It is relatively easy to deconstruct from institutional church-going and thinking. Many of us would echo the sentiments expressed by some of the people quoted in this article:
“I didn’t want to invite the people that I was first exploring a conversation of spirituality with to church anymore. I didn’t want them to see walking with God as a relationship of jumping through hoops – that it was about behavioral management or sin management.”
“It’s hard to demonstrate love from the institution now…”
“[My] training to become a pastor mostly reminded me of the corporate techniques I followed at [General Electric].”
However, beyond deconstruction, the more difficult challenge is to reconstruct a lifestyle with God that is intentional, authentic, meaningful, and impactful. Many people fall through the cracks, today, who have deconstructed and left institutional church life, yet never intentionally develop an organic, significant life with God.
Kyle Rice (same article) describes where his own reconstruction has led him:
“I would say that I am very intentionally engaged with a group of believers who are committed to one another and committed to seeing God’s word make an impact around the world.”
I would suggest that there are three essential rhythms that make up the adventure of intentionally reconstructing an organic lifestyle:
- The God-ward rhythm. Everyone knows that institutional church life does not create inner spiritual life. But we still face the challenge, outside the institution, to find the personal rhythms that move us ever deeper into the heart, purposes, and leading of Jesus Christ.
- The community rhythm. This is a challenging rhythm, but we need the Body of Christ and some shape of authentic community life for healthy growth and alignment with God’s purposes. This is often messy, uncomfortable, and difficult to define. But we need others, we need mentors, we need to be mentoring, we need spiritual family, and we need to be sharpened by difficult people.
- The missional rhythm. Church is always God’s people reaching out with the love of God to people who desperately need to know the love, power, freedom, healing, hope, renewal, and eternal life that only the cross brings. How this rhythm is walked out may be as varied as sands on the sea. But it is an essential dynamic for our organic adventure with God.
I am not trying to dictate forms out of any of these rhythms. In an earlier post I remarked that “if we begin with forms and structures we continue to miss the core reality of relational connection that underlies true church.”
However, I am suggesting that, as God leads us out of institutional forms of spiritual life and into organic ones, we can expect that He will draw us into new ways of living out all three of these essential dynamics. We leave the institutions (or not) with intentionality to join our life more intimately, organically, and purposefully with the Person.
The following story is from Floyd McClung’s book, “Starting a House Church.” It illustrates all of the basic principles of starting and multiplying simple churches: going, praying, reaching a person of peace, empowering that person to disciple others and to start simple/house churches…
A U.S. businessman named William was making $350,000 a year but was bored. To alleviate his boredom, Bill decided to go and serve the poor in the Indian sub-continent. During a time of prayer, Bill felt the Lord saying that he should invest his time in discipling a young man who was a paraplegic. After a couple of years spend in training him, Bill encouraged this young man to start a church for his friends, many of who were also in wheelchairs. These were people who nobody wanted—the outcasts (one of the lowest castes in Hindu society), the lepers, the homeless, and the disabled.
Bill, meanwhile, started businesses to employ the “unemployable,” giving life skills and training to people who otherwise had nothing going for them. I (Floyd) attended their church, called Beautiful Gate, recently and witnessed 200 people crammed into a small room for a celebration involving seven of their house churches around Kathmandu. All the elders were sitting in front, and all were wheelchair-bound. During the worship time, I saw people with missing fingers raising their hands. Others had missing noses and ears—all due to leprosy. Despite their affliction, the joy of the Lord was there and the people were worshiping Him with all their hearts. It was an absolutely moving and gorgeous scene to witness.”
Bill provides coaching and spiritual oversight from behind the scenes. He told me, “We pray everyday, go to the poor, I disciple people and pour my life into them, we encourage them to gather in small home groups, and as soon as we can, we multiply.”
Inspiring, simple, and powerful!
It’s been almost a year since I offered the “Simple/House Church Revolution Online Course” The course begins January 26.
NOTE that there are only 12 spaces remaining as of this writing!
The goal of this course is for participants to discover more fully God's story and the nature of His church in a way that fully celebrates the freedom of the Gospel and the simplicity, reproducibility, and joy of simple, participatory, 24/7 church life.
