This is an excerpt from a live Question + Response session in Saturate’s Missional Church Transition Starter. It is still relevant today, as we all wrestle with living out discipleship and community in these unusual times, in the aftermath of the Great Confinement.

From Sunday to Everyday

Did your church ever experience tension between people who want to make disciples, but want it to be organic vs. structured?

Yes, I think there’s the organic and then there’s the institutional; there’s the unstructured versus the structured. What I would like to appeal to us is that we go back to biblical categories in a sense. That’s a way of talking about how you feel and experience an environment, which is just a preference at the end of the day. I prefer to have a very highly structured environment. Does that make me evil? No. That just means I have a preference for order.

I could just as well argue with you that that’s a reflection of the image of God. He clearly creates order out of chaos. Otherwise, how do you read the creation narrative? The real question is around who are we? I believe we are family. Because of the work of God to adopt us into His family in Christ, we actually are family. Rather than organic, I think we should define it around relationship; that is the way I would want to talk about that.

Because of the work of God to adopt us into His family in Christ, we actually are family.

That’s what a lot of people are talking about when they say “organic”. They want it to be fluid, to be Spirit-led. Really what they’re saying is, “I want it to be familial. I want it to feel like an authentic relationship with one another.” That’s what a family is. Authenticity in relationship.

I also think there’s structure and there’s order, but it’s actually more along the lines of authority. How does God bestow authority in the New Testament upon the church? We can get into an ecclesiology discussion, but bottom line is that there is authority and order in God’s church. Just read I Timothy 3, Titus 2, and I Corinthians 14. God desires, in a sense, an ordering of his people through the lens of authority. All authority is mediated by the Word of God and it is empowered by the Spirit of God. There are means of biblical authority for how the church should function. Rather than saying organic versus institutional, let’s say familial and authority. Those are the two biblical categories to start thinking through. If I’m in that conversation, I’m usually going to push people back to the Bible itself rather than a preference that we have.

How have you seen people long for both authentic relationships and clear authority in community? How have you experienced these two categories?

Dr. Todd Engstrom is the Executive Pastor of Ministries at The Austin Stone Community Church in Austin, Texas. Additionally, he directs the efforts of The Austin Stone in church planting – training, resourcing and deploying church leaders to glorify God wherever they are. Finally, he regularly speaks, writes and consults with churches on the topics of missional communities and organizational leadership. At home, he is husband to Olivia, father to five kids, and a missionary in his neighborhood.

This article was previously published on the Saturate blog.
Used with permission. © SATURATE 2019.