The Necessity of Functional Structures


C. Peter Wagner writes:

“The better mission structure leaders are convinced that their task is the most important task in the kingdom of God. Whether it is Bible translation, church planting, relief and development, evangelistic crusades, church renewal leadership training, or what have you, the leader of the group doing it had better think that is the most important thing in the world. Those who don’t can still lead mission structures, but not as well.”

Two frequent objections to such a view are:

1. Why aren’t all of these tasks innate and generic to the church in its local form? If they were, there would be no need of such specialized initiatives (sodalities) and the egotistical people who all too often lead them?

A REPLY: Many of these functions are carried on by the church in its local expression particularly in neighbor and near neighbor relationships. But universally – throughout the history of the Christian movement and biblical history – specialized structures to carry out such functions have been formed and ordained by God. They are particularly necessary when cultural, social, linguistic, or geographical barriers must be overcome for the function to be carried out. Missiologists would persuasively argue that the church in its local, nurture form is ill-equipped and not structured by God to carry out such roles. It takes the church in its missionary form to fulfill the missio dei in its totality.

2. Such a perspective disrespects all those committed to local church ministry. There is an underlying disdain for the generalists who labor tirelessly in local communities of faith be they lay or professional.

A REPLY: One of my best friends is a family doc. He’s a generalist. And he’s a good one. But he knows how and when to refer me to a specialist. While I Iove and respect his medical acumen, I would never expect him to operate on me if I had a brain tumor or if I had cancer. That’s not his role. But when he works in harmony, respect, and interdependence with such specialists, I get the best medical care possible.

Likewise in the Church—consisting of both the church in its local form and the church in its mobile/apostolic/missionary form—there are different structural roles needed for God’s plans and purposes to be effectively carried out. And we find these structural roles universally, across cultures, across time and involving every imaginable type of church expression. The glorious diversity of this structural mosaic demonstrates the creative genius of God and is not something to be feared or decried.

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