Tag Archives: milt rodriguez

An Organic Church Challenge

For those who follow my blog, you know I’ve been reassessing my understanding of “organic” church life in the NT. As I mentioned in a few recent posts, I’m finding that it’s not really helpful to use the term, especially since it has gone viral.

I agree with much of the contrast that is drawn between the church as institution vs. organism. So, I’m currently opening myself up in order to imagine a church life that does not grow out of reaction to the abuses of the organized church, or from the neglect of the NT by those who believe they have obtained something of Christ that others have not.

Here are some thoughts I’ve been having.

It is entirely understandable that many people hear what some “organic” folks are advocating (as I have also advocated) sounds like an abandonment of all ecclesiastical structures. It then becomes confusing for folks to hear them say that it’s OK to have some sort of skeletal structure, you just need to find the “balance” in it all.

What does that look like? We can all say, “It doesn’t look like this or that…” but I don’t see how it’s possible to judge one church from another on whether Christ is truly reigning in their meetings based off our prescriptive readings of the NT. I’m fine with saying there are things the NT does not explicitly teach, advocate, or allow—even prohibits—things that are antithetical to every-member functioning. But beyond that I think we need to be careful how we proceed in setting boundaries.

It seems to me that the “organic” promoter viewing another person’s practice of church life (with all of their biases, interpretations of Scripture about church practice, good/bad personal experiences, etc.) could make many wrong judgments about many churches because they don’t fit their own vision of NT church life. This concerns me.

Something else that troubles me is the constant downplaying of teaching and doctrine. At the same time I hear “organic” advocates affirming that teaching and doctrine are good for the church. Huh? Which is it? Naturally, folks in and outside of these house churches hear this and think that doctrine can only divide and that it’s not conducive to “gathering around” Christ.

I don’t think that’s what the “organic” leaders mean, so I think it really needs some clarification if they’re going to help others hear what they’re trying to say about Christ and the church.

I also think it assumes that we have a prescriptive church life, instead of a descriptive one contained in the NT. It might at times be necessary for a church to become a forum for discussing doctrine. Just like there are times the church needs to adapt for other concerns facing the community. I believe the unveiling of Christ can happen during these times as well.

Could it be that assuming Christ can’t be unveiled during these times is also a reaction that equally leads to wrong conclusions?

Having spent a few years in “organic” church life, I’m beginning to think that we should keep a big vision of Christ and a small vision of the church, as far as our ideas and expectations are concerned.

We can learn this from those who first pioneered the house church movements within China and the United States.

This would require us celebrate Christ in community wherever we find it (calling others to that), and say less when it comes to critiquing the church practices of others who sincerely love the Lord and are being faithful to him where they are.

I hear more lines touching on what church life is not, than what it is. Which seems to translate that there are tons of things that folks serious about church life will not do if they want to meet around Christ. I don’t think that’s what is intended, but I feel that’s what those on the outside hear. I heard that on the inside, and I’m now hearing it as I have put a little distance between myself and the “organic” folks.

I tend to think a generous ecclesiology that is Christ-centered in community, is not continually preoccupied with denouncing what may be “pagan” Christianity, but rather it is concerned for sharing the Christ you know and leaving it at that. Are “organic” folks OK with that?

Some days I’m not so sure.

I don’t think this means there isn’t a place for deconstructing the church, (cause I do!) especially among those who are asking questions and are open to rethinking the wineskins. However, if we’re not careful, we can easily set ourselves up against those that don’t meet like us or share the same vision for the church. We can easily build more walls than open up doors.

We can forget our visions of Christ at this point… they will only edify those that agree with us. Though in the end it’s not edification, just spiritual narcissism nicely contained in elitism masked as dreams and visions.

Since it is a “balance” that we seek (one that is hard to reach and know when we’ve reached it), I don’t see how it’s honest and edifying to talk like we know exactly what the church is supposed to look like when we’re getting it right (or when we think we are). Lord, help us!

In a nutshell, we need more humble recognition that the Lord moves through the church in more ways than one. Then we may rejoice with others receiving their own revelation of Christ and being faithful to their calling.

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The Community Life of God (Book Review)

The God Who Is Relationship

A Book Review of “The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships” by Milt Rodriguez

“God is not an individual” says Milt Rodriguez.  “He is a fellowship of three Persons; the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit” (p.14).

In The Community Life of God, Milt Rodriguez weaves together the story of God’s desire to plant himself in His people.  God’s image is a “communal” image.  The Lord created man in His image of community.  And taking from the Tree of Life (i.e. Christ) is to take from the relational God.

It was in the Garden of Eden that the serpent sought to keep God’s image from becoming a reality in the hearts of men.  The enemy of God presented man with individual living out of his own soul-life (i.e. will, emotions, intellect).  Instead of man pursuing spiritual living after taking from the communal life of God, he experiences separation from God and other men.

