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Church at the Cellular Level November 13, 2012

Posted by worshipconvergence in Christianity, Church, Leadership, ministry.
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The Church is the Body of Christ. Bodies are made up of cells. Cells reproduce through mitosis. Local assemblies of believers are cells in the Body of Christ. So, why is it so hard for the modern church to accept people splitting off and creating new churches? So many hard and hurt feelings, attendance numbers dropping causes people to try to get those people back or try extra hard to bring in new people to get the statistics up, people feel the need to validate themselves staying where they are by bringing in others.

Mega-churches are the order of the day; and the dream, for small assembly leaders, of being one The dream of leaving a legacy of a giant, thriving organization. But what they leave behind is an impersonal business just as fleeting as the market set inside the Temple. “Do not use [my Father’s temple] as a place [of business.] If you tear this temple down I will rebuild it in three days.” The Body of Christ is a temple that can’t be a business, therefore the Church cannot be a business. As a Youth Director put it a few years ago, we need to build relational ministries because God is a relational God. How relational can you get when you’ve a flock of 1,000 and only two pastors?

In 1992, anthropologist Robin Dunbar hypothesized that the human brain is capable of maintaining a limited number of stable relationships, i.e. the Dunbar Number: 150. Recent studies of social networking sites show that Dunbar was pretty close, as people are only staying connected to and interacting with around 150 contacts. If we apply this research to ministry, what happens is that, factoring pastor’s family and friends, there should be 1 pastor for every 100 to 125 church members. So a 1,000 member relational church should have 8 to 10 pastors. When people don’t have a relationship with someone who knows them and they can call, “my pastor,” they move on.

When a number of people feel unconnected, unrelated to the overall organization, they may mitotically divide under the leadership of a new nucleus from within the assembly. That needs to happen, and it needs to be okay, in our eyes, that it happens. One Body needs many cells. He, who one person calls sheep, may be called shepherd by another. Such is the way of the Royal Priesthood, where we are both, shepherd to some and sheep to others.

Sometimes the split may be assembly-sanctioned, such as a “satellite” campus. Other times, well, let’s just say there are “unfavorable conditions” that cause splitting. The former is easier for the assembly as a whole to deal with, but may still cause hard or hurt feelings, the latter almost always leaves hard and hurt feelings on both sides. But, in the long run, these splits can both generate bigger advances for the Kingdom, so there shouldn’t be hard feelings on either side, for either scenario. We need to step up to the microscope, and peer into it longer than one single generation of cellular reproduction.

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