Tag Archives: tony dale

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.


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.


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