great Scriptural direction for insuring smooth missional communication, collaboration, and cooperation among the structures that make the engines of the church operate. One simple means of insuring that the internal pressures mentioned in Dr. Rainer's article are recognized and addressed would be to simply add someone to the leadership organization to audit internal mechanics regularly.
Often we forget that the Pauline Epistles were written to churches. The letters identified most of the relational and functional aspects that define the inner workings of corporate life. First Corinthians 12 is a tutorial in the operation of the Body of Christ. The attitudes and complications that could create most dysfunction in the body are mentioned and solved. Additionally, there are 16, and some say 17, "one another" passages in these letters to assist church people in assuring the mutuality and coordination of the gifts he bestows to make this body work.
The body is the ultimate metaphor of church life. Just as internal issues can shorten the life of every human creature, it seems that most of our perceived difficulty in the church is internal as well. And, a strong leader, wise shepherd, and practiced internist can make a difference in moving churches past these internal distractions.
Christ's church should always look up and out. But, an occasional look in may be in order too.