Tag Archives: organic church life

Visiting an Organic Church

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.


The Torch of the Testimony (Book Review)

thetorchofthetestimonyThe Struggle for the Centrality of Christ—Book Review of “The Torch of the Testimony” by John W. Kennedy—Reviewed by David D. Flowers

John W. Kennedy has given us a great gift that has gone largely unnoticed in the western world. “The Torch of the Testimony” uncovers the 2,000-year history of those believing Christians and churches that stood outside the Protestant and Catholic traditions.

“The history of the working of the Spirit of God is not the history of any organization, and what usually goes by the name ‘Church History’ is only too often a sorry tale of bigoted quarrels and selfish intrigue. Yet the history of the two, the spiritual movement, and the earthly institution, are sometimes so closely intermingled that it is impossible to give an account of one without referring to the other.” p. 56

Kennedy gives us a concise narrative of church history while distinguishing between the “spiritual church” and the organized church of man.

He is gracious and honest to point out the good that was achieved within the organized church, but is consistent in his critique of both movements of the church.

He very powerfully exposes the shortcomings of the institutional church and how past saints concluded that it can never be reformed. What is needed is a return to New Testament church practice.

“The life of Christ and the Lordship of Christ through His Word are, therefore, two things which mark out the church of the New Testament. When these are supplanted by anything else, the result is a departure from the principle of Scripture and ultimate confusion.” p. 177

He wonderfully weaves together the disjointed stories of the church to paint a clear picture of the challenges that still face us today. The reader can’t help but be awakened to the reality that we are a part of the unfolding story of Christ’s church.

In this book, you will learn about how the the church began to drift from apostolic teachings through Greco-Roman influence and opened the door for the Constantinian State in the fourth century.

You will discover the enduring testimony of the remnant that existed apart from the organized church up to the Protestant Reformation and onward. You will learn how a break from the State Church into independent movements produced denominations built upon doctrines instead of the rock of Christ.

How did we get to where we are today? Where are we in the story of God’s people? Will we learn from the mistakes of the past? What will be written about us?

Will our relationship to Christ be the unifying bond that births our church practice or will we be distracted by power and cling to weapons of the world in an attempt to advance the Gospel?

I can’t stress enough how important this book is to the study of the development of Christianity. This book is a “must read” for every serious student of church history.

If you are involved in organic church life and gatherings outside of the institutional church, this book should be required reading before you can say, “I am part of a house church.”

If this account of church history doesn’t move you… I would recommend you check your spiritual pulse.

Suggested Reading:
The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament
Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition
Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices
The Reformers and Their Stepchildren (Dissent and Nonconformity)

From Eternity to Here (Book Review)

from eternity picGod’s Love Story

A Book Review of “From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God” by Frank Viola Reviewed by David D. Flowers

Growing up I remember hearing folks call the church the “Bride of Christ.” I only believed it to be one more way to speak of “heavenly” things.

Like many things within institutional Christianity, it was nothing more than a metaphor in a line of many metaphors that were used to talk of God’s love for his children. Viola explains in his book that it is more than a fanciful, nice way to speak of the church… it is “God’s central purpose.” Paul called it “the eternal purpose” (Eph. 3:11).

From Eternity to Here is the fourth book in a five-book series on radical church restoration. (Fifth book is set to be released Sept. 09)  Out of all the books Viola has written, this volume reveals the driving passion behind his life and all of his work. He writes, “in beholding God’s central purpose, I found my own purpose. In touching His passion, I found my own passion” (p.13).

Viola effectively communicates this passion in three parts. The first part is entitled “A Forgotten Woman: The Bride of Christ.” Viola begins by pointing his readers to the “hidden romance” between the great lover (God) and his beloved (the church).

This story begins with Adam and Eve and continues throughout all of Scripture as the true lover is seen through foreshadowing. Viola beautifully describes in detail this great love story between the lover and the beloved that will one day be the wife of God. The story of Adam and Eve is a picture of a greater story. Eve came out of Adam after creation… she was a “new creation.”

Viola says, “There was a woman inside of God before time” (p.41).

Viola is a master storyteller. He has been captivated by God’s love story and is able to wonderfully reveal “the mystery” of Christ to a new generation. “The Holy Spirit must open the eyes of His people in every generation for them to grasp it” (p.25).

“Now Adam is a symbol, a representation of Christ, who was yet to come” (Rom. 5:14).

Out of Christ comes his Bride! Finally, a woman for the Lord to love. Viola writes, “All love stories, whether intentional or unintentional, are patterned after this heavenly romance” (p.91).

It is not that God was lonely or that the Trinitarian community was inadequate. It is because “God is love” that he is not content to keep this love to himself. Viola states that the “superabundance of God’s love required a receptacle that was not within the Trinity” (p.40).