- It’s fun.
- It’s interactive with lots of opportunity to share and hear from others who are on a similar journey.
- It provides a lot of great material that challenges our perspectives and paradigms in order to help us shape our own non-traditional journey.
- It can even be life-changing as it can set our course as pursuers of Jesus in the context of simple church life.
Who is this course for? It’s ideal for those who are newly exploring simple/house churches or who are in the process of starting simple/house churches or networks of simple/house churches.
"A unique and extremely insightful collection of resources, experiences, and other people who will finally let you know that you are not crazy for hoping that there is more of Jesus to be known and shared in a way that is actually simple."
Read more of the description and register here. Look forward to this journey together!
The term ‘organic church’ is often misunderstood as a description of:
- A way to do church, i.e. a house church
- A non-institutional expression of church
- A church system without hierarchical leadership
- A free-flowing, Spirit-led gathering
- An expression of church that has no form or organization to it
All of this misses the point and causes us to compare ‘organic church’ to other kinds of church ‘systems.’ With this understanding of organic church we miss, completely, the true, living nature of church as the Bible reveals it. In other words, we lose sight of what the church actually IS.
Perhaps a good plumb line for grasping the term ‘organic church’ is T. Austin Sparks’ words:
God's way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be vegetable, animal, human, or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order, and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.
Organic church, then, refers to:
- The nature of church which is alive. It can be cooperated with but not created. Its life can only come from the Spirit of God who is the author of all spiritual life, both individual and corporate.
- The order in which life comes forth. Organic life starts from within, and moves from one living disciple to the next, and only appears as a corporate expression (gathering) when the natural order is followed.
The challenge to move beyond institutional church systems is not to replace one system with another one, rather it is to re-discover and cooperate with the true living nature of the church as God created it.
BUT, what does this look like? Our need to outline the blueprint for organic church is the same one that comes from our misunderstanding. Yes, their are forms and shapes that typically come out of this intimate walking with God, both individually and corporately. But if we begin with forms and structures we continue to miss the core reality of relational connection that underlies true church. We want shortcuts to the reality of life with God that do not exist.
Organic church, then, is a lifestyle that comes out of an inner life with an involved, intentional, at-work, Kingdom-bringing God. As such, organic church describes an adventure… the greatest adventure of all time.
In future posts, we will discuss the principles and forms that underlie living/organic church, but don’t expect this to be the blueprint for ‘church planting 101.’ We have to step back from this kind of thinking, unlearn the premises of our man-made structures, and then connect and cooperate with the Spirit who fills His church with life, liberty, joy, power, and love.
In one of his last letters Dietrich Bonhoeffer described his thoughts on “religionless Christianity” and a “non religious interpretation of biblical concepts.”
Bonhoeffer was concerned that church people in Germany were content to simply wear a thin “garment” of Christianity.
One biographer wrote about Bonhoeffer’s meaning of religionless Christianity:
In this process, religion itself, considered and historically conditioned, transient, dying form of Christianity, would undergo drastic changes as faith is freed from its more Westernized, self-serving constrictions and emphasis on inward piety and empty rituals.
…Bonhoeffer had criticized religion for its having inflicted on people a psychic posture of weakness and immature dependence and for having encouraged individualistic, self-centered attitudes toward God and others. Christians living a “nonreligious” form of Christianity, on the other hand, would draw on the example of Christ, the “man for others,” and live in a paradox of being called out of the world while belonging wholly to it.
Bonhoeffer’s prophetic voice is still calling today’s western church to divest itself of the veneer of religion so that the heart and essence of faith and communion with a holy God remains the core Gospel.
From the prison letters, one can deduce that Bonhoeffer was calling for a complete restructuring of ecclesiastical offices and for a reshaping of the churches so they can become more like Christ, divested of their possessiveness and encouraged to live only to serve others.
My hope, as we seek the wineskins that best serve and reveal Christ in today’s world, that we never give up the quest for re-shaping our personal and corporate lives around His person and the deep relationship with Him that He calls us to.
(My appreciations to bonhoefferblog from whom I drew most of this post from).