We have long been told that a local church is an organization. By that I mean, the church is a community with an organizational structure which allows the local church to do business. Our churches are non profit organizations, our goal is not to make money. Our goal is to proclaim God's love and grace for the world. One thing I was taught is that the church is the only organization that does not exist for the benefit of its members. I like that a lot. But recently I have come to a new conclusion. The local church is not so much an organization as it is an organism. The church is a living and breathing thing. Arie de Geus, a "for profit" business management consultant, has advanced the same theory for the business world. His book is entitled "The Living Company." Both the local church and for profit businesses, as organisms, must adapt to their business/ministry environments/contexts in order to survive. Business organisms must
1. be sensitive to their environments,
2. be cohesive with a strong sense of identity,
3. exercise tolerance, and
4. be frugal in their financial world.
Local church organisms must
1. adapt to the uniqueness of their times and neighborhoods
2. adapt a culture of abundance over scarcity,
3. adapt a culture of trust over suspicion, and
4. adapt a culture of making deep disciples over enlisting marginal members.
Organizations seek to make structural changes and superimpose "best practices" templates while Organisms grow and thrive through cultural adaptations. In our upcoming book "Adapt to Thrive" (published by Abingdon press next month) we will talk more about organisms and how we can learn a lot about local church adaptation from the science of evolution.