I will attempt to share some additional-- insights garnered from Margaret Wheatley's book, Leadership and the New Science. She does a wonderful job of describing how living systems--and their structures--require a constant cycle of disintegration in order to move into the natural process of growth and self-renewal.
Our tendency, looking at the world from a mechanistic view, is to try to build systems into a place of equilibrium and then do our best to protect that state.
But why has equilibrium become such a prized goal in adult life? Why do we seek so earnestly after balance? Is change so fearsome that we'll do anything to avoid it?
In contrast to our attempts to sustain and protect equilibrium, living systems use disequilibrium (chaos) in order to produce positive change and growth. In fact, "disequilibrium is the necessary condition for a sytems's growth." Living systems "dissipate or give up their form in order to recreate themselves into new forms."
While we have learned to control organizations in order to preseve a sense of stability, nature teaches us that there is a divine connectedness and order that is present even within the cycle of equilibrium - disequilibrium - renewal. We can trust that this process is at work and that appropriate forms will emerge.
Having grasped this, we can begin to appreciate what Wheatley describes as "structures that fit the moment." I believe this hits the nail on the head. It is impossible to be involved in life, or ministry, or service without structure. However, structure must always support life, not itself. For this to happen, structure must be able to constantly reinvent itself to fit the need of the moment. This is the reality of how structure works in living systems. And, this is exactly, in my opinion, the church structure that we see in the New Testament--a structure that supports the living organism of Christ's body. It is constantly renewing itself in order to effectively serve the life and vitality of that body. This is why we will never nail down "the absolutely right way to do church." To try to describe church as a static structural form completely misses the point. The structure, just as in all living systems, is created and then re-created to fit the need of the moment for Jesus' followers to effectively care for one another and reach out to a world in need.
Wheatley calls these type of structures process structures because they are constantly "reorganizing into different forms in order to maintain their identity." Thus, it is normal, natural, and inevitable that structures themselves will move from equilibrium to disequilibrium so that they can renew into forms that meet the need of the life--the spiritual vitality--that they are meant to support.
I have said many times, on this "house church blog," that the "house church" form is not the answer nor the end-all. We want to re-capture the life, the lifestyle of living every moment in Christ--in His presence and power. Forms are needed to support community life and missional life. I see great value in simple, unencumbered forms because they can easily change and reinvent themselves without difficulty. Nevertheless, they must be "structures that fit the moment." We can become just as protective of our small, simple structures and begin serving the forms. In doing so, though we may be in a house church, we have missed the point. We are meant to pursue the life--the spiritually dynamic, vital life of the believer--and constantly allow the forms to creatively renew in ways that support that life.
Not only can we do this, we are meant to do this. This is the life of faith. Trusting that in the constant cycle from equilibrium to disequilibrium in our structures (even our simple ones) we will see God bring forth renewal after renewal as we embrace the process, the ever ongoing process of spiritual growth supported by ever-renewing wineskins.