I’ve written extensively on organic church life (see the links below this post). Reimagining Church and Finding Organic Church are theological and practical treatments of the subject. Yet the term “organic church” continues to be used for any group of believers that meets in a home. (This is a misnomer as we’ve previously discussed.) The concept of authentic organic church life is very hard to get over to a person who has never seen it firsthand.
What follows is a report from a person who visited one of the organic churches that my co-workers and I planted and are working with presently. I’m deliberately not giving the city where this church exists as this is not an advertisement, and it will detract from the point.
I hope the report will give you a better handle on what organic church life looks like in living color. Similar testimonies of those who live in organic church life appear in the links below. Note that “organic church” is nothing other than the church that the New Testament envisions.
It was in my first year of college at Asbury, living in a pretty close community with several brothers on my dorm hall, that I REALLY started acknowledging the Lord’s…well…Lordship…over my life. As in, I began giving everything to Him…my mindsets, plans, dreams, and lifestyle.
I was done with making Him out as one of the dishes on my life’s buffet line. A little bit of school, a little bit of family, a little bit of friends, a little bit of fun, a little bit of God. No, Jesus Christ is all and in all. I would not have worded it like that back then, but I can see that that’s the place to which He was bringing me in that season. That He would become in and over every part of my life.
Well, when you really, truly invite the Lord to start transforming your mindset, He will oblige. It’s a dangerous thing, to be honest. It’s a lifelong process, I suppose, but some of that initial transformation was pretty earth-shattering for me.
I won’t go into all the ways in which He began changing me, but merely the one that is particularly relevant to the topic: my mindset concerning the church.
I began reading the scriptures with new eyes. It seemed to me that there was a world of difference between the church I read about in Acts/the epistles and the church I had known my whole life.
There were many questions that I asked over the course of the next few years. Why do Christians not have the same kind of community life that they shared in the early church? Why does it seem that pastors and programs drive churches instead of the Holy Spirit? Why are buildings called churches instead of the people? Why do we meet for a “service” every Sunday morning? And Sunday and Wednesday evenings too, if we’re committed?
(That last part was a joke, friends)
There were many other questions, but you get the idea.
During this period of time, someone recommended a rather subversive piece of literature to me: the book Pagan Christianity by Frank Viola and George Barna. It resonated with me deeply, and made me realize that the questions I had been asking were actually legitimate.
At first, what I mostly had on my mind was just trying to do the “right” thing…”well, if this is what’s biblical, then let’s do it!” But it’s so much more than that. It’s about fulfilling the purpose of God that He’s had for us in Christ since before the foundation of the world was laid…before our souls were ever even in need of saving (A post for another time, perhaps). It’s about KNOWING Christ in a way that I never have been able to before. The Lord’s chosen way of revealing Himself is primarily through a body of believers who share an intimate life together in the unity of the Spirit.
I have attended an event in Orlando for the past two summers that they (Frank Viola, Milt Rodriguez, & Alan Levine) have led, for the purpose of connecting like-minded believers and equipping them to begin to live/meet in such a way. At the last event (in July) I got connected with a few of the brothers and sisters from a church that was planted by Frank, Milt, and Alan. And I was blown away. I experienced a love for Christ and others that I had yet to experience in my lifetime, and felt an inexplicable bond with them. The Lord revealed Himself in a completely fresh and new way.
Needless to say, I soon made plans to go down and visit this body.
Now, let me go ahead and preface this with a statement: I know that there is no perfect church. The Fall marks all of us. So I’m not elevating what I’ve seen to some heavenly standard (at least, in a comparative sense).
That being said, the week I spent in this church was phenomenal. Spiritually speaking, it was the most real experience of the kingdom of heaven, the community of God, and the Lordship of Christ I’ve ever encountered. The church meets as a whole on Saturday evenings, where they gather together and express Christ in the ways I mentioned earlier (song, poetry, etc.). The meetings are spontaneous … there’s no order of worship, and no “worship leader” (except the Holy Spirit). They are full of light, life, and love.
But while the meetings were great, the highlight of the trip was something that lasted all week long: the community life.
These brothers and sisters really do share their lives together. They’re family. Rather than just seeing each other once a week, they’re intimately involved in one another’s lives throughout the whole week. There wasn’t a day that I didn’t fellowship with some of the brothers and sisters (even outside of the two brothers I was staying with). And one of the coolest things is that they already feel like family to me … like I’ve known them for years and years. I felt so welcome…the Lord’s hospitality there was powerful. Everyone’s lives were a great blessing and encouragement to me. While I was there, the Lord impressed upon me that I would become like a child again with these people and re-learn Him in a new way.