The Inability of Metaphors and Similes to Describe the Church
The difference between a metaphor and a simile is the word "like." (that's perhaps overly simplistic, but useful:
Metaphor: You're a Dog.
Simile: You're like a Dog.
Of course, neither a metaphor nor a simile really does a good job of proclaiming reality:
You aren't a Dog.
Oftentimes, Jesus and His friends used metaphors and similes to describe the church. Some of them would be:
- The church is (like a) house
- The church is (like a) family
- The church is (like a) body
- The church is (like a) temple
All of these are useful for helping us understand some nature or function of the church, but none of them are terribly effective as a comprehensive description of the reality of the church:
- The church is not a house
- The church is not a family
- The church is not a body
- The church is not a temple
The church is the church. It is completely different than any other organism/organization known to man. It is a spiritually-joined, missionally-driven, redeemed, justified, progressively-sanctified collection of people that extends through time and into the future.
...and that description doesn't even do it justice.
So I would offer up two suggestions:
Those who take offense whenever the picture of a corporation is used to explain or describe a function or segment of the church should realize that whether metaphor or simile, symbolic language is not a statement of reality, it is the verbal painting of a picture to aid in understanding.
Those who have turned the church into a corporation and would rather hear what Steven Covey, John Maxwell, and Seth Godin have to say about buildings, leadership, org charts, and marketing than they are about what the Bible says about elders, deacons, discipline, and communion need to take stock of whether they are pastoring churches or leading non-profits...
Those are two long and convoluted sentences. But they say what I meant to say, so you should read them again and then tell me what you think in the comments!