14 July 2009

"Church is an organism" dodge (NEXT! #16)

by Dan Phillips

Challenge: I don't think there should be structure or hierarchy in a church. After all, a church is an organism. Not an organization.

Response: So... what happens when an organism gets disorganized?

(Proverbs 21:22)

Dan Phillips's signature


Chad V. said...

Umm, what gives you the right to disobey the commands of scripture to appoint deacons and elders? What gives you the right to disobeys the scriptures command to obey those that have the rule over you since they watch out for you souls? In short, God has commanded it, where do you get off telling him "NO"?

Boy Dan, have people really used that one with you?

The Squirrel said...

Nice Ken Ham reference! Score!


David said...


Oh, yes, that one's out there a lot.

And there is a point to which the statement is valid, in response to the "pastor-as-CEO, church-as-a-business" model, or church membership being akin to a country club membership. That sort of stuff needs its own NEXT.

But when people react to one error, they swing over to an equal and opposite error, instead of looking at God's clear instruction of scripture and obeying it.

And yes, I've often used the term "organic" in descriptions of Christ's body. But it's a body that has skin to hold it together, white blood cells to attack diseases, and a nerve system to communicate from the head.

And they're all identifiable.

JOYce ~♥~ said...

What happens?


Love the NEXT! posts ~ awesome.

DJP said...

Chad, David — heard it countless times, usually exactly as I'm presenting it.

David, the church is not just an organization, it is an organism. "Organism," however, is not an antonym for "organized"; though that is how it is often used in some circles.

David said...


olan strickland said...

So... what happens when an organism gets disorganized?

I disorganized an organism once - it didn't survive!

I also offered to disorganize any willing, volunteering church member to illustrate this exact point about the nature of the church being an organism that must be organized - with the promise to reorganize them they way I saw fit afterwards (like legs where the arms go and arms where the legs go, etc.) - with not one single taker!

DJP said...


You get a compost pile.

trogdor said...


You can find some great examples of that type thinking in this thread. I don't know if this specific dodge was used, but there were far too many advocates for non-church spirituality. Basically they justify it by taking rebukes of the Pharisees and statements that all are equal in Christ, and turn it into a free-for-all every man for himself abomination.

Apparently those clear, unambiguous commands don't count because they're supposedly negated by unclear (and incorrect) implications from other verses. The interpretational gymnastics necessary to reach their conclusions are truly spectacular to behold.

Chad V. said...

Boy, usually the only people that say that to me are unbelievers who are making excuses for why they are not religious.

Chad V. said...


I remember that thread now.

Different subject but has the same result doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Ask them to disorganize an organism, like, say, cut your finger off.

Who dies, you or the finger?

Besides, is there not a hierarchy in an organism? Who leads the charge when I run, my brain or my feet?

The feet are obeying the brain in charge, no?

I've never understood why people even try to use that dodge.

DJP said...

Should be a "Duh," huh, Daryl?

They use it because it's a deep-sounding dodge, and because slushy mushbrains let them get away with it.

DJP said...

Oh, Trog, that thread was a fun ride, wasn't it?

You know, anyone who wants to argue that the professing church is in good shape just needs to look at a meta like that one, or some recent ones, where someone says what should be basic, and chairs start to fly.

olan strickland said...

slushy mushbrains

Sounds like a disorganized organism to me!

Tim Bertolet said...

If you want to be really snarky you could just say "I see what you mean, your body is running pretty well without it's head right now".

Maybe not the best response to make friends and influence people.

David Rudd said...


I'd be interested in seeing some Proverbs that demonstrate this kind of response to people...

I'm thinking there are some about answering the fool and answering the simple... Do you have any off the top of your head?

DJP said...

Oooh, Tim — zing-bam!

Stan said...

A line I heard a couple years ago would go well here. "Even anarchists need leaders."

Aric said...

Unfortunately, I hear this type of statement all too often . . . from my parents. As fans of a-person-who-shall-remain-nameless-so-as-to-not-offend/derail, my family has become big fans of having ‘church’ at home. This allows them to be more free, etc., etc.

I will have to remember this dodge in the future. FWIW, it seems like people using this dodge, more often than not, have issues with submitting to authority. Yet, ironically, the very bible they are claiming to pattern their ‘church’ after commands them to submit!

Mike Riccardi said...

Aric, that is a growing and extensive problem, especially, it seems, with that unnamed guy. My parents were there too -- though still going to church semi-regularly. It took quite a few conversations (even heated ones) before they realized that he was bunk and to stop letting him into the house.

DJP said...

that unnamed guy

Voldemort favored home instead-of "churches"?


Sir Aaron said...

Ken Ham reference?

DJP said...

Oh yeah, thanks for the reminder. I didn't get that, either.

Mike Riccardi said...

Actually, I might have been referring to a different guy than Aric.

Since when am I shy? I was talking about Osteen, who doesn't advocate anything at all, but who gives people an excuse to stay home and still be "uplifted."

Frank Turk said...


I just want to point out something which you people wouldn't know just by reading these posts by Dan:

We have this thing called Google analytics installed on the blog because I am very concerned, and troubled, and deeply vexed about stats. I mean: we devote a lot of time to this thing, and if only our wives and fawning friends are reading the blog, we should quit -- because they can hear all this stuff from us at dinner or whatever.

