Saying the phrase, “Organic Church,” in a conversation brings about many different reactions. Some people are intrigued to know just what it is you’re talking about. Others avoid the conversation all-together. Yet others have a completely different meaning behind the term than I do, so there can be some confusion. And for many, the reaction they get is one of a judgmental type, usually from some pro-institutional Christian, this is quite unfortunate.
In this post, I wish to explain what I mean when I say “Organic Church” and why I’m so pro-Organic these days. I also wish to describe how I came to discover this form of “doing church,” by giving you a brief history of my past few years as a Christian. My main goal in writing this is for three reasons:
1) First and foremost, to my family. I want to explain to my family back in Texas exactly why I’m so far from home and why I left so abruptly.
2) To possibly put some language behind the term “Organic Church” for past and future posts I will be writing on this blog. Hopefully this article (if you wanna call it that) will clear away any confusion that may arise when I write about this form of church.
3) And finally, I hope that any that are going through what I’ve gone through to get here, those who are skeptics, or those whom are currently debating within themselves whether Organic Church is the way to “do church” or not, may read this and get some answers to questions or possibly be encouraged. Believe me, you’re not alone.
A Brief History of Me
March 13th, 2008, I was rescued from the powers of darkness–drugs and alcohol. I spent my 19th birthday in rehab and then met the One who rescued me months later on May 15th, 2008 which is my actual sobriety date. I was deep into the darkness of sin. I was stealing, getting high (or should I say, staying high), living in sexual immorality, emotionally unbalanced, and incredibly selfish. But, with all that, the Lord still chose to save me. He showed up and brought me under the shadow of His wings.
I didn’t grow up in the church, nor did I ever really read the Bible. I read a few chapters from the Old Testament when I was in Jr. High which totally threw me off and confused me. I grew up with a notion of God, but no real relationship or meaning. In that day, I saw God as a god of wrath and punishment. I believed that people somehow earned their way into heaven by being good and not sinning too much. I didn’t believe that drugs, pre-marital sex, or adultery were sins. The only thing I knew about Jesus was that He supposedly came and died for my sins. The only reason I held to that ideal, and it was only an ideal at the time, was because I considered myself a Christian because everyone else in America, it seemed, was a Christian. So, in a nutshell I had absolutely no idea who my Lord really was. He was merely an ideal, a position in which to stand. He wasn’t very real.
When the Lord revealed Himself He was completely new to me. It was almost as though He was starting with a clean slate. It didn’t take long for Him to show me that He wasn’t a God of wrath and judgment, but a Lord that speaks, loves, is relational, and full of grace and mercy. Shortly after getting saved, I wound up with a group that had a church specializing in recovery from drug addiction and alcoholism. I’m not going to go into detail about what was going on there. All I need to say is that I left that particular group rather quickly. Sometime early in my walk with Jesus, a brother who aided in my coming to the Lord asked me a simple, yet interesting question. He asked, “Do you ever wonder why we do church the way we do? Why we have a pastor, Sunday service, offering, pews, ten minutes of singing followed by an hour long sermon delivered by the same person each and every week?” At first I blew it off as non-sense. An interesting question none-the-less, but pointless to ask. I mean, people have been doing it that way for centuries, how could it be wrong? But the more I thought about it, the more relevant the question became. I was handed a book titled Pagan Christianity? which traced back all of our modern church practices to pagan roots. From the choir to the pews, the offering to the sermon, and on and on. Not only this, but it had documented proof of its validity. It wasn’t some nut just trying to vent his opinions but actual church history. When I first came to this conclusion, that perhaps there is no biblical merit for modern church practices, I was 100% convinced. The only problem was, I had no back-up plan. I had nothing to follow through with. All I knew was that the institutional way of doing things was wrong and basically not biblical.
As the months went by, I began to notice that no one really agreed with me. All I met was persuasion leaning me more and more back into institutional Christianity. So eventually I folded. I gave way to popular opinion and viewpoint. Though I would’ve told you that I thought institutional church was the way it was meant to be, inside I knew things were off. This couldn’t be what Paul of Tarsus lived and died for. This couldn’t be what Jesus hung on a cross for. It was insufficient for a Christ that was completely sufficient. No way. This went on inside me for just over a year.
For a time, I had completely let go of the notion of Organic Church. I had given up on the whole idea. Then, I can’t tell you exactly when or how it happened, I began revisiting the subject. This was all about a year ago. Slowly, Organic Church was becoming more and more appealing to me. Especially after reading the next book in the series, Reimagining Church by Frank Viola. This time I had a vision, an idea of what the church was suppose to look like, what it was that Paul was willing to be beaten, put in prison, and eventually die for. It all finally made sense. This time I was convinced. There was no turning back this time, no other options. I also felt something inside of me pushing me out of Dallas. I was fully convinced it was the Lord calling me to something more, the next piece of the puzzle. I’ve often had people ask me, “How’d you know it was God telling you to go and be part of Organic Church?” The way I explain it goes something like this:
Have you ever been swimming against a current? No matter how fast or hard you try to swim upstream, your efforts are futile? But as soon as you let go the stream carries you with no effort on your part.
That’s how it felt. All my efforts and struggling were getting me absolutely nowhere, but as soon as I let go and said, “Lord, no matter what it’s going to cost me, I wanna go wherever it is you want me to.” After that, I wound up in Gainesville, Fl by a completely inconsequential set of circumstances. First, I had just received $1,000 from a tax return. Then, I got laid off at work completely unexpectedly. Also, a really dear brother of mine just so-happened to lose his job too. He told me he was heading to Gainesville to be part of a church plant here. A church that Frank Viola, the author of Reimagining Chruch, had planted. With all that was in place, I just knew this was Jesus answering my constant prayer of, “Where do you want me, Lord?” So I packed up, said my goodbyes, and headed for Gainesville.
The Search Finally Ends
On the trip here (the 17 hour trip), I kept feeling that I was no longer swimming against stream. It was as though, now, I was being carried. Very relieving by the way. Me and brother Chase spent the first two or three weeks in a Motel 6—good times…not really. But it all felt right. I was finally here. We attended our first organic church meeting later that week. I’ve already written about this first experience in a different post. Click here to read it. I will revisit my experience in organic church life later after I address a few things about “Organic Church” in Part II.