I have been meeting in homes pursuing Christ in an organic way for a few years now. In that time, we have had many people visit our gatherings. I have also visited other organic churches.
I have discovered that visiting an organic church fellowship is likely to be disappointing to the visitor if they do not understand the nature of organic church life.
I am continually reminded that people will likely not see the power of Christ in a short visit for the following reasons:
1.) The visitor has not given up on their attempts to “do” church and be satisfied with “knowing” Christ in familial community.
It is often the case that a person comes into a gathering and they are looking for a church experience that is more “biblical” and fills an immediate void of some kind. Maybe they are fed up with organized religion and believe that a house church will make up for all their trouble in days past.
My experience is that this is the most common reason for folks visiting an organic fellowship.
Seeking a church life that reflects New Testament practice is laudable, but this search must quickly surrender itself to Christ. If a person doesn’t soon trust that the church comes out of Christ, they are indeed headed for even more frustration.
New Testament church practice comes by us making Christ our only concern. The moment we trade knowing and living Christ together for a method of doing church that we can reproduce by following some formula, we prolong growth in Christ and we forfeit his eternal purpose.
Even if it were possible to obtain a perfect church practice, it would never bring about a utopian church experience. Unfortunately, a desire for some sort of blissful experience is what drives most of us. We think if we build it the Lord will come. The mature believer will recognize that this is foolish thinking and itself stands contrary to New Testament practice.
The road with Christ is one of hills and valleys for the individual and the church. It’s all a part of the sanctification process and the building up of his Body. The Lord builds the church in His time as long as we continue to offer up ourselves as stones to be fitted together for His own dwelling.
Everything we see as a necessary element of church life within the New Testament is born out of time, lots of time. The Lord is the builder and He builds according to His own time.
There is only one way to know the Lord’s heart for the individual and the church: commit yourself to Christ and His Bride by accepting the good, the bad, and the ugly. If you don’t do this, it’s only a short while before you decide that organic church life is not for you. You will move on because it didn’t fit your expectations or your timetable.
You will keep searching until you have made knowing Christ in a shared life the central concern of your heart.
It’s all for the building up of the Body. We must learn to look beyond these momentary trials and tribulations and accept them as a necessary part of the journey. A glorious vision of God’s eternal purpose will hold our feet to the narrow path of Christ.
My advice is to give up on doing church and lay aside everything to know Christ with other Jesus Freaks in simple community!
2.) Every organic church is a unique expression and every meeting takes on a life of its own. Visitors can’t know Christ in community and experience Body life in a short visit.
Visiting an organic church one or two times can in no way be used as a barometer for what the Lord is doing among that particular fellowship.
In the organized church, a person could “check out” a church by sitting in on a service and reading a pamphlet. After a couple of visits they could get a good idea of what that organization is all about. And maybe after a conversation or two they might decide if they want to join it.
Notice that these decisions are largely based off first impressions of worship services and those leading them (shoulder-to-shoulder events). You can’t do this with organic church life. The most obvious reason: it’s an organism not an organization. It’s not about meetings, but about sharing life together in face-to-face community.
We don’t have services with professionals leading them. We don’t have pamphlets with doctrinal statements and a list of our ministries. We have no bulletins that tell you how we prefer the Spirit move. We don’t offer bios of our elders or an interactive website for the consumer to learn about us from a distance.
You simply cannot use the same criterion to judge our fellowship.
An organic church is always changing and the freedom we embrace in Christ keeps us in a constant state of growth and change. Depending on the season an organic church is presently in and when you happen to visit, there’s just no telling what you will see when you visit!
I believe a person would need to spend at least a few months consistently sharing life (not just meetings) with a fellowship before they could appropriately put into words what the Lord is doing among them.
Until a person has done this, they can’t say they have experienced organic church life. With that in mind, I wonder how many are willing to “visit” an organic church.
People make judgments about organic church life by using the same ole surface standards all the time. But it never serves as a sound form of accurately describing what the Lord is doing in an organic fellowship.
One or two visits are simply not enough to say, “I have experienced organic church life.”
Organic church life is not about one or two meetings during the week. It is about sharing life with each other. It is not meeting-driven, it is life-driven!
3.) The Lord opens the eyes of those whom He chooses. Visitors will see the power of Christ in simple community only if the Lord reveals Himself to them.
We have had folks visit us and we have seen the Lord reveal Himself to them in that first meeting. Others have seen the Lord after gathering with us for a time. We have also seen others walk away unimpressed with what we’re doing.
There can be two complete strangers visiting us in a gathering. One person will rejoice that they have seen Jesus lifted up among us and that they see the Lord’s pleasure in what we’re doing. This person has seen the Lord in a powerful way and is captivated by knowing Christ. They are excited about discovering Christ with others who seek Him with a pure heart.
Another person in the same meeting may only see a group of people reading their favorite Scriptures, praying, and trying to sing without a leader. For whatever reason, this person walks away dissatisfied with their experience. The Lord is showing us that it is all His doing and He alone is responsible for this unveiling.
We understand that everyone is on his or her own journey with the Lord.
People may visit our gatherings and come to different conclusions regarding organic church life. Our obedience to Christ and our purpose in gathering organically does not waver when people don’t see the Lord in our gatherings. Not everyone is at the place for the Lord to reveal Himself in this way.
We must remember that it is the Lord who gives revelation.
Finally, our hope is that we would be a true reflection of Christ to every visitor. Folks will come and go, and many will leave. Be encouraged for our Lord is constant. Guard your hearts and remember to always think the best of others. Accept everyone as you were accepting the Lord himself.
Never lose sight of Christ and His bride set free. And never forget that organic church life is a journey, not a destination.