Searching for Organic Church
Whenever I talk to believers across the country I often hear a similar sentiment among those who want to be a part of an organic house church: “I’m looking for a house church, but I can’t find one in my area, so I’m just waiting to connect with one. I can’t handle church as it exists.”
I’m sympathetic towards people in this spot. I really am. But I’m also often worried about folks who say things like this because hidden within that statement are two harmful ideas.
The first is the idea that the perfect church is something that emerges that you don’t have to contribute anything to. In reality, true church is built on everyone participating and growing in Christ as they interact with each other. Waiting until organic church appears means you’ve been disengaged in building up the church. My experience is this disengagement carries over into organic church. The same internal mechanisms that caused you to wait for a house church to appear is the same mechanism that will cause you to sit back and watch others participate in the house church. This is a limited “win” at best.
The other idea built into this comment is that is harmful is the idea that the church is a meeting or gathering. It’s not. The church is redeemed people who follow Christ, regardless of what form we meet in. So, you can’t find a group of believers meeting in a home, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t gather with other believers, encourage each other to follow Jesus more faithfully, and even share your faith. If you’re doing this, you are actually already part of a church! These Christians may be a part of other congregations. That’s okay! Jesus loves when Christians act as one church, not as many segregated ones.
So don’t wait! Meet with other believers, whether they are part of an organic house church or not. No, the believers you meet to get together with won’t be perfect. They probably won’t understand you perfectly. But God calls us to care for the church, even when they aren’t perfectly like us. We’re to strengthen the weak, rejoice with the strong, and weep with those who mourn. It won’t be perfect but you will be contributing to others and they will be encouraging you. Or, as the writer of Hebrews says,
Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.
Which is why “starting” an organic church among those looking for an organic church never seems to go well for very long.
You only need look at the string of failures among those who target – through sales of their books, blogs, conferences and “itinerant” gigs – that “market” to see the resulting harm and folly it causes.
If someone doesn’t have the conviction to obey the Biblical imperative of Hebrews 10 – which you quote – and similar passages, and needs others to make it happen for them, then they’re not ready.
This is why we start organic fellowships among those who are unchurched, lost and know it …
They don’t have all the passivity and other “church” baggage to unlearn. Among them, church as the New Testament shows it just comes natural and lives are truly redeemed as Christ comes alive in them, through them and among them – one to another.
However, it can be messy living out the Great Commission as we “go” where the lost live, rather than try to start organic churches by asking the passively discontent ex-church folk to “come” …
Which is why so few do it, yet continue to promote their “come” find organic church approach despite their repeated disastrous results.
Anyway, thanks again for a great blog. Writing from the vantage point of actually living out organic church in your own life and home town does make a difference!
Travis: This is a thought-provoking blog. Thanks. We were in a good healthy “traditional” church full of godly people who were seeking Jesus. But it became clear that our vision sharply parted with theirs. In essence, they seemed to think that the best way to serve God was to be busy with all kinds of meetings and ministries. They sought to follow Jesus, but, I think, missed the whole point of what church is. Eventually, I felt that, in order to follow Jesus, and to not be a thorn in the side of that church, it was better for us to leave. We had no one who wanted to walk with us as a church, but there were a few individual families who were interested in walking in relationship. They would never have called themselves a church, but to us, they were our church, until, one year, the Lord had them all move away, and, the next year or so, he called us away. But I think that period was formative for us in strengthening our convictions as to what it means to be the church.
Excellent. The temptation to let “others” do it is all too strong. We found that in the organic church we led – people wanted me to “lead” worship rather than all contribute their own songs and prayers to the collective. I had to constantly remind us (and me) that only together do we form the Body of Christ.
And yes – organic is not perfect – we had lots of mess as we did discipleship instead of meeting – so whether that involved working through upset or issues it required much effort to keep the unity – but it was worth it as the more real we were the more the light of Christ could shine in and bring transformation.