One more excellent article in Next-Wave, by Malcolm Hawker, deals with the topic of structure. He writes:
I was reading this morning where once again someone was crying out NO STRUCTURE!
It is as if "structure" in church life is in some way restrictive and bad even to the point of being evil...all possibly true. Some say, "Because it is bad, let's just do away with it." But we can't. This world exists on structure and it is part of God's design. Everything has structure without it there is nothing. Animals, insects, buildings, bridges,planes, cars, mountains,the universe, in fact everything has some structure.
While I think I understand the heart from which these "NO STRUCTURE"words are spoken, the problem with structure in Church life comes when the people end up serving the structures rather than the structures serving the people.
Malcolm raises some excellent issues here:
- You can't do away with structure. Only random chaos remains without some form of structure. I know Christians who run as soon as a second gathering time is decided on because it is starting to look like a traditionally structured church setting. But some form of structure does support everything we do.
- People end up serving structures... and this is always the problem. The structures become more important than the people and take on requirements of their own.
My conclusion on this is that, first of all, simplicity is the key. The simpler, the better... in most cases. Simplicity means that structure remains flexible and disposable. Simple structures are easy to change, mold, modify, or do away with when the time comes.
Secondly, structure must be re-shaped when it no longer serves its purpose. This keeps people and relationships at the forefront and structure as a backfroungd tool that serves. Schedule the next gathering time... or two or three... Or plan a regular weekly time... But be ready to change it when it no longer serves the community.
We need a new mentality to do this. It's amazing how often simple structures form and, before long, people begin to mindlessly accept that "that's the way we do things." That's where problems begin. We must continually challenge everything we are doing... Is it serving the community and the Spirit or are we just doing what we've been doing without thinking about it?