But we get a lot of readers. May it be to God's glory, but we get a lot of redaers. And you'd think that, since this is Phil's blog, Phil would get the most readers and have the most readers and the most popular posts.


Of our top 50 posts all-time by traffic, I have two posts, Phil has about a dozen, and the overwhelming majority of our top 50 posts are penned by Dan Phillips.

You people think this is Phil's blog, but clearly, it's not. And I say that only to say that people are giving the right attention to the right guy.


Aric said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Squirrel said...

Ken Ham of Answers in Genesis, has explained that information (i.e. DNA in his anti-evolution example)must be organized to be meaningful, and talks about "disorganizing" a mosquito with a fly swatter. All the information is still there, but...

Doug Hibbard said...

I think this speaks to the "Short Circuit" in our church mentality. Remember that lovely movie from the 80s, where the robot gets struck by lightning and becomes alive? More alive, in fact, than Steve Gutenberg's career?

The robot jumps on top of a grasshopper and kills it. He assumes it can be "reassembled" and is shocked to find out that disassemble=dead.

So what happens to the organism of the church when 'disassembled'?


Aric said...

DJP said Voldemort favored home instead-of "churches"?

Aric said: “Who dat?” {goggles voldemort}. “Ah…. from Harry Potter. Wait a sec, isn’t Harry Potter of the devil*?”

*The above link was for entertainment purposes only. Please do not comment on Harry Potter or any other Potter.

Citizen Grim said...

Buzzwords cover many sins.

"Organism" is used by people who want to sound more profound than they actually are.

Similarly, when I had art classes in college, other students would try to make their projects sound more impressive by saying, "I decided to go with a more organic route on this project," when what they really meant was, "I threw this project together 2 hours ago, cut it out with my roommate's dull kitchen knife, dropped it twice on the way to class, and accidentally got two of the pages stuck together with glue."

Anonymous said...


But Potter is exactly on topic. Didn't Colonel Potter need Radar to stay organized.

And didn't the whole unit need the Colonel to keep things on track?

What would have happened if the North Koreans had successfully disorganized the unit.

A bunch of dead, and therefore fairly unproductive parts.

Mesa Mike said...

The last time I disorganized an organism, it got digested (after being barbecued) and then reorganized.

The organisms I've seen that remained persistently disorganized were rotten.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

HA HA HA. Love wink to Ken Ham... but I see Squirrel beat me to it. (Aren't rodents speedy?!)

Oh, I had a conversation very like this NEXT just a few weeks ago. An acquaintance was describing how her family "does church" at home. One of her strong points seemed to be that it was "messy", as if that made it more authentic.

Remember entropy.

Herding Grasshoppers said...

Uh, that was supposed to be "I love THE wink to Ken Ham", not something flirty.



DJP said...

To be clear:

1. I didn't wink at Ken Ham.

2. I don't wink at Ken Ham.

Anonymous said...


If I hear one more person attempt to justify anything their church does or doesn't do but saying that church is messy...I may puke.

Anonymous said...

...now that would be messy...

Herding Grasshoppers said...

That WOULD be messy.

Jay said...

Doug Hibbard said..."So what happens to the organism of the church when 'disassembled'?"

"Smiling Pastors"?
"Cussing Pastors"?
Saddlebacks and Willow Creeks?

Lydia said...

What happens when an organism gets organized?

The Holy Spirit is moving and Jesus Christ is the authority. Which means the mere men with big lofty titles that make them think they are over others are merely servants and have calloused knees. And all are part of the Body. Each one is spiritually gifted by the Holy Spirit and edifying the Body. All gifts are equal. There are no laity. All are ministering.

The mega church is not where you see such a thing happening.

That is what happens.

CR said...

Response to Frank's derailment (I want to get this in before he underails - em, em, cough)that Dan's blogs are the more popular on Pyro: um, are we suppose to be surprised or something? :=)

Gary said...

On one level church SHOULD be "messy". When you get a bunch of sinners together interacting on a meaningful level then stuff will happen. If it isn't your church probably is not dealing with sin and is probably not bearing much fruit.
See for example proverbs 14:4

romans923 said...

Dear Sir:

Is there a compilation of these "next" posts? I ask because I have a few friends who I have invited to set your page as their homepage. This away they start their time on the internet in a godly forum versus whatever site maybe in their browser. Those who have are very blessed.
I use the example of these posts to show the Christian utility of the matter. These posts are very helpful, and if they were compiled they could be referenced easily.


DJP said...

romans923 — thanks for asking. It's simple. You see "Labels" under the post. One is "Next." Click on that label, and you see all the "Next!" posts.

Gary — perhaps the way to focus this is:

"Messy" as opposed to a lifeless, well-oiled machine? or

"Messy" as opposed to a purposeful, deliberate, focused, principled, and wisely-led group of people?

The use I'm obliterating is the use (in this order) either (A) to oppose all leadership and hierarchy, which God commanded to be set and respected in every church; and (B) to oppose structuring and organizing and focusing the activities of the church.