God always intended to share his community with his creation. The nature of God’s love is that is given, received, and returned to him. Without God’s creation, he is a “frustrated lover” (p.58). God is sovereign and in control of the future, but indeed frustrated.

Part II is entitled “An Eternal Quest: The House of God.” The chapters within this section look at the divine passion from another perspective. God is homeless and he desires a house that he and his Bride may have a family.

Viola traces God’s quest for a house throughout the Scriptures. As he traces God’s search from Adam to Jesus, he says, “The house of God is not a thing… it is the Lord Jesus Christ” (p.155).

The last half of this section gets personal and compares our own journey to being like that of Israel’s history. Like Israel, as members of the Body of Christ, we must make a choice as to which house we will dwell in. Put another way… what kind of house are we going to be for God?

Egypt: the world system that is driven by pleasures and places earthly pursuits above pursuits of our heavenly home and King.

Babylon: organized religion that is a mixture of fallen humanity and the divine; characterized best by hypocrisy and described best as the “counterfeit of the New Jerusalem.” Babylon can be compared to the institutional church of today. Many of God’s people live there and they will only find themselves building a community centered on man and not Christ and his purposes.

The Wilderness: this is the place where those who leave the world and organized religion will find themselves. It is a place of transition. “To sift us, to reduce us, and to strip us down to Christ alone” (p.191). This is a time of detox. Yet… it is not our home!

The old wineskin must be done away with so that the new can come. The home for which we were made is a land of freedom and one that flows with “milk and honey.”

Part III is entitled “A New Species: The Body of Christ & The Family of God.” This section speaks of Christians being resident aliens. The Bride of Christ is to remain pure and holy as she awaits her bridegroom.

The church is a “new species.” Viola traces this language through the New Testament. A language that many Christians have failed to recognize and apply to their lives.

Viola simplifies Body life as an act of gathering around Jesus Christ. This is our purpose. Likewise, it should be our passion. Yet, the Body of Christ has been forced into an institution and she has forgotten God’s eternal purpose. She has lost sight of the bigger picture and the great landscape of God’s love story. She has been preoccupied and polluted by a theology that leaves out the ageless purpose of God.

How does the church live out the ageless purpose of God? Viola writes, “Very simply: by loving the Lord Jesus as His bride and learning to live by His indwelling life” (p.288).

The book closes with a brief glimpse into Viola’s journey and a call to return to the Headship of Christ in the church that is reflective of the divine image and God’s eternal purpose.

frank-violaViola writes, “Recognizing that Jesus Christ is the incarnation of all spiritual things will change your prayer life. It will change your vocabulary and the way you think and talk about spiritual things. And it will ultimately change your practice of the church” (p.303).

If we seek the centrality and supremacy of Christ and know that our riches are in a Person and not in things meant to further our individual pursuits… we shall be fashioned into that beautiful Bride and usher in the Kingdom. At last… God will dwell with his people when heaven comes to earth at the marriage of the Great Lover and his Beloved.

I recommend this book, especially for those who have been lost in our narcissistic evangelical ecclesiology.

For the brave… I suggest:  Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices

For those who know there must be more to Body Life than you are experiencing… I encourage you to read:  Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity

I also recommend reading:

Going to the Root: Nine Proposals for Radical Church Renewal
Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Revised Edition


Today (June 9th), the following blogs are discussing Frank Viola’s new bestselling book “From Eternity to Here” (David C. Cook, 2009). The book just hit the May CBA Bestseller List. Some are posting Q & A with Frank; others are posting full reviews of the book. To read more reviews and order a copy at a 33% discount, go to Amazon.com: From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God

For more resources, such as downloadable audios, the free Discussion Guide, the Facebook Group page, etc. go to the official website: http://www.FromEternitytoHere.org

Enjoy the reviews and the Q and A:

Out of Ur
Shapevine (June newsletter)
Brian Eberly
Greg Boyd
Vision 2 Advance
David D. Flowers
kingdom grace
Captain’s Blog
Christine Sine
Darin Hufford – The Free Believers Network
Church Planting Novice
Staying Focused
Take Your Vitamin Z
Jeff Goins
Bunny Trails
Matt Cleaver
Jason T. Berggren
Simple Church
Emerging from Montana
Parable Life
Oikos Australia
West Coast Witness
Keith Giles
Consuming Worship
Tasha Via
Andrew Courtright
Leaving Salem, Blog of Ronnie McBrayer
Jason Coker
From Knowledge to Wisdom
Home Brewed Christianity
Dandelion Seeds
David Brodsky’s Blog- “Flip the tape Deck”
Chaordic Journey
Renee Martin
Bob Kuhn
Living with Freaks
Real Worship
Fervent Worship
Julie Ferwerda
What’s With Christina?!
On Now to the Third Level
Irreligious Canuck
This day on the journey
Live and Move: Thoughts on Authentic Christianity
Spiritual Journey With God
The Jesus Feed
Book Disciple
My Journey – With Others
On Now to the Third Level
Christine Moers
Breaking Point
Hand to the Plough
Jon Reid
D.L. Webster
Searching for the Whole-Hearted Life

Organic Church Life: The Lord’s Supper

If you haven’t been following the Organic Church Life series, I recommend you start at The Beginning.

