Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Squared Triangle

Mark 13:1-2, "And as he went out of the temple, one of his disciples saith unto him, Master, see what manner of stones and what buildings are here! 2 And Jesus answering said unto him, Seest thou these great buildings? there shall not be left one stone upon another, that shall not be thrown down."

Note: When the author renders the word 'Church' as shown here, he is referring to our modern day concept of the Main-Stream, Corporate, Business Entity, Income Tithe supported, Institutional 'Church' System, which has become so familiar to us all. When he renders the word church in all lower case letters, he is referring to Christ's Authentic, Legitimate Home Based assembly, which He continues to build.

The Squared Triangle. No, I'm not writing about the Great Pyramid of Giza. The Squared Triangle I'll be referring to is a simple diagram, which will help us to understand the differences between the Institutional 'Church' structure and Christ's authentic, legitimate, organic home based church. For the diagram and the explanation thereof, I'd like to give credit to Mr. Shane Fritz.* I would like to thank him for Providing a visual that makes an unclear explanation crystal clear. The diagram comes in two parts. The first is a simple Triangle. The second is the same triangle surrounded by a Square, hence the inspiration for the title. From here I will print excerpts from Mr. Fritz' Power Point presentation entitled, 'Understanding Organic Church,' but will add my own dialog as well. 

I personally, because of what Scripture says, do not believe the Institutional 'Church' is (or ever was) a part of Christ's authentic, organic church. For more on why, one may want to refer to two other posts in this blog entitled, 'When 'Church' Isn't "a church" Anymore.' and 'Should Churches Have A Name?

Mr. Fritz' presentation's purpose is to present options to people who may want to search out and experience a personal relationship with God, but are tentative, for whatever reason, about getting involved in religion. I, for one don't blame them. Even Gandhi said that he read the Bible and believed it; but, the only thing that kept him from becoming a Christian, well, was other Christians. Perhaps this could be a reason why so many shy away from the so-called Traditional 'Church' of our day. I understand their hearts. Perhaps it would be better to get to know God in a more informal setting and without the politics and performances which plague the Institutional model.

Fritz continues: "According to the Bible, this Triangle is an example of the core of what church is." We see that he points out that the purest form of church (outlined in the Bible) includes us loving God, then loving others, making disciples, all with Jesus at our core. Pretty simple isn't it?

Love God
Jesus Christ
Make Disciples
Love Others

The Problem is, this is not what we see and experience in the Main-Stream Institutional 'Church' System today. In the Institutional 'Church' we'll see a square surrounding the triangle. Or as Mr. Fritz calls it, "a Box." This box consists of four man-made elements, which are not outlined in the Bible. These four alien components are: a Building, a Staff, Programs and a Budget.


Fritz goes on to say: "Removing the Box and getting back to the core" (Triangle) is the first step in achieving Organic church. He continues: "Remove the box and we remove the debt, and overhead where 80% or more of the tithe goes, where most of the time is spent, and we end up with what Jesus disciples taught from the start."  

I see two notable distinctions that need unveiling. First, its important to mention that the box is not authentic as a natural component in Christ's organic church. Nor did Christ have any intention of adding the box to the triangle (organic church). The organic church outlined in the Bible didn't have buildings, a staff, Programs or a budget. To put it plainly, we weren't built by Him to carry debt. This is a concept spun by those who want to keep the institutional format (the box) afloat. Most everything that is done is to accomplish that goal. Debt is a part of the business of Religion. This is not Christ's design. The box has a separate DNA. To stick the box over the triangle is like putting the chicken in the roasting pan. The chicken is organic, but when the metal of the pan heats up, the chicken's goose is cooked. In other words, once a church breaks from the organic functionality of itself and takes on the persona of an organization, it ceases to be an organic church. But, if the artificial components are shed off of the Institutional 'Church,' it now can become an organic, Christ driven church. Remove the name, building, the staff, the Programs and the budget and we'll be right where Christ intended us to be.

Conversely, once we obtain a name, a building, a staff, Programs and a budget, we have put ourselves into this box. It is inevitable that the organic component dies because it starves from not being allowed to breath, or eat what is natural. Obtaining a name is the first step to becoming an Organization. See my post, 'Should Churches Have A Name?' to know more. This is one way an organic church ceases to be organic. 

