In the United States today, the vast majority of people are born in hospitals, are educated in schools, find their recreation in groups ranging from Boy Scouts to investment clubs, pursue their life’s work in all sorts of companies and firms, and are buried from funeral parlors. In other words, contemporary America is an organizational society. In the city of Chicago alone, the sociologist Louis Wirth once identified literally thousands of organizations, including organizations of organizations, such as the Association of American Medical Colleges and the AFL-CIO. He even found one organization called the Independent Organization of Unorganized Independents, for people who do not like organizations.

Organizations may be generally defined as social systems that are specially designed to achieve particular objectives. Unlike families, whose basis is kinship, and unlike cliques, whose basis is friendship, organizations are groups of people who associate specifically to pursue certain goals.

Churches today are quite obviously organizations. They are formed so that people can engage in collective worship and service to their God. To provide a framework for this intended activity, those forming the church create a social structure by designating certain functions to be performed by such persons as the pastor, the deacons, the trustees, and the Sunday-school superintendent. Often the founders describe the structure they establish, together with their reasons for starting a church in the first place, in a document called the constitution and by-laws. And often, too, they incorporate the organization as a legal entity, empowered by the state to enjoy certain rights and privileges.

Critics often charge that the contemporary church is ...

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