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“He learned obedience through what he suffered.” —Heb. 5:8

THE INTERCULTURAL CHURCH: A righteous organism

“Moving ACTION from Organization to Organism…” was the theme of the 13th anniversary celebration of the Alliance of Congregational Transformation in Our Neighborhoods (ACTION), a grassroots community organization that seeks to unite faith groups, schools, non-profits, and other groups to work for social justice. I was there by invitation from members of First Presbyterian Church, Youngstown, Ohio.  

The theme serves as a Call to Health, a rallying cry to organizations, especially the Christian church, to incline toward its earthly nature and purpose: the active Body of Christ in the world today. The operative word is active. 

An organization is inanimate, without physical sensation. An organization leans toward the structured way we do business, often resistant to ideas that present themselves from outside of that framework. An organization is rule-based. It can be deconstructed, reconstructed, and deconstructed again. It can be legislated and amended. It is something to be observed and analyzed through Excel sheets, annual reports, operating manuals and textbooks.

I remember as a child, what I considered the comfortable world of my bedroom, which was sheer chaos to my dear mother. On more than one occasion, she said to me, “Come on, let’s try to organize this room better.” As co-head of the household, she wanted my world to fit her idea of what my world should be.

An organization is the manifestation of the desire to provide a system of control to emerging realities. Often, we’re quick to label things that are new or different. We tag them in such ways that insists the fledgling bodies and its potential members lean in the dominant direction, or at the least, “Do things decently and in order.”   

An organism on the other hand, is animate -- it is alive. It is an entity whose nature is in constant formation. With an organism, every day is a new day to be, with new possibilities. With an organism, nothing stays the same. It strives to adapt to its environment; ever changing, constantly growing, and does all in its power to shed the crust of old comforts and welcome the enhanced layers of its new learning and reality.

The Christian Church –yes, even the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) – is at its best when it affirms its Pentecostal birth, and allows it to faithfully inform its intercultural life and mission. The Church is an integrated body whose unique parts work interactively toward the Christian imperative of making known God’s love to all men, women, boys and girls.  The Church, the Body of Christ, is a righteous organism, malleable clay, striving in the hands of the Creator.  It is most true and effective when it is not pre-described, pre-measured, socially designated, culturally limited or controlled, but rather it is to be lived and experienced. 

This Pentecost season, we have an opportunity to reach across barrier walls of fear and indifference, to go deep into the interior lives of others, learn, and become aligned to the disposition of the church under the power of the Holy Spirit in Acts 2:44: “All believers were together and had everything in common.”  Then, vs. 46-47 states,  “They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”