I was prompted to write on the Lord’s Supper because of the Easter season, and because of the great need there is for others to have a window into the Lord’s meal experienced in simple community.

The following post is a “play-by-play” account of our fellowship sharing the Lord’s meal together. I pray you are encouraged.

The Gathering 4/8/09

Tonight we met at the Price’s house to share the Lord’s meal together for the first time. We started off talking in the living room and then made our way into the kitchen after everyone had arrived.

We feasted on roast, mashed potatoes, cantaloupe, and mixed veggies. Yum! We spread out at the table and the bar. We were eating and laughing with each other.

Earlier I had stopped by the grocery store to pick up some bread for the Lord’s meal. I mentioned that every time I go through the self-checkout line I have problems. Kerry couldn’t understand how anyone could have problems with it. She said, “you people” are the ones taking so long in the line.

Everyone was having a good time laughing at us. I told her if they didn’t throw up Mission Control at you on the little screen, it would help!

After everyone had finished eating and were just talking, we began to move toward the bread and wine (juice). A few of us men had already discussed the “Lord’s Supper” a day or two before. We recognized that the practice was intended to be a meal, at least part of the meal.

What should this look like? We concluded that it is a meal and that we shouldn’t lock ourselves into any certain way of practicing it. The important thing is that we do indeed share the meal together as an extension of what we are already doing as a family.

Joel grabbed another chair and we made room at the table for everyone to sit down. Grant placed the loaf of bread on the table with the juice and I reached for the cups. I began by mentioning how the Lord told his disciples that he “eagerly desired” to have this meal with them (Lk. 22:15).

Normally this upper room conversation is completely reflected on with emphasis on Judas’ betrayal and Jesus’ talk of his upcoming suffering. He did speak of these things.

However, Jesus was also joyful over his sharing of the meal with those he was closest to in this world. He longed for the intimate fellowship. And he wanted to tell them the real meaning behind the Passover meal.

Jesus did not let anything keep him from this communion with his followers. Not only would the disciples have this event etched in their memories for the rest of their days, they would continue sharing the meal “until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God” (Lk. 22:18)—until they shared it together at the marriage supper of the Lamb.

Grant spoke on the betrothal and marriage ceremony of Jews. He talked about how the cup of wine was given to the bride for her to accept the groom’s proposal.

This cup of destiny is also offered to us, the Bride of Christ.

Jesus offered this cup and still offers this cup to us who belong to him. Our acceptance of this cup is the embrace of a new covenant with God’s people.

This covenant gives us reason to celebrate our hope that we will be joined with Christ in the coming of his Kingdom.

We made mention of the meal’s first purpose and how radical it was for the Lord to reveal its fuller meaning. Can you imagine what these guys must have been thinking to hear Jesus seeming to change/add the symbolism of the Passover meal? They must have recognized that they were witnessing something of great significance, but still a little unsure of its meaning for the future.

What an intimate time of expectation that must have been!

Everyone poured their juice and began to drink as we continued speaking about the blood of Christ and the new covenant in the partaking of the wine.

The conversation naturally shifted to the bread, which the Lord said, “This is my body given for you.” Everyone pinched off a piece of bread from the round loaf in the middle of the table. We continued eating and drinking as we remembered the Lord.

Several of us spoke on how in the past the meal was no meal at all, but a solemn ceremony where believers turn inward only to think about their sin and the death of Jesus instead of moving on to the forgiveness of sin and the resurrection of Christ.

James and Joel both shared about how they once dreaded the practice of communion. It was a burdensome ceremony that left no room for life. We all agreed with one another that the meal was to be a celebratory meal in remembrance of our Lord and the foreshadowing of the Kingdom to come.

Gone are the days of taking the shot glass of grape juice and the Jesus chick-let from the cracker plate while sitting in condemnation being isolated in our pews.

We have been forgiven, the Lord is risen, and now is the time to celebrate!

I mentioned how the Gospels tell us that after the meal they sang a hymn before leaving for the garden where Jesus was arrested. Someone said, “Let’s sing a hymn then.” So we did.

We sang several with our voices only. How sweet it is to hear all the voices and to know we are one in the Spirit of Christ. What a blessing it is to share the Lord’s meal as a family of saints learning about the depths and riches of Christ in simple community.

A few departed when we got up from the table. The rest of us talked for a little while longer in the living room. What a wonderful time we had this evening!

Thank you Lord for your blood of the new covenant, your body that was broken for our sins, and your resurrection that has given us your very own LIFE!

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