Organic church life is expressed in many different ways, in different seasons, at different times of the week. It is life born out Christ, moves forward in freedom, and is mutually dependent upon each other in Trinitarian love.
Hence the term “organic.”
From our experience, the Sunday gathering is a unique time of worship that is unlike any other communal event we practice (except for the Lord’s Meal of course). This time is set aside for the most divine expression of Christ among the saints.
As folks are coming into Christ and joining the organic expression of the church, we find that the saints must learn what it truly means to “gather around Christ.” It takes time, lots of time, to let go of many things (e.g. ill-feelings toward the organized church, old ideas of worship, an awareness of our thoughts about “doing” church, the uncomfortable silence, etc.).
Those of us who have been meeting outside the organized church for a little while now are by the Lord’s grace beginning to learn how to know the Lord with the saints free of having to fight through the junk.
Even after a person begins to let these things go and throw off that dead weight into the deep chasm of death, there arise other challenges that face the saints as they seek the Lord’s heart in the gathering.
Whether it is a concern about the children in the church meetings, giving into the temptation to speak whatever is on your mind in worship, forcing something spiritual to happen when you meet, or following the occasional bunny trails leading to a lot of talk about the organized church, I believe the Lord has helped to discern these challenges with a question:
What is the purpose of the Sunday gathering?
The kind of gathering we seek to have around the Lord on Sunday is best described by Paul in 1 Cor. 14:26. (Note: This type of gathering could take place on any other day of the week, e.g. Saturday evening.) What is the purpose of “each one” sharing and giving their portion of Christ?
Generally, it is for the building up of the Body, of course. But to be more specific, it is a time where we are corporately, in spiritual unison and in open participation, seeking the Lord’s heart for his church.
We are reaching out to touch the Lord together. He is reclining with us and we want to hear from him.
This kind of meeting requires a sensitivity to the Spirit that has never been taught to us in the past and comes through purposely setting our hearts upon Christ. Sure, we have heard a lot of talk about it, but we have seldom experienced it in a context of real community.
We may have known him in private, but the Lord is longing for us to be a spiritual dwelling and experience him in community (1 Pet. 2:5). For this reflects the Triune God.
Here is a brief description of the spiritual life and that Life we share as believers in this type of meeting:
- Worship in spirit (Jn 4:24)
- Waiting “be still and know” (Ps. 46:10)
- Listening (Ps. 85:8; 1 Cor. 14:30)
- Psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs (Eph. 5:19)
- Teach and admonish (Col. 3:16)
- Prayer (Lk. 19:46; Phil. 4:6)
As we enter into a time of worship on Sunday, we are meeting like the believers in the village of Bethany (Mk. 14:3). As friends of God, we are reclining at the feet of Jesus to hear what he might speak to us.
The Lord is spirit. To touch (worship, lit. “to kiss”) the Lord we must worship him in spirit. This does not come natural for us. Therefore, as we seek the Lord together and reach out to touch him through the things mentioned above, we can easily be distracted.
Any distraction, whatever that might be, can make it very difficult for us to know the Lord’s heart together. It will be a challenge to bind our spirits together in love when we are not sensitive to what Christ wants to speak to us, and in moments of stillness there are noise and chatter.
There are those table times of fellowship where we are very much sharing like any natural family event (e.g. kids running around, noise, multiple conversations, etc.). But, what I am referring to, what I believe the Lord is calling us to in this meeting, is a supernatural experience that can only be entered in through deep spirit-filled prayer and concentration.
There is order within this sort of meeting (1 Cor. 12).
The Sunday gathering is the only time where we meet this way around Christ as an entire church fellowship. Anything we can do to accommodate for this unique once-a-week meeting is well worth the effort.
I personally have conversed with Frank Viola for three years now. Frank is a wonderful gift to the church. As an outside worker, his calling is to stir up Christ in us and help us press on in the Lord.
I have read quite a bit on the organic expression of the church and have experienced a couple of years of church life centered on Christ. I have visited several other organic expressions on this journey.
In that short time, we have learned a great deal. We are so very blessed to have gleaned from Frank and others who have helped us along the way. I believe this equipping has helped us to see the uniqueness of the Sunday gathering that may elude many who seek to gather around Christ in the New Testament fashion.
“It’s all too common for Christians to know Christ’s lordship and yet know nothing of His headship.” Frank Viola, Reimagining Church, p.67
Lord, keep us close to you. As we seek your headship, remind us that we are all learners.
Get Frank’s new book Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities today! In this final book on radical church restoration, Viola addresses all the practical questions a person might have about organic church life. Of course, if you really want to understand an organic church… join one!