In the movie “The Sound of Music” the widowed Captain von Trapp tries to run his family like he ran the Navy, with dire consequences. Although the Captain loved his children and the children loved their father, his organizational structures placed unnatural barriers between the Captain and his children. The nature of a family is unlike that of an organization and so the two function differently from one another.
The apostle Paul presents the church (ekklesia) as the “family” or “household” of God and yet our approach to church has been as if it is an organization (1 Timothy 3:14-15). We begin a church with a constitution, by laws, church government and then institute programs to run the church, which are both organizational in nature but foreign to any family. Ekklesia is based on the family essence of the Trinity; God the Father, His Son Jesus and the Holy Spirit. We have been adopted into the family of God as sons and daughters so it only makes sense that we should function as family on earth as we will in heaven for eternity (Romans 8:15; Galatians 4:6-7).
In Philippians 2:22 we get a glimpse into Paul’s approach to disciple making with his disciple Timothy. Here Paul writes of the father-son relationship which he had with Timothy – again a family relationship. Just as children were not meant to be raised by an organization so disciples are best made in the context of a spiritual family. One reason why Christianity has struggled to make disciples is because we have approached disciple making with programs rather than as a family. Can an organization empower and develop its people? Certainly. But, there is a marked difference between how an organization develops its people and how a parent loves his child.