Another way to view it is to think of the Institutional 'Church' as a pre-packaged microwave dinner. All it needs is a little time in the oven to heat things up and we have a meal. This is how most Traditional (Main-Stream) 'Churches' are built. Preacher boys are schooled on how to build a 'Church' using methods that are derived from man's traditions. Christ doesn't build them. Man does! The organic church runs on power from on high, not Proceeds from a collection plate. Take away the collection plate concept to feed the box and the Institutional organization crumbles like a coffee cake. 

Organic is original, natural and authentic. Institutional is fabricated, and is used as a tool to accomplish an agenda. The agenda is to build a bigger and better organization. Again, Christ's authentic church is not an organization. We are a living, physical, local organism.

Secondly, as we've already seen, most of our resources, effort and income go to keeping up a building, it's staff, it's Programs and it's budget. Whatever happened to focusing these resources on the people who actually need it? They're the church! Isn't it more beneficial that we give directly to those in need? When we give to an offering plate in the Institutional model, we are allowing the clergy to dispense the money the way they see fit. Most of that money goes to pay for the overhead. It is almost like giving to a charity Program on TV where little or none of the money gets to those who actually need it. That's not the way Christ's organic church ran in the New Testament. In the N.T. the saints were the ones who benefited from giving, not the pastors, Programs, buildings and other overhead. Let me see if I can illustrate it another way.

My dear wife recently made a splendid roasted chicken dinner for us. When she took the birds out of the oven she asked me to come and see how well they turned out. I could smell the enticing aroma they gave off and couldn't wait to see (eat) her work. When I entered the kitchen and saw the presentation, I admired two perfectly roasted birds. But, what I didn't say was, "WOW! Look at that beautiful roasting pan!" Again, in the organizational business run 'Church' 80% of every dollar (or more) goes towards keeping the box alive when it should go towards the triangle. That's like admiring the roasting pan and ignoring the chicken! It's the organic part that is important, not the frills around it. This is what Jesus was trying to tell His disciples in Mark 13. One of His disciples was admiring an inorganic structure and ignoring what really mattered, which were the living souls in and around the temple. Jesus didn't see the temple building as a necessary component because He knew that we are the lively stones of His temple. The triangle's focus is on Christ, loving others (like poor widows, orphans and others in need), and making disciples of people we win to Christ. That's the recipe. We don't need to mess with a perfect recipe.

Fritz: "Time and resources are for God and people. Prayer, effort and vision are focused on fulfilling the greatest command to love God instead of keeping the box alive. Prayer, effort and vision are focused on fulfilling the second greatest command to love others instead of keeping the box alive. The ability to fulfill the Great Commission, to preach the Good News and to make disciples becomes second nature." What he is saying is, if we ditch the modern day structure of the box, we can better execute the Great Commission. Programs, payrolls, buildings, staffs and budgets don't save. Jesus saves. His Program is for each Believer to organically win souls when and wherever we meet them. But it isn't by putting a bulls-eye on their backs as 'salvation targets,' but winning them in a more natural, organic way by building a relationship with them and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ. This concept, which has worked for over two thousand years, is an anathema to most box 'Churches' because it threatens their Programs, which threatens their staff, which threatens their ability to keep a budget so they can hang onto the building. Dominoes anyone?

Fritz: "Organic church is: 
* Most commonly seen in the New Testament. 
* Lives as an organism instead of an organization.
* Church without walls.
* Experience God where it happens.
* Church becomes simple and begins to grow organically.

Organic church is the oldest and most natural way. Church is not a building, nor is it an event that takes place on Sundays. Church is where believers are experiencing God where it happens, whether it is at a house or the coffee shop. 

While no structure or format can guarantee quality, we know that the small, participatory, family-like environment of an organic church is ideally suited towards the goal of having a personal relationship with Christ. Organic church makes it easier to know and fulfill our purpose in life. 

Time together can involve anything from eating to praying, from sharing life's journeys to crying with each other. From studying scripture to listening in silence. And from laughing together to the ministering of spiritual gifts.

What we mean by organic church is a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious Programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every member functioning, open participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering."

I ran across an excellent quote from Bob Lupton** of FCS Urban Ministries in his article entitled, 'Cycle of Life,' which states in part: 
"The Western church is in such a decline.  Viewed against the backdrop of history, however, the current demise of denominations is predictable.  In time, all institutions follow a similar pattern.  They begin as fresh movements, new and exciting, abundant with vision and creativity.  But in order to survive, a movement must development structural strength – mission statement, doctrinal distinctives, leadership structure, decision-making processes. 

