War of the Periwinkles (2 of 2)

A Caribbean garden 

A Caribbean garden 

Jesus made another statement pertinent to the issue at hand: “…be shrewd as serpents, and innocent as doves,” He said (Mt. 10:16). In other words, don’t be naïve.

Just because the organization is called a church doesn’t mean you’ve got a pure wheat field. There are tares in with the wheat just as there were diseased tomatoes in with the periwinkles. For now, if you are going to enjoy the flowers, you’ve got to put up with the vines.

Does this constitute heresy? Isn’t the church the bride of Christ? Isn’t the church the vessel through which God intends to reach a lost and dying world?

Yes. The paragraphs above do sound heretical. And yes, to the other questions as well. But remember the definitions above: What we are calling the church is, in reality, comprised of both believers and unbelievers, wheat and tares. The church is both an organism and an organization, one living, one dead. The Church living and the church corporate are not the same, nor are they interchangeable.

I have experience with churches that have exerted tremendous influence in my Christian life. I also have experience with churches that were more of a hurdle than a help. Chuck Swindoll wrote, “We’re the only outfit (the church) I know that shoots its wounded.” That’s sad, but I know what he means. I have been shot at more by the “church” than by the enemy.

I hope you don’t taste bitterness in my words. My intentions are quite the contrary. I want to encourage you. I want to see you survive, to walk in victory, to be wise to the enemy’s tactics. I don’t want you to get blindsided by the organization thinking it is an organism. Most of all, I don’t want you to allow the spider-mited tomato vines to spoil the periwinkles.

You must not be surprised if your needs are not met by the corporate church. Don’t be amazed if you find improprieties. Worse yet, don’t be stunned if you are kicked while you’re down. If you run headlong into the organization and it reminds you of dealing with the IRS, don’t be bewildered. This is the nature of organizations and bureaucracies. As I said before, you have to put up with the dying tomato plants to enjoy the vibrant flowers.

Not long ago, I was bogged down in the organization of a church. I was lamenting my predicament to a friend who said, “Pres, I view myself as an infiltrator into the church.” Good counsel and great perspective.

A plan began forming in my mind as soon as my friend said what he said, a plan that I have since put into practice. Because the organization and the organism are inextricably interwoven, I must attach myself to the organism as I infiltrate the organization. This is what I mean by enjoying the periwinkles while tolerating the dead tomatoes.

You must be the judge of what distinguishes the organism from the organization in your church, but the rudimentary quality of any organism is life. Feeding and caring for an organism produces and reproduces life, both in you and others. Feeding the organization only augments the bureaucracy. This isn’t necessarily bad. After all, we need structure and organization. But we must never conclude that because an organization has wheat inside it that the organization is alive.

Life begets life. Organizations are simply managed.