How the Organized Church Changes, Part 3

We here continue Dave Thomas’s guest blog on the impact of business language on the nature of the church. Very significant stuff (Jon Paulien).

The second primary factor in organizational change has to do with what we call infrastructure. The kinds of infrastructure a church organization develops as it ages become major factors in determining what the future for an organization will be. It is not hard to figure out why and how infrastructure develops. As a movement catches on in the mind of the public, it grows. Early growth is often quite rapid with volunteers and informal conversation being the primary purveyors of mission. We downplay the power of informal communication far too much. It is one of the most effective means of communication available to humans. What we hear informally almost always trumps official word. This is one reason conspiracies and urban legends become so prevalent and powerful and resilient.

At some point, the movement becomes too large for the early, charismatic leaders to manage by themselves and the need to create some kind of structure becomes obvious and urgent. Those who are acquainted with Adventist history no doubt know of the great struggles the Adventist pioneers went through on this issue. Many strident speeches were made to the effect that any kind of organization would constitute “Babylon.” But something as simple as the ownership of property made resistance futile. The path to organization is easy to trace – the prosecution of mission requires vision which is broken down into strategy which is reduced to plans that get embedded in policy which then creates organizational structure and practice. And organizational practice pursued over time creates organizational culture and identity. By this process, organizations stabilize themselves, become predictable and efficient, and gain the real prospect of a successful future.

In the midst of all the exciting growth that makes the creation of structure necessary, something happens that goes largely unnoticed. Just as surely as the creation of infrastructure brings stability, it also initiates what theorists call “organizational entropy,” the technical name for the process that brings on the aging, disordering and sometimes death of a movement or organization. Speaking of infrastructure, theorist Jeffrey Saltzman says, “The purpose of these rules is to allow the organization to make decisions using standard operating procedures as a guideline and hence remove from the organization the need to think about the decisions being made.” (http://jeffreysaltzman.wordpress. com/2009/11/19/organization-entropy-2/) But, “removing the need to think about some decisions (this is what infrastructure does) carries with it an inherent risk, the risk of mediocrity or worse, the risk of extinction.” What is being alluded to here is that the early stages of organization are usually very beneficial to mission, producing benefits out of proportion to the resources invested. But in later stages of organizational life, infrastructure itself becomes problematic.

To be continued. . .

One thought on “How the Organized Church Changes, Part 3

  1. Erhard Vasicek

    Dear brother Paulien,

    I hope that you are well in the Lord. My name is Erhard and I am an ongoing pastor and former Bible Worker and Teacher from Europe. I hope you can find the time to answer my question. I am struggeling since some years with a theological topic, namely perfection of character. I am very sad that certain discussions concerning this point have a tendency to destroy the beauty of this topic and am aware of the fact that sharp bullets are often used from both sides of the fence.
    Since I am an ongoing minister I know that I have to take a position in this area. I tried to study the topic extensively for years,
    considering the arguments from both sides. For me it is clear that the word of God and Ellen WHite clearly speak about the necessity and the possibility of overcoming sin. As you know, one position say that God`s people, in order to be saved, will overcome every sin and finally live without comitting sin.
    (EGW speaks about the saved having an experience like Enoch, perfec obedience to the Law required like in ADam`s case, etc.). ANother argument
    that is used is that the righteous will be without an intercessor during the time of trouble (that they will not sin during this time is also confirmed in the Ellen WHite Encyclopedia). My question would be how it comes to this if I would argumentate for position 2 since I do not see that a sudden change takes place in the saints because of the sealing or the latter rain.
    The other position says that the saved will not commit willful sins, but will never reach the state of being so connected with Christ that they will not commit sin any more. (“the closer we come to Christ, etc.) That nobody can say that he is sinless is clear, although I do not see it as a real argument because Ellen White says “although their lives may be irreproachable”
    I also searched a lot of documents in the Digital Research Center of the White Estate and lokked for the understanding that our pioneers and early General Conference Presidents had concerning that area. I have the impression that they sided with position number 1 and that there was a shift in the general SDA understanding after the 1950s.
    The Ellen White Encaclopedia mentions some additional articles under the heading of “perfection” which present also those two different positions.
    Could you help me out in my case? I think I basically read all the available documents, I would appreciate your personal understanding of this matter. How would you behave as a pastor on this point without compromising? What way of argumentation would you use (I know that cases are different, but maybe you have some general counsels)…

    Thank you so much for your help and God bless, I really want to be open for God`s truth on this point.
    Please reply to my E-Mail address.



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