Tag Archives: simple church

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.


Organic Church Life: Sunday Gathering

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.

FOCGet 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!

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