Sunday, January 14, 2007

Amoebas & Circles

Last month, during our advent series, "Jesus: No More Mr. Nice Guy," I devoted one message to talking about our church structure, which we call "The Amoeba." (Does anyone know what we could name him/her/it? We could use a church mascot--but I digress.)

Here’s a quick review:

Most churches structure themselves like grain silos: each ministry is its own separate entity. Sunday School, youth ministry, worship, evangelism, prayer meeting, adult Bible studies—each represents a different silo in the church’s overall setup. In this silo model, there’s no cooperation and no communication; departments compete for resources, for people, for funding, for calendar space; there’s duplication of structure, no common goal, no common agenda, and very little unity. Each group sees themselves as separate and distinct from the others, and they all have their own separate and distinct plan of what they want to do and how to do it.

Our amoeba is very different than a silo. It’s unified, flexible, dynamic, organic, and most importantly… alive! In addition, the amoeba has a center, the nucleus. That nucleus for us is Jesus Christ.

OK, so what? Church structure may not seem like the most exciting topic. Alright, I admit. It's actually not that exciting. But it is important. A bad structure (like the silo model) prevents a church from accomplishing its goals. A good structure provides a process where the church's goals are a natural byproduct of that structure. The structure of a bridge (or a molecule, or a car, or an organization) is essential to it fulfilling its pupose.

The purpose of our church is to meet people where they are on their spiritual journeys and lead them to become fully devoted followers of Jesus. We exist to help people take steps toward being like Jesus, to move people in toward the center. So our structure should help us accomplish that purpose. Different people are in different places, so in our amoeba we meet them in different ways:


  • Target: Those furthest away from the nucleus: skeptics, critics, cynics
  • Purpose: To break down walls of resistance to God and his message
  • Method: To show God’s love with no strings attached (Florence Crittenton, Share ‘n’ Care)


  • Target: Those close to the amoeba boundary: inquirers, seekers, explorers
  • Purpose: To attract others to give themselves to Jesus
  • Method: To present opportunities for people to accept Jesus and/or come to church (Soccer Camp, postcards)


  • Target: Those inside or outside the amoeba who want to understand the Christian life better
  • Purpose: To challenge people to grow in their relationship with God
  • Method: To communicate the message of the Bible in ways that contemporary people can relate to (messages, dramas, music, medias)


  • Target: Those inside the amoeba who feel unconnected
  • Purpose: To nurture a culture that fuels the building of personal relationships
  • Method: To present opportunities for people to interact in a natural, authentic, loving way (game nights, potlucks)


  • Target: Those inside the amoeba who want to get closer to the nucleus
  • Purpose: To draw people toward intimacy with God
  • Method: To present opportunities for life-on-life interaction that spurs spiritual maturity (small groups, service teams)

We want to move people through an invisible (yet highly personal) process that leads them ever-closer to God. We want to help people—no matter where they are—take their next steps on their spiritual journeys. Most of all, we want our whole church to work together, recognizing that we’re all on the same team, contributing to the same mission.

Sometimes we draw our amoeba as concentric circles. The goal is to move people to the next circle closer to the center. So:

  • We want to draw the Community (Service/Outreach) into the Crowd (Worship)
  • We want those in the Crowd to become part of the Congregation (Community) (Journey 101 Class: Discovering My PCC Membership)
  • We want to challenge those in the Congregation to step into the Committed (Discipleship) (Journey 201 Class: Discovering My Maturity)
  • We want the Committed to join the Core (Journey 301 Class: Discovering My Ministry)

I'm sure that for many of you, all this structure stuff is very likely not the thing that makes you spin in circles with glee, but here's what I hope you take away from all this: This church is intentional, strategic, and focused like a laser on our mission. Everything--absolutely everything--is scrutinized against whether or not it advances our mission and follows our Core Values (Real Spirituality, Real Community, and Real Story). You can trust your leadership at Pathway; following God unswervingly, I believe we are on the verge of great things for the kingdom of God in Jackson County--and beyond!

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