Structures and Systems

When people begin to see through the illusions of organized religion, many have the tendency to through out all structures, thinking they are inherently evil. Are they? Some feedback from Wayne and Brad's podcast on George Barna's Revolution and some listener questions regarding structure and associations give them an opportunity to sort through this issue, considering where structures can be a blessing by helping to facilitate Gods' working, and where they supplant it and distract people from the simple joy of living out of their relationship with Jesus.


  1. Wow! What a powerful discussion! Jesus warned us didn’t He (In John 10) of those who would try to supplant His place as the True Shepherd of the Sheep.

    “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd gives His life for the sheep. But a hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep. I am the good shepherd; and I know My sheep, and am known by My own. As the Father knows Me, even so I know the Father; and I lay down My life for the sheep. And other sheep I have which are not of this fold; them also I must bring, and they will hear My voice; and there will be one flock and one shepherd. ”

    So often it seems these “hirelings” (either individuals or groups) are more beholding to the institutions (whatever it might be) they serve than the Father or the sheep. When the sheep need them the most, they scatter, for they really don’t care about the sheep. In contrast our Lord loves His sheep and lays down His life for them. No group or club or association is in any way capable of this. How many young believers have been abandoned when their circumstances or questions place the group’s reputation or security at risk? The motives of these hirelings typically give them away, for they are indeed “thieves and robbers”, more often concerned about self-preservation than the preservation and well being of the sheep.

    Our Lord goes on in verse 17 to suggest that this is the very reason the Father loves Him, because He alone lays his life down for the sheep. For this reason only He is the legitimate Shepherd, entering the sheepfold through the door and not by some other way. All others are strangers and illegitimate.

    Perhaps in our day, with the trend to hyper-organize and systematize the sheep and all of their activities, we need to remember that it is His voice alone they need to hear, and He alone that they need to follow. Everyone and everything else is a thief and a robber!

    Thanks again guys, for bringing us back to what is essential. Keep up the Lord’s Work!


  2. great comments. The hardest thing (for those of us in big cutting edge churches) to do was to nuture a relationship with Jesus. There was always so much activity and teaching and most of the time what individuals heard wasn’t what the leadership was hearing. It left us not knowing if we were hearing from God, so we gave up and gave in to someone elses opinion.

  3. Here’s part of the most recent post on my blog:

    George Barna, author of Revolution thinks that the number of committed Christians who do not affiliate with a local congregation in the traditional sense will grow from 30% now to 70% in the next several years.

    I think that’s bunk. Although I consider myself one of that current 30%, I don’t think that the traditional or institutional church is on the way out. A couple of reasons define my argument. First, some people thrive on structure and organization. I am not one of those which is why I fit into the home-grown church so well. I think people who thrive on structure and live for the next project will keep the institutions in business, so to speak. Secondly, as the number of congregational drop-outs increase and the reasons for said drop-out rate becomes more widely understood, the institutional churches will adapt and re-make themselves into a more free, less guilt-driven, performance-based expression of his body. At least I hope so.

    I believe the numbers may get close to 50-50 by about 2025, but I think that Christians all over the globe will realize we’re on the same team. Those who enjoy big structures and programs will have their place and be able to use their gifts in a more relaxed manner than in the mega-church of today. They will understand freedom in Christ and exercise it daily. Those who like to hang out in their PJs in some one’s living room and call that church will be able to do so without fear of losing their friends down at the warehouse building church. God is moving today and he’s calling his children to unity. The “Revolution”, as Barna puts it, is fueling a larger movement of the Father. He wants us to be one. He wants us to be free of our human systems be they mega-churches or house-churches. Some day I hope my friends can feel free to gather anywhere at anytime to enjoy the reality of being his body.

  4. If there is only one Shepherd, then why is Peter asked to Shepherd the sheep? Why did Paul enumerate functional structure in Ephesians 4?

    “Perhaps in our day, with the trend to hyper-organize and systematize the sheep and all of their activities, we need to remember that it is His voice alone they need to hear, and He alone that they need to follow. Everyone and everything else is a thief and a robber! quote from above attributed to Wayne

    How does this jive with the Hebrews 13:17: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they keep watch over your souls as those who will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with grief, for this would be unprofitable to you”.

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