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Further Into Organic Thinking….

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:

  1. Together we must have “hope”.
  2. Together we must “affirm” that “hope”.
  3. Together we must “hold tightly without wavering” to that “hope”.
  4. Together we must “think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works”.
  5. Together we must “not neglect…meeting together”.
  6. 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.



8 Responses

  1. Hear hear!

    “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.”

    Couldn’t have said it better myself!

  2. Which leads us to another question: What is the central formative principle of your meetings? The central formative principle of an organization is that principle that, above all others, is the most influential in its model, style, format, program, schedule, and practical values.

    In other words, if your central formative principle is education, then you might meet like a typical insitutional-style church wherein the central-most thing is the teaching, and so the the people sit facing forward, the way the schedule is oriented shows that education is primary, the service or meeting is programmed in such a way that perhaps almost all attention is given toward education, and the people are by-and-large passive recipients of educational learning. The problem with that is that authentic community is not a function of education. So, you can be a part of such an organization and have all kinds of great teaching and never function in genuine community–never have any real depth in your relationships. The entire weekly calendar is filled with mostly educational opportunities and very little opportunities for the community to flourish and function as a whole, and therefore, if people are going to nourish the community, they have to do so outside of the weekly schedule, rather than during it. And let’s face it: that rarely happens.

    If your central formative principle is entertainment, then the main idea is to get together to feel good and not be bored. So, again, your organization is liable to meet in a face-forward style of architecture and seating, with a passive audience and individualistic bent, the calendar emphasizes entertainment, and the people get restless without constant preoccupation. One of the several problems with this is that again, community is not a function of entertainment. And you can be an active part in this sort of organization and have no productive level of community.

    But, if the central formative principle is authentic, vibrant, and holistic Jesus community, then you will get education. Why? Because community is not a function of education, but education IS a function of community. Education is not the centroid–community is–but education is in orbit. Education is present, but so is accountability, fellowship, discipling, encouragement, prayer, social grace, the mission, and all the other things necessary for a lively New Testament fellowship of Jesus-followers. Of course, you can find all kinds of groups wherein the CFP is just community-for-the-sake-of-community and not find education or many of the other important things, but if this is the case, then it is a crippled community (and effectively a social club), and not an authentic and holistic community focused on Jesus and His mission.

    The reason I bring this up is three-fold: 1) to show that it is possible, though difficult, to reform an institutional church into an organic church by changing the central formative principle, 2) to show that it is impossible to reform an institutional church into an organic church UNLESS the CFP changes (please withhold judgment for just a moment, I’ll qualify this below), and 3) to cause anyone reading this to reflect upon how the church or community of believers they are a part of is organized and whether it results in the maximum potential for a Bible community to glorify God through the transformation of lives.

    As to point 2, when an institutional church realigns its CFP with community in the place of education, it is not absolutely necessary for it to give up meeting in a church building with pews or to give up a lectural sermon. What IS absolutely necessary is for the church to drastically change how it otherwise stimulates and elevates the OTHER functions of community to nurture a more wholesome, unified, intentional, grace-oriented, and obedient body of believers.

    Again, I’ll quote two of my favorite sayings:
    “Your systems are perfectly designed to produce the results they are getting.” (Frederick Taylor)
    “Radical changes require radical choices.” (Or, for those of you who may be uncomfortable with my choice of words: “Drastic changes require drastic choices.”)

    …and add in a few more for good measure, for the benefit of whoever may be reading:
    “The good is the enemy of the best.”
    “You might have a vision for your life, but a vision without a plan is just wishful thinking.” (Graham Cooke)
    “Let me beg you, not to rest contented with the commonplace religion that is now so prevalent.” (Adoniram Judson)
    “I have been thirty years forming my own views; and, in the course of this time, some of my hills have sunk, and some of my valleys have risen: but, how unreasonable within me to expect all this should take place in another person; and that, in the course of a year or two.” (John Newton)
    “God assumes full responsibility for your obedience to Him…. That eliminates all reasons to be afraid.” (Charles Stanley)

    Jeff, I think you may be right when you say, “I think maybe the best place in Scripture which captivates the idea of ‘organic’ church is Hebrews 10:23-25.”

    Great post!

  3. One anothering…

    Help one another… serve one another… love one another… forgive one another… bless one another… heal one another… rebuke one another… and die for one another.

    With this idea that you have brought forth, I see the implications that we really are to be active, principally active, in the performance of our faith and the furtherance of the message of Jesus in the world. When everyone has the attitude of “one another,” there is no “one man show.” There isn’t going to be a lot of squabbles and arguments on issues. People will do what is best for each other, and for their community. People will truly be in the Will of God because they are so enveloped in the Word of God.

    I think this idea is a very good one that you have brought up, and worthy of deep study. Of course, it’s the idea of authenic Christian community. I think that’s something we’re all missing today. It seems that no matter what we try, we always come short.

    How do you think authentic Christian community develops and how can it be maintained?

    I like what the alternative rock group Nickelback says in their song “If Everyone Cared”

    If everyone cared and nobody cried
    If everyone loved and nobody lied
    If everyone shared and swallowed their pride
    Then we’d see the day when nobody died

    A lot of truth in that… wouldn’t you say?

  4. Wow Dave… you just took a big chunk out of my question!!!

  5. Great thoughts guys!

    I think we just need to learn how to be friends with people and build relationships that matter. Out of the love Jesus has shown us, we simply let that flow through our activity in life. Whether at work, school, baseball fields, restaurants, grocery stores, neighborhoods, or wherever we are in contact with other human beings we should be looking to extend the grace of God. This should just be a normal part of life. We should want more friends, not for what we can get from people, but what we can give people.

    This is what doing life together is all about. It is one-anothering. It is being Jesus in a real, tangible way. We don’t have to go start churches and ministries. We just have to be who God made us to be by allowing the love of God flow through our lives and into the lives of those we know. People will be drawn, not to us, but to the Jesus they see living in and through our lives. From this, I am convinced that churches can form. Sometimes maybe quickly, sometimes over the course of time. However, I am confident that when they do form, they will be real and relevant. They will be organic and dynamic.

    We are seeing this happen slowly right here. I haven’t got all the details, because we are in process, but we are loving the process and have great hope for the future.

    One thing is for sure, we are making great friends, who we love to do life with!


  6. Dave…. for real, I had to check and see if you had a blog, coz that response was DEEP…

    Jeff: “One thing is for sure, we are making great friends, who we love to do life with!” (I know EXACTLY what you mean! I feel the same way with my spiritual community…)


  7. AMEN!

    Thanks for this post. It really expresses well what I’ve been feeling about “Organic Church”, and addresses one of my concerns with some Alternative Church movements, which is that it’s easy to get distracted by the form, and to think house churches, or non-institutional churches, or whatever is THE answer (or conversely that institutional or traditional churches are THE problem), but really the form doesn’t matter if the functioning behind the form isn’t working.

  8. […] on Chaordic Journey, there were recently two follow up posts on the subject of Organic Church here and here.  I was particularly struck with Jeff’s description of organic church (read the […]

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