I’m excited to share with you our philosophy of ministry and volunteerism, for this is a volunteer organization. Yes, we have a core of paid individuals who are organizing things right now, and there’s a Biblical precedent for that, but we believe that our role is primarily to train, empower, and deploy the volunteers that are the organization of 5twelve City Church. To help you understand, I’ll provide two analogies.
First, we’re not a farm; we’re a forest. You see, on a farm, everything is in neat rows, and everything is planned, all the decisions are made, and execution is the obligation of, the farmer. There may be a team of individuals who plow, and plant, and fertilize the crops or harvest them in due time, but the farmer has the final say, and at the end of the day, it’s his enterprise. Without the farmer, the organization brought to the farm will ultimately disintegrate.
We want 5twelve to be like a forest. A forest has just as much order, if not more, as a farm. However, that order happens organically. The Creator has given each plant or other organism its own abilities and characteristics, and by each doing what it does best, the forest grows and thrives and becomes a beautiful landscape bringing glory to God.
There are plenty of churches run like farms. There’s one lead pastor and maybe a few deputies, and that leader makes the final decisions regarding the church’s direction, programs, and so on. Without that leader – when the leader leaves or retires – the church founders and may even disband because the leader was the central organizer of the organization. In contrast, the forest more accurately depicts the structure of the church described by Paul in 1 Corinthians.
We often interpret all scripture as prescriptive, but its original intent was often descriptive. In 1 Corinthians, Paul first describes his observations of the Church in Corinth, and then he makes prescriptions based on those descriptions. In 1 Corinthians 12, Paul explains to the church that while there is a structure to it, all are members and have their important roles to play. “
27 Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it.28 And God has placed in the church first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, of helping, of guidance, and of different kinds of tongues. 29 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30 Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret?
Later, in Chapter 14, he describes orderly, but also inclusive, worship:
26 What then shall we say, brothers and sisters? When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, two—or at the most three—should speak, one at a time, and someone must interpret. 28 If there is no interpreter, the speaker should keep quiet in the church and speak to himself and to God.
29 Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said. 30 And if a revelation comes to someone who is sitting down, the first speaker should stop. 31 For you can all prophesy in turn so that everyone may be instructed and encouraged. 32 The spirits of prophets are subject to the control of prophets. 33 For God is not a God of disorder but of peace—as in all the congregations of the Lord’s people.
What Paul is calling for is a church where all have a role to play, and all should play it. To illustrate further, here’s another analogy. We don’t want 5twelve to be a restaurant; we want it to be a family dinner. I recently heard a quote by Michael J. Fox about the family dinner, “The oldest form of theater is the dinner table. It’s got five or six people, new show every night, same players. Good ensemble; the people have worked together a lot.” The interesting thing is that you never know whether you’re going to get a comedy or a drama.
At a restaurant, you’re seated, and you wait to be served. You judge the restaurant on the food and the service and then determine whether you’ll come back. But at a family dinner, everybody brings something to the table. If you don’t like how your sister makes the okra, you volunteer to bring the okra next time! But the point is that you keep coming back, and you always bring something. In the same way, we want 5twelve to be a place where you come, you participate, you make suggestions, you’re not shy about using the gifts God has given you in the context of the Church’s gatherings. The experience is shared, and it’s lovely.
Derived from Leaders Event talk, given by Jurie Kriel on a Lone Star Riverboat cruise in downtown Austin on May 22, 2018.
Photo Credit: Lone Star Riverboat cruises