What I mean by “Organic Church”
The term “Organic Church” gets thrown around in many different circles today. It’s a term that can vary in meaning depending upon whom you are talking to. It’s very difficult to sum Organic Church up without writing an entire book, but I will do my best.
Essentially Organic Church, to me, is a body of believers in a given location that are learning to live by the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ. They are a group of Christians that are learning to live, breath, smell, taste, see, hear, experience, and have a relationship with Christ the Head, corporately. They are learning to live by seeing Christ, not only as the Head, but as the Body too. In the first century when a body of believers was formed, they were absent of a form of hierarchical, chain-of-command style leadership. A church planter or Apostle (which means “sent one”) would stay anywhere from four to eighteen months ministering to, and equipping the new body of believers, then the Apostle would leave the church all on its own to function under the leadership and headship of Christ. Elders and Deacons would form organically after several years of church life. Remember, the first century Christians had no idea what seminary was, this came about hundreds of years later. Notice that the letters to the early churches in the New Testament, Paul, James, Jude, John, and Peter, were usually addressing issues within the church. They never wrote to individuals on how to live the individual Christian life (excluding 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus, and Philemon). So essentially, Organic Church-ers are following the first century model of “doing church,” with open-participatory meetings, mutual sharing, the “building together up in love,” with Christ as the Head, center, circumference, and focus. That’s how I’ve come to understand “Organic Church” in a nutshell.
[The above mentioned history of the early Church is derived from Frank Viola’s The Untold Story of the New Testament Church. He did all the academic work, so I can’t take any credit for the above noted history of the early church]
Why I’m pro-Organic Church
Okay, so we’ve covered why I left the institutional church and, very briefly, what Organic Church is. Another small example of what it looks like I’ve covered in another post titled What Does Organic Church Look Like?. So now let’s go over what I’ve experienced thus far in Organic Church (in the meaning in which I’m using the term) and why I’m so pro-organic.
It seems that every day we Christians are being encouraged to live out our individual Christian lives by the books we read, sermons that are preached, and even how we read the Bible. But, in my personal opinion, this is completely and utterly wrong and robs God’s people of becoming what we were meant to be by relying on one or only a few “spiritual leaders” for our spiritual food and encouragement. No one person can ever hold the depths and riches of Jesus Christ, only a body of believers with the freedom to share what the Lord has put on their heart could can come close to touching His wonderful riches. No seminary, book, amount of learning, biblical knowledge, or the like, can ever “equip” you to share His glorious riches. Only an indwelling Lord with unsurpassed grace can accomplish that. Praise Jesus for that! We all have a piece of Jesus within us. In the words of Paul, “…in Him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by His Spirit.” (Ephesians 2:22) Like I stated earlier, most of the letters to the early church in the New Testament were not to individuals. They were to churches, a group of believers in a specific location.
In my opinion, the Christian life can’t be lived out to its fullest individually. Our culture teaches us to be individualistic in everything we do. From jobs to families and even on to religion. This concept of “just figure it out yourself” is a man-made, Americanized philosophy; not Jesus. His attitude is one of unity and family. As we live in real community, living together, sharing meals, getting to know one another, going through struggles together, lending a helping hand, forming brother and sisterhoods, bearing the cross for one-another, we grow more and more into Christ. Jesus wasn’t a lone-wolf when He walked this planet. He too, experienced and taught community life. The only time Jesus was alone was to be with God the Father. So if Christ is our ultimate example, shouldn’t we follow it? And if Jesus is the Head and the Church is the Body, then by skipping past the Body, aren’t we only experiencing half of our Lord? What if I, when talking to you, only noticed your head. Though you talk, listen, and think with your head, you do the work with your hands, a part of your body. You walk where you want to go with your legs and feet, another part. You breath through the lungs in your chest, yet another body part. So, if I only experience your head and facial features, I’m still only seeing half of you. I wouldn’t know whether you work outside or inside. If you play guitar, piano, build models, or make pottery. I mean sure, you could tell me you do all these things but I would never be able to experience the things you do, thus making it only an ideal instead of a reality. The same goes with Christ. Jesus becomes a real and living Person that you can experience on a daily basis in the midst of community. So what is it about togetherness? The answer is simple, each and every member serves its function in the body and expresses a particular aspect of Christ. So essentially, if you want to see Christ in real life, today, look at the church—the Body of Christ.
That is why I love the church, and why I believe organic community is the only community. The family of God is similar to a normal, earthly family. In a healthy context, it grows and progresses naturally. In a family, we don’t have to have programs, schools, degrees, or the aid of an “image consultant.” The family grows and matures organically by the direction and leadership of the head—that is, the parents. So it is with the church (the children) and the parent (Jesus Christ).
The above statements aren’t merely head knowledge or the accumulation of some books I’ve read. That would make this entire post an ideal, not an actuality. So I’m speaking from my experience when I write about the Body and what it means to me. In the short time I’ve been in organic community, I’ve come to know Jesus in such a real way that words would fail utterly to describe it. Christ is no longer a word but a glorious Person. Jesus is no longer a set of rules and regulations to me, but a Tree, that is, the Tree of Life. He is my everything and He apparently lives inside me, and me inside of Him. I feel as though what I’ve seen of Christ in these few short months surpasses all that I’ve seen Him all together in the past two years prior. I have grown in many things that I always assumed were things I was supposed to be doing on my own, such as: patience, love, faith, and righteousness. I was taught that I was supposed to live up to these principles myself in order to live a good Christian life. But I’ve quickly learned through the Body that Christ is my patience, my love, my faith, my righteousness. I believe, that only through the Body, can we ever expect to live our Christian lives to the full.
The journey I’m currently on is very new, it has only begun. I’m still learning each and every day. But the more I learn, the more I see, the more I know, the harder it is for me to keep silent about it. At first I planned on not telling anyone about what I was doing here for a long period of time in order to find out exactly what this is. But as time goes on, the more verbal I become about the Bride of Jesus. I finally have the language and the experience behind the ideal that’s really not an ideal anymore, but a truth based upon experience. I’m still a baby and not knowledgeable about how the church functions and grows, seeing as how I’ve only been here five, going on six, months (this was written in July 2010). In this short time I’ve already met several people who are in the exact situation I was in a year ago. In that day, I thought I was the only one. I thought that, surely, no one of my particular age group (I’m 21 years old [at time of authorship]) could be going through the same situation. But I was wrong. Already I’ve spoken with and met several others. So to me, if I’ve spoken to several, that means that there are probably hundreds, if not thousands of young people in that same boat. Not knowing if Organic Church is the way to go, if it’s worth leaving all the comforts of home for, if it’s worth being ridiculed and gossiped about, if it’s worth the sacrifice. Let me tell you now, it is! Worth every tear, mile, sacrifice, bad reputation, word of slander. I’m completely convinced of this.
I hope I have encouraged someone with this article. I hope I’ve made a few things clear. I really hope I haven’t added any confusion over the matter or made things more difficult, that’s not my heart in writing this. My heart is to help and encourage, whether you’re young or old, married or single, willing or not. I’m fully convinced at this point that Jesus is resurrecting the organic expression of the church in this time, in our generation. I’m also convinced that only an organic expression of the church can express Jesus in His fullness.