Sunday, May 16, 2010

Simply Organic

Most of the folks on my blogroll are avidly churchy people. In fact, many of them are church leaders. I've tried to give the blogroll a missional focus, because I want to keep up with that coversation and believe that it's one of the more hopeful signs of life in the church today.

Trouble is, as I've been at pains to say lately, I seem to have fallen off the board when it comes to church-ly things. There's an Acts 24 church in my town that I'll attend now and then, but a survey of the rest of them leaves me pretty cold.

I'm starting over. I'm right back where I was at the beginning of my Christian walk, except now I'm a lot more picky. Maybe even jaded. I'm thinking about this and processing it aloud here at WF, so I hope you'll have patience with me. I'm not sure where I'm going with this.

A friend of mine said, "I hope you find what you're looking for." Thing is, I wasn't actually sure at the time. Maybe a little more sure now. Maybe.

I said it a couple of posts ago, I guess: "a small tight-knit group of friends who will, among other things, worship and pray together, learn from Jesus together, and serve one another and the community in which they live."

Simple. The "church" (if by that you mean the assembling together of Jesus followers) manifesting itself out of the loamy soil of human relationships, as opposed to assembling at a big building once a week for a specially prepared "worship experience" en masse and then hoping for relationships to happen (it's not that I rule out the possibility of the latter--I've seen it happen--but it hasn't really worked for me).

I think that starting from relationship might be part of what Frank Viola calls organic church. Viola says that "there is a phenomenon today where countless Christians are leaving institutional forms of church and exploring non-traditional forms of church in pursuit of authentic, shared-life community." Viola credits T. Austin Sparks for the term "organic church." Sparks, in his own inimitable style, put it this way:
God’s way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be vegetable, animal, human, or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order, and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.
Viola, whose new book is called Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ (whilch I'll be reviewing here in a week or two), goes on to say this about the organic church movement (and why it's not a "movement"):
So many things can replace our Lord. But God’s eternal purpose—that which has been in his heart since before time—will never be fulfilled if our first rattle out of the box is a new way of doing church, a method for multiplying churches, or a technique to change the world. God’s purpose will only be restored if we blindly and singularly make Christ our pursuit, our life, and our motive. Everything else will flow out of that.
Yes. My experience of church small groups, which I "led" for a number of years, is that the church leadership tends to see them as little local subsidiaries, rather than organic manifestations of people's love for one another and desire to walk together. They inevitably highjack the small groups to promote their latest program. The groups were primarily tools in the functioning machinery for maintaining the programs of the church.

So, anyway, there's this concept out there called "organic church," which may or may not be a movement. I'm interested. I've also heard of "simple church," which I think is more or less the same thing. The stuff these people are describing sounds about right to me. Some simple churchers in the blogosphere are Roger Thoman at SimpleChurch Journal and the folks over at raw religion, where you can find an article entitled 5 Things to do Until an Organic Church Comes to Your Town. Watch and pray, baby. Watch and pray.


Anonymous said...

well, i think that sometimes jaded is not an unusual feeling at this point. and not being sure of where things are going, well, i think that is the most positive thing i can hear anyone say.

about what your friend said... "I hope you find what you're looking for."
that is the "hope" that we have.

you are going to "see" and "have" what you are seeking. some of it you will have here in your lifetime on earth. even if you are not sure of what it is you seek, God knows, and you will know when you get there.

now, i have a couple of things i am thinking about.

what does it mean to "turn your eyes on Jesus"? and what does it mean to "make Christ our pursuit, our life, and our motive"?

things people say, and expect people to know what it means. do they know what this means?

i think i need to pray on this... and maybe i will write on it as well.


Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand.

And we rejoice in the hope of the glory of God.

Not only so, but we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope.

And hope does not disappoint us, because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us.

from romans 5

Bob said...

What does it mean to make Christ our pursuit, etc.? That's the million dollar question. I think we work that out in fear and trembling, don't we. As we go, in the midst of all the static, listening, watching, praying, and trying to walk in step with the Spirit. Strange childlike uncertain stumbling steps.

Anonymous said...

what you think, sounds right to me.