If organized religion turns you off, try Calvary… we’re disorganized religion at it’s best! :) That’s one of my favorite lines when I’m talking to people who are hesitant to try church. One of my favorite descriptions of Calvary is that we are organic as opposed to highly structured. The church is an organism, not an organization. Organic carries with it a sense of growth, change, a little fuzzy at the edges.
Now we have people at Calvary whom God has gifted with minds that love to organize. I think they can devise structures in their sleep! And here is the reality, Calvary would not survive without their gifts. Like a body without a skeleton is a blob, the church without organization is a mess, not a movement. Imagine Kidz ConneXion without any structure — toddler moshpit! Imagine CityServe without the wonderful organization that Bob and the CityServe team brought to the weekend. We need structure. At least weekly I tell God thank you for bringing Dan Dorsey to Calvary — he brings organization that brings movement to the divine mess. We need structure.
But here is the Calvary Axiom: Structure must always submit to the Spirit.
Now what does that look like? Well for example — Relationships trump Roberts Rules. (If you don’t know Robert — consider yourself blessed.) I often pray a blessing over people which includes the line. “May they be blessed to love people more than rules, and God more than people.” God is looking for people…more than plans. God’s Spirit loves to work through people. Structure submits to the Spirit.
Sometimes the structure we seek is a policy. I have an aversion to policies. I would rather see leaders make decisions in the moment, with an ear open to God, than rely on policies. But at the very least we can never let our policies say no to God. I think of all the rabbinical policies that Jesus broke in his three years of ministry. Did his policy-breaking ways earn him enemies from religious leaders? Certainly! But look at the people he touched. Sometimes our policies can keep us from leaving a mark on the world. Structure must submit to the Spirit.
Sometimes the structure we rely upon is a strategy. One of my gifts/passions in leadership is strategy. God has shaped me to think strategically. I love it when a good strategy comes together. But at Calvary, we aren’t afraid to let the Spirit give a new direction to our strategy. A great case in point is our multi-site movement. In the midst of planning a facility that would hold the whole current Calvary movement — God slowed us down and at the same time brought people like Pastor Vic and Pastor Bruce and we sensed his leading to go multi-site, before we built a new facility. Now we have four gathering sites from which to do God’s mission. (By the way, I’ve recently had multiple groups of people approach me about a Calvary site in Bellefonte.) When structure submits to the Spirit, good stuff happens.
Strategies are structures that help us plan. Policies are structures that help make frequent decisions a bit easier. Buildings are structures that give us a place. All three can be tools that help us leave a mark on the world… but the Spirit breathes life into our structures. The Spirit brings movement. With the Spirit, any structure will be filled with life. Without the Spirit, there is no life in any structure.
Maybe your greatest need is not a new plan, it’s a new Spirit.