Vigorous change takes place during this organizational phase as a seedling becomes established, sinking its roots and spreading its branches.  Staff are hired, budgets are created, policies are instituted, goals and objectives are set, property is purchased.  As the organization matures it becomes a source of security for its employees.  Health insurance, vacation pay, cost of living raises, retirement benefits are negotiated.  Gradually the mission shifts from the founding visionaries to hired employees and with each subsequent ring of management the passion that originally inspired the movement becomes slightly diluted.  Marketing, management, and funding consume increasing amounts of organizational energy.  With its own sturdy root system, it now commands its fair share of sunlight and space on the forest floor.

By the time the organization enters the institutional phase of its development, it is fully vested in its own self-preservation.  Instead of a movement spending itself on behalf of a noble cause, it has become a respectable institution consumed with preserving its own viability and legacy. It may still use the same stirring language of its past movement days, and it may still perform important work, but it spends the lion’s share of its energy on buildings, communication systems, internal politics and self-promotion to ensure its longevity. Good stewardship demands its preservation. It is the way of all institutions."

An excellent point Bob. Mr. Fritz makes some excellent points as well, and I agree with most all of them. My main insistence is that the organic church has never been a part of the Institutional model, which was created by man. The organic church was created by Jesus Christ and has no other off-spring in the form of structure and models. If we are to agree with the Bible, let us agree with all of it concerning the Authentic New Covenant church. One of the points being not to use tithing dollars to support a building, staff, Programs and a budget. Mr. Fritz doesn't hit very hard on this issue in his power point, so I'll try to steer the reader to two other posts entitled, "Giving The Apostle's Way' and 'Giving The Apostle's Way - Part II.' Both articles speak about the Bible's prescription for giving in Christ's organic church.

I pray that this post helps steer the discerning believer towards experiencing God's true model for His assembly. He's been building us (His church) since He chose the twelve in Luke 6 and He continues to build us today. If one is tired or afraid of the Squared Triangle, which includes 'Church' Politics, Religious Show Business, One Man Show and unavailability to participate in a meaningful way where we can love God, love others, make disciples and have Jesus at our core, I urge you to seek His face and ask Him to lead you into His organic family. Thank you for visiting and may God richly bless you.

*Disclaimer: The graphs used in this article are printed by permission. All of the views expressed in this post may not be those of Mr. Shane Fritz and do not claim to be an extension of his thoughts, organization, intent or purpose.

**Disclaimer: The quote from Mr. B. Lupton in no way expresses an endorsement for ChurchPros.


  1. Thanks Bobby,
    That's a good read. My question is: "Can God still use a church that has a budget, staff and a building. The church I attend has no building debt, of course it has utility bills and pays for the pastor. We pay for use of the hymns and for the gas to get to church. They have a food bank that feeds the poor and needy. Can God use us?

  2. I appreciate the comment Del To answer your question "Can God use a church that has a budget,...?" Of course! He can use anything or anyone to accomplish His will. There is no doubt about that. My point is that when a church goes into debt on purpose and supports a pastor, a building, staff and programs, this goes against His prescription for what a church really should be. Our prayers and resources should be focused on the needs of others, but not through programs. When 80 or more percent of tithing dollars come in and that amount goes to keep the box alive, there is a problem. Imagine how many more can be reached and helped without all of that debt. What we see today are business entities that claim to be His church, but are just organizations operating as a business. When we look at Scripture in comparison to what is generally accepted as a traditional 'Church,' we see two totally different structures. He created only one structure for His church and it doesn't include a building, a staff, programs and a budget. And a pastor should never be a paid participant. He is stationary and can get a real job to support his family. Being a pastor is not supposed to be a profession. Its a ministry. For those who are reading this I refer them to my posts, 'The Hireling' and 'Should Pastors Be Paid?' to give them an in depth explanation regarding the above statement. If we want to be the authentic, local, physical, organic church of Christ's design, we need to lose the name, the debt, the building, the staff and the programs. These are all man made. Yes, He can use you, but just because we are used doesn't always mean we are in His perfect will. He designed His church a certain way and today's Main-Stream, Institutional 'Church' system just isn't it. Why? Because it's a fabrication. It's not organic. Thanks again for the comment and great question.

  3. P.S. Concerning your church building...I have no problem with a debt free scenario such as yours. I see nothing wrong with building a pole barn on one's property to have assemblies meet. I am opposed to the enormous debt most buildings incur and the burden it puts on it's congregation. However, that being said, the early church did meet in homes and were never incorporated.