Rodriguez proposes that much of Christian activity today is spent furthering the individualistic mindset that is so popular in our culture.  Even when believers come together corporately there is not an understanding of God’s image among us.  Church life ought to be more than socializing and individual Christian ministries.

Milt writes, “Personhood and identity can only be defined by relating to others. You will never truly “find yourself” until you are living in the community life of God” (p.62)

What is the sort of fellowship the Lord desires among his ekklesia?

“This fellowship is the place where there is nothing to hide. Complete truthfulness and complete honesty rule here.  The Father, Son, and Spirit do not hold back anything from one another… there is no fear of loss” (p. 116).

As Christian Smith has written, “Community means more than having lots of meetings. It means jointly building a way of life, a group memory, and a common anticipated future.” (Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal, p.2)

In order for us to experience the community life of God, we must embrace the cross.  Rodriguez says there “will be one brother or sister who rubs you the wrong way.”  It is there we embrace the cross and learn “they are part of the same body as you. You belong to them and they belong to you” (p.152).

Finally, this community life of God cannot work in meeting once a week.  We all know this to be true, but still we place other things before God’s heart.  We sacrifice the church on the altar of family, jobs, and personal ministries.

Milt says, “He (God) wants you and me and every other believer to be actively involved on a daily basis. This is why we were born.  This is why we live on this planet” (p.170).

Brothers and sisters, if we are going to participate in God’s eternal purpose, we must be intentional about our relationships within the local ekklesia of Christ.  We must give and receive sacrificially in order that we might know the God who is within Himself, relationship.

There have been many books written on the church being rooted in the Triune image of God, but this one delivers in a simple and easy-to-read presentation.  I recommend this book to all of those who are longing to discover that the church is born out of the very heart of the relational God.

What others are saying?

“This little book provides a clear window into the ultimate source of authentic body life. Delve into its pages and meet the God who is beyond what most of us have imagined, the God in whose collective voice all genuine churches echo.” –Frank Viola, author of Pagan Christianity, From Eternity to Here, and Finding Organic Church, www.frankviola.com

“I was deeply blessed, refreshed and challenged by this book. The author casts the spotlight on the reality and wonder that “God” is really the community life of three persons – a fact virtually untouched in traditional theology. Milt shows from various angles how the community life of God is the foundation of our organic ekklesia life together in Christ.”–Jon Zens, Editor, Searching Together; author of A Church Building Every ½ Mile and “What’s With Paul & Women? www.searchingtogether.org

Milt Rodriguez

Milt Rodriguez has been living in and planting organic expressions of church since 1990. He has also authored several books including The Butterfly in You and The Temple Within.  He currently lives with his wife Mary in Gainesville, Flordia.  He is a dear brother in the Lord and I am happy to call him my friend.


New Year’s ReVolution

There is a great deal of talk about renewal, revival, transformation, and mission these days. I don’t see that any lasting change will come from focusing on any of these good things. Primarily, because I think there is something that is better.

I don’t see a return to “mission” and having a big pep rally for Jesus within pop-culture Christianity is the answer. Maybe the Lord doesn’t want a pep-rally. I tend to believe He is tired of all the things we DO in his name and would like us to sit down, be still, and listen.

And yes… even “organic church” can become a substitute for the Lord Himself.

I see all of this as more evidence that many people are still looking for fulfillment outside of knowing the Person of Christ in simple community. They do not see that every good thing comes out of this one thing: being built together as living stones into the centrality and supremacy of Christ.

The Lord moves forward and brings His Kingdom in this way.

This takes time and it calls for us to deny our insistent desire to “do something” for the Lord. It calls for us to wait. And that isn’t something many of us like to do. Especially in this day and age.

We finally come upon the Lord in a new way… and before we know what we really have… before we’ve allowed time for some learning of the Lord’s Person and work… we’re rushing out to convert everyone to a new way of church and trying to convince them to join the “movement.”

Movements can be good for a time, but movements eventually come to an end. Revolutions, on the other hand, permanently change the landscape of the world.

Revolutions are bigger than a few men spearheading a tour that celebrates a new way to do church. A “spiritual” revolution is led by the Spirit and moves in the Lord’s own way and time.  And this way seems foolish at first.

Spiritual revolutions are not due to the organizing of men or even to the publication of a few books. They largely move forward underground by a Power quietly working inside the hearts of unknown revolutionaries who are drawing the attention of heaven instead of men.

These revolutionaries recognize that the invitation is open to others, but it is not a revolution that uses coercion. When folks are touching Jesus… He will bring them in to His glorious work in His time.

Outreach is the Lord’s doing by us first doing our in-reach… touching the Lord’s Spirit with our own. When we are doing this… what follows will look much different than the organizing and “evangelizing” of man.

It’s not man’s revolution. It’s the Lord’s reign and rule upon the earth. The Lord’s revolution and His renewing of creation will come by patient endurance in the face of much opposition… letting the Lord have HIS way with folks.

