Does your church dance? The early church did. In fact, the early church danced the way God dances.
There is a need for a more biblical metaphor for organizations, and in particular for ecclesial organizations. In light of this need, a new metaphor is presented in the form of the Perichoretic Organization. This metaphor is based on the Trinity, also described as The Divine Community or Team, and their interrelation, interactions or organization. This Perichoretic Union was contemplated much by some early Christian theologians.
The foremost metaphor or model for organizations, both communitarian and vocational, in the Bible is that of the Trinity (Cladis, 1999). From the early development of Christian theology, the relational union of the members of the Trinity has been referred to as perichoresis or the perichoretic union. As the Imago Dei is the Latin Term for the “image of God”, the comparable term that could be used to represent the perichoretic relationship or “organization” is Corpus Dei. At the heart of this concept is simply … a dance.
Trinitarian thinking has emerged in recent history to become “one of the most widely acknowledged Christian teachings (Grenz, 2004, p. 1).” “The doctrine of the Trinity is not ultimately a teaching about ‘God’ but a teaching about God’s life within himself, with us and our life with each other, [thus a concept with much organizational significance]. It is the life of communion and indwelling, God in us, all of us in each other (Grenz, 2001, p. 55).” Since the Trinity represents the highest form of order, organization and relational unity, it seems an ideal metaphor to consider for organizations and is presented here with anticipation. Arguably, the members of the Trinity are seen in Scripture as sharing in interrelational activities – the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Stanley and Willits (2004) describe it this way:
Throughout the Scriptures, the Trinity – God the Father, Son, and Spirit – is seen expressing a unique, affirming kind of relationship toward one another. They are seen enjoying one another (Gen. 1:26), encouraging one another (Mt. 3:17), supporting one another (John 14:25), loving one another (Mk. 9:7), deferring to one another (John 14:10), and glorifying one another (John 17:1). (p. 41)
Not only does Christ call his followers to come together and form a relational organization of sorts, he described his desire for exactly how it would be characterized: “May they be one, even as you and I are one (John 17:21).” So, God calls his followers to come together in fellowship (Gk: koinonia). However, one of the reasons God calls his followers into fellowship as persons is because he is, in fact, a fellowship of persons, three Persons. In his prayer in John 17, then, Christ was calling for the church to be a perichoretic union or organization.
The Dancing Church
Perhaps the best term to describe the relationship that exists between the members of the Trinity is interrelation (Grenz, 2000, p. 68). The interrelation that exists between the members of the Trinity holds more than mere organizational significance. More importantly, it is innate and organic. That is to say, the interrelationship is not contrived, but rather something inherent within the very nature of God and the Godhead. According to Cladis (1999), it is more like a flowing dance than a rigid organizational model:
In the seventh century, John of Damascus, a Greek theologian, described the relationship of the persons of God (Trinity) as perichoresis. Perichoresis means literally “circle dance.” Choros in ancient Greek referred to a round dance performed at banquets and festive occasions. The verb form, choreuo, meant to dance in a round dance. (These round dances often included singing, hence the English word chorus.) The prefix peri (Greek for round about or all around) emphasized the circularity of the holy dance envisioned by John.
Based on the biblical descriptions of Father, Son and Spirit, John depicted the three persons of the Trinity in a circle. A perichoretic image of the Trinity is that of the three persons of God in constant movement in a circle that implies intimacy, equality, unity, and yet distinction among the various members and love.
Theologian Shirley Guthrie calls this image of God a “lovely picture that portrays the persons of the Trinity in a kind of “choreography” (Greek choros-graphy), similar to ballet. In this circle dance of God is a sense of joy, freedom, song, intimacy, and harmony. “The oneness of God is not the oneness of a distinct, self-contained individual; it is the unity of a community of persons who love each other and live together in harmony. (pp. 4-5)
Thus, it would seem that the Trinity emerges as the highest and most essential Biblical model or metaphor for relationships and for effective organizations. Every other model is but a reflection of this central one.