Some thoughts about the nature of Jesus as a complete man came to mind during a recent exchange with a Facebook friend about “organic” church. Some folks were having an organizational meeting about “planting” organic churches, and I was invited, along with anyone else interested. The wise-guy point I led off our on-line dialog with was why would something organic need to be planted. In my mind anything truly organic has already been planted by the Lord and will grow on its own with at best only a bit of help from us.
I have an immediate, visceral reaction to the term “church planting.” It has the cachet of institutional programs, plans, tools, equipping strategies, marketing, etc–that I find such a turn off. It somehow says to me that the Lord needs our help–that revealing Jesus in our transformed lives isn’t sufficient. It wants to do discipling like some muti-level marketing scheme.
The same person sent me a short video on how to explain the “organic church” in a couple of minutes by drawing a simple diagram on the back of a napkin. The diagram was a triangle with “loving God” in one corner, “loving others” in a second corner and “the Great Commission” on the third corner. Now, the great commission is important but for me it’s not at the same level of importance as loving God and loving and serving others. One can’t go wrong loving God and loving others. Loving is how Jesus is revealed to an unbelieving world and how others know that we belong to Him. But things can often go very badly when proselytizing enters the picture. I was somewhat uncomfortable with the whole missiology tool idea–like the Four Spiritual Laws booklet–which btw I have happily handed out. I mentioned to her that I already belonged to an organic church in case she thought that I wasn’t familiar with the organic church paradigm.
The whole church planting, great commission, missiology thing has preoccupied and dominated huge numbers of evangelical churches for years. It also strikes me that increasing the numbers is a very male thing. Now we have the organic or simple church movement which is a very female thing. So what does gender have to do with this discussion?
I recently saw a book titled something like: “Men Read Maps–Women Talk”. It sort of highlights the difference between men and women in a nutshell. Men are all about maps and data–the numbers, the facts, the schematics, the blueprints, the strategies–whereas women are relational. The organic church is very relational and so in a sense very feminine. In the one I attend (somewhat facetiously called The Church at Orlando) women are more than equal participants and in many cases lead the discussion and determine the agenda. Also, most friday evenings I attend Celebrate Recovery. The particular CR meeting I attend in many ways mirrors an organic church in that it is relationship driven, and it is also largely run by women. The eight principles of CR are based on Jesus’ own words, the Beatitudes. Those Jesus addresses as blessed in the Sermon on the Mount have more feminine characteristics–like mercy, forgiveness, and humility. Woman also tend to be the oppressed and the peacemakers, etc.
The organic church I attend has no designated leader. There is no hierarchy spelled out on paper. The order of service is fluid and can be easily altered. The thought is that Jesus is present and orchestrates the worship and discussion. When I first encountered this idea I was skeptical but after experiencing it firsthand found that it works amazingly well. After all, “where two or more are gathered in my name” (Matt. 18:20). I believe that Jesus meant that as more than just a figure of speech. In the one I attend there is more sharing and intimate communication in one meeting than I experience in a hundred institutional church services added together. We know that He is present in a sanctuary of 3,000 but the Body is so vast in that setting that His parts can’t be discerned. Jesus presence and manifestation in the Body is very apparent in a gathering of 12 to 20 believers where His parts thru the members various spiritual gifts can be easily seen.
Jesus was of course incarnated as a man, but I believe He is a complete man in that He has strong female component as well. This was displayed in his compassion, generosity and sensitivity. He expressed that side in the tenderness He showed toward women and children. He wept when he heard of the death of his friend Lazarus. He took on the role of a servant at the Last Supper. I suspect that washing feet and servanthood in general was very much a task of women in that era and culture. Women were part of our Lord’s inner circle and very prominent in all of the gospels.
Men have to have quantifiable goals. Women’s goals are more likely to do with quality time than quantity in numbers. A woman might spend the afternoon shopping and talking with friends and bring up Jesus up at some point in her relating, whereas a man will come home and proudly report that he witnessed to four people that day. Men are all about the numbers–the stats. Statistics are what drive the fantasy football and baseball leagues that have become so popular of late. Perhaps, for those men theologically inclined there should be a fantasy Great Commission League–“I’ll trade you one Paul for two John’s and a Jonah.” Etc.
Jesus is a complete man–both masculine and feminine at the same time and Father, Son and Spirit. It makes sense that His Church, His Body, should reflect that interconnectedness. The interconnected, relational aspect is found more in organic or simple church–as opposed to big and/or denominational church. I for one do not believe that God has a specific gender and of course Jesus and God are One. I’m sure those theologically inclined could argue scriptural points that God is male. To me it’s not a point worth arguing about. I don’t think my salvation is at risk in stating that God has both male and female qualities. And that completeness, that wholeness, is much of why organic church works well for me. It is not hierarchical or static. It is relational and dynamic in its structure and format. It’s about friendships and the ongoing revealing of Jesus thru those relationships. It is because of the need to see the richness of Jesus Christ fully revealed that it is so important for those who go to a big church to also be involved with an ongoing small group.