In his report this evening, Wes recounted a time when a church member asked him, "Is the church an organism or an organization?"
His response seemed to suggest that we are somewhere in between. Some of our churches have been around for over 300 years. They are a gathered congregation, an institution, an organization by any definition of the world. On the other hand, some of our churches exist as house churches, gathered informally in living rooms watching church services streaming from 1000 miles away. At this early stage, these churches would seem to be defined as "organism." This is often found in the "emergent" church movement, following patterns that the institutional church would usually not recognize as "church" per say.
But the house church does not stay the house church forever. It grows, it changes, it adapts, and it organizes. The early church met in houses and synagogues. And over time, by many cultural and political influences, it became institutionalized. Movements do not stay movements forever. Institutionalization is a natural process that every movement should undergo, especially if it wants to have any staying power. In 20 years, the emergent church movement might be known as the Emergent Church of Christ in North America. If we haven't forgotten about the emergent church by then.
Wes also raised the point that this generation tend not to join organizations, the church included. The current generation may not be "joiners," but they still belong. The line between member and adherent is being blurred every day. If I am asked how many people are in the Reformed Church of Freehold, I don't respond with the number of members we have on the books. And I don't respond with our worship attendance. Neither number accurately reflects who "belongs" to the church. In my mind, the people that are present belong. I don't know how many that is. I could give a rough estimate, but it really isn't all that important. What matters more is that their lives are being transformed by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So are we an organism or an organization? I think we are both. And as long as we are both, we will be exactly who God wants us to be.