A spiritual revolution doesn’t need the approval of the established institutions. It moves forward with the approval of the Lord and cares not for the observations of the religious.

I see the Lord leading a mighty revolution. But this revolution runs deeper than the surface hype and momentum of man’s organizing and endless scheming for Jesus.

The Lord’s revolutionaries are not distracted by the hype of movements. They are concerned for the Lord’s work in the world, but they see this as first living peaceably with their own community of saints. They know, in time, the Lord will reach out and build his Body in due season.

For those who see the need for spiritual revolution instead of religious reformation… my prayer in 2010 is that you will join the quite revolution and find satisfaction in being discipled by Jesus in a local expression of God’s Kingdom on the earth.

And leave the hype, the movements, and the mission to the Lord.


Organic Church Life: The Beginning

Organic Church Life: The Beginning

My wife and I left the traditional church in September 06 and began a search for authentic church life around Jesus Christ. In November 06 we began meeting with a group of folks who all left the same organized church in East Texas. We call this our “experimental house church” when telling our story. Why? Well, frankly, we didn’t know what we were doing.

We were all reading books on house churches and studying the Scripture in new ways. It was simply a time of discovery and of detoxing from religion. This is when I first began a long-distance relationship with Frank Viola. The Lord is still using his influence in our discovery of Christ in the church.

We were largely concerned about “what to do” than simply letting Jesus give us that familial community that is in Christ. Yet, this was the season the Lord had us in and it was an essential part of the journey.

In January 07 we went to the North Texas House Church Conference in Dallas. It was there that we learned not everyone was gathering in homes for the same reasons we were learning about through Viola and a few other authors.

We learned a huge lesson at this conference. Some folks had just switched venues (from the building to the house) but had no new revelation of Christ. It was really sad to watch. But we are thankful that the Lord allowed us to see the difference and draw close to him.

We were in this experimental stage for about 7 months. In the Summer of 07 we moved to Houston to seek new jobs and a new life. Our move was primarily made as a result of connecting with a group of believers who had been meeting in homes for 7 years in West Houston. I can still remember that first visit. Wow! That was when everything clicked.

The brothers and sisters there were radiating Christ in their gatherings. It was the first time I saw Jesus lead a gathering where there was no man leading. There was leadership, but not in any way I had ever seen.

It was also the first time I had ever met an 80 year old man who knew the Lord as a Person. He is now in heaven awaiting the resurrection of our bodies and the fullness of the Kingdom of God on earth.

The Lord moved us to The Woodlands in July 07 just north of Houston. It was clearly where the Lord wanted us… even though it was 45 minutes from the believers in West Houston. To keep this note short(er), I will just tell you we met with the saints there for a year. In that year, the simplicity of church life gathered around Christ had become natural for us.

We quickly began sensing the Lord calling us to meet where we lived. Not only were we convinced that this is how churches ought to be established (locally), we felt a deep desire for greater community with believers in our area. We knew the Lord wanted us to be an expression of his Person where we lived.

So, my wife and I, along with our friend Grant (27) who lived down the road from us, decided together that it was time to begin meeting in our city.

I wish I could tell you that the people started knocking on our door, but I would be dishonest with you if I did. We waited patiently for the Lord to naturally cause us to cross paths with folks who longed for more of Christ. The three of us met in our home (with an occasional visitor) for about 6 months before Jesus began moving around us.

We were just about to the point of discouragement (OK, maybe we were already there) when the Lord brought Michael (39) to us. He had been on a similar journey as the three of us. Toward the end of the year, we had another solid addition. Rita (50) committed herself to the fellowship.

Joel (39) e-mailed me after having read my Confessions of an Ex-Clergy Member. He and his family had been detoxing from the religious “mega-church” life for about a year. They lived right down the road from us! I met Joel at Starbucks for coffee and a bit of convo and we hit it off! His family of four (with one on the way) has been meeting with us since the first of the year.

Presently, we gather on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights regularly. These times are etched out in our schedules and are the easiest for sure times to meet. Every other week it seems we have a visitor.

The Lord is really busy around us. I have met with two brothers this month who just wanted to talk about Christ and our journey. I am meeting another brother this week who lives in Houston. I constantly have folks writing and inquiring about the gathering of the saints in our city.

Three weeks ago we had a gathering of house churches from all over the city. It was the first of its kind that we know of in Houston. There were about 60 there from all over Houston. One older brother there said he had been meeting in homes for 25 years and never knew we all existed. This tells me that we are on the front lines of what Jesus is doing in the greater Houston area.

We feel blessed to be included in the Lord’s work. In August, we will be having an Organic Church Life Conference in The Woodlands with Frank Viola and Milt Rodriguez. We are excited about what the Lord is going to do between now and then.

Finally, I just want to add what a joy it is to know Christ in community. As a local expression of Jesus in our city, we feel like we have known each other forever. We are beginning to see Jesus build his Body through real relationships that have him at the center. Thank you Lord!

3/15/09


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