As we know there exist extremes in all lines of thinking and reasoning. We must be careful of extremes. I have struggled with that often in my years of ministry and learning. I tend to be a passionate person of intense extremes. Thankfully, I have had great friends and an awesome wife to help bring me back to center quite often.
It is very easy to get excited and infatuated with one particular idea and ignore other ideas. We must all refrain from doing that. This is what, I think, everyone is trying to communicate in my last post and subsequent comments.
With that in mind, I will say that I have fully embraced the “organic” idea of church and body life. I feel that much of what is done in institutional churches is shrouded in so much tradition and formalism that Jesus can and has often been snuffed out. This may not be the case in all situations, but I feel that it IS so in MOST cases. Quite often, many of the activities, programs, systems, structures, etc. only serve as a distraction from intimacy in our “one another” relationships and our relationship with Jesus. This is not meant to be an accusatory statement, just my summation of many previous experiences.
This does not mean the same thing can’t or doesn’t happen in “house” churches. In fact, it does. The location of the gathering is quite irrelevant to me. What defines an “organic” church is not the location or even the size of the gathering, but rather what happens in the gathering and in the lives of those who gather every other moment they live.
In other words, “organic” church is not so much about meetings as it is a way of living everyday as a part of a dynamic community of believers who seek to passionately follow the Way of Jesus in all that they do. When they come together, it may be in a specifically designated building, in a park, in an office breakroom, in a coffee shop, in a restaurant, or wherever they choose. They may sing songs, whether contemporary or hymns, or they may simply read psalms from Scripture and pray through them, or they may just pray prayers of thanks together, or any number of methods to bring our praises before God corporately. They may study through a good Christian book, or study through books of the Bible, or study biblical themes, or they may not even open the Bible or any book every time. Sometimes, in fact often, they may just share stories of life. They may share a meal, or a few snacks, or they may not eat together at all. They may have open participatory discussions, or there may be someone who stands or sits who offers a specific teaching. This gathering may even elect to have one individual whom they support financially to offer a teaching each time they gather. While this is the most common practice today, it does, however, seem to be the least in line with the New Testament pattern. This does not make it wrong, it just is what it is.
The point is that “organic” church is not about tradition or non-tradition, building or no building, big or small, emerging or whatever would be the opposite of that. It is about the life and vitality of Jesus breaking into our reality everyday. It is about God’s will and activity in heaven coming into our world through us and in us by the power of the Holy Spirit. I think maybe the best place in Scripture which captivates the idea of “organic” church is Hebrews 10:23-25.
Let us hold tightly without wavering to the hope we affirm, for God can be trusted to keep his promise. Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.(NLT)
Observations of biblical community activity:
- Together we must have “hope”.
- Together we must “affirm” that “hope”.
- Together we must “hold tightly without wavering” to that “hope”.
- Together we must “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works”.
- Together we must “not neglect…meeting together”.
- Together we must “encourage one another”.
Now, I would say that if your church experience is NOT yielding these things in growing depth and maturity, you are missing something. Whether you find yourself in a traditional church setting or a house church setting or an emerging church setting or a seeker church setting or a contemporary church setting or a cell church setting or a “whatever” church setting, these things should be the major emphasis. These are “ONE ANOTHER” activities to be sure. These are not “one guy talks, everyone else follows” activities.
We must get very real, open, and transparent about this. I realize there are many more Scriptures that could be added to this to form a more in depth look at what early church life consisted of, but I think this is a great place to start. Please share more ideas and Scripture. Let us take a good hard look at all of our practices and compare them to Scripture.
One thing is for sure…we will never escape the “one anothering” aspect of the ekklesia of God.