Simple church, real church, is:
Let's keep it simple, but seek His power and presence in all things! May His Kingdom come!
This is no easy task as religion offers a subtle and powerful substitute for deep relationship with God. It can be so easy to wrap our life with the externals of duty, performance, or ‘right living,’ and ignore the fundamental reality that we were made to deeply know and encounter God.
Perhaps I can best stir our hearts on this by quoting from A.W. Tozer and his landmark book, The Pursuit of God:
“The continuous and unembarrassed interchange of love and thought between God and the soul of the redeemed man is the throbbing heart of New Testament religion.”
“The moment the Spirit has quickened us to life in regeneration our whole being senses its kinship to God and leaps up in joyous recognition.”
“David's life was a torrent of spiritual desire, and his psalms ring with the cry of the seeker and the glad shout of the finder. Paul confessed the mainspring of his life to be his burning desire after Christ.”
“I want deliberately to encourage this mighty longing after God. The lack of it has brought us to our present low estate. The stiff and wooden quality about our religious lives is a result of our lack of holy desire.”
“If we would find God amid all the religious externals we must first determine to find Him, and then proceed in the way of simplicity. Now as always God discovers Himself to ‘babes’ and hides Himself in thick darkness from the wise and prudent… We must put away all efforts to impress, and come with the guileless candor of childhood. If we do this, without doubt God will quickly respond.”
“When religion has said its last word, there is little that we need other than God Himself.”
May God awaken, today, our first love for Him and Him alone.
That said, I love hearing how others are living their faith into the world they live in. Here is a short list which I hope you will add to.
The ‘church’ is meant to be a going, 24/7, unleashed expression of Jesus. Therefore this small list is only scratching the surface of what the people of God are meant to look like as we live our faith into the world.
Let me be blunt.
I believe the church comes closest to its intended shape when Jesus-followers are loving God, loving others, and learning how to disciple people who will disciple others.
Meaningful, organic, simple gatherings are meant to come OUT of the process of disciples making disciples and to support that process.
But there is one key that must not be missed or we will just be out trying to put together yet one more model and method of Christian living: We are called first and foremost to be a disciple ourselves… and there is a cost. Jesus said it quite bluntly:
“Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will save it. What good is it for someone to gain the whole world, and yet lose or forfeit their very self?” (Luke 9:23-25)
At the very core of the church and at the very heart of disciplemaking, is the disciple who has eyes on Jesus and hands not grasping for the things of this world. And it is the freedom, love, and joy that comes from being such a disciple that is at the heart of relating to others in a way that they, too, become disciples of Jesus Christ.
Yes, discipleship does cost us everything. This cost is not about putting on a religious cloak of self-flattery, false-self-sacrifice, or pharisaical self-righteousness. Rather, there is the confession that my soul wants to cling to things that keep it from the full embrace of the most amazing lover and the only true infuser-of-life. When I daily seek to give up pig’s food for the Father’s grasp, I am a disciple who has found real life unlike any other. And such disciples are at the heart of disciplemaking.
In our old way of doing church life, there were some markers, structure, and programs that gave definition to our life as Believers. We could at least check off the following areas and know that we were ‘on the right track:’
But what about this living, organic church? How do I know if I am moving in the right direction? Sometimes we revert to an old way of thinking:
But maybe we are still missing the true nature of being organically connected to Jesus.
I do believe that we can see markers in living organically, but they are more like dance steps rather than program to-do lists. They are more about lifestyle that integrates with all of life rather than simply a list of sacred activities divorced from the rest of life. They happen internally which are then reflected externally rather than the other way around.
I have often used the diagram below to describe the organic lifestyle, but it’s easy to try to turn these (or any other organic methods) into program again so let’s be clear. This is a lifestyle that begins and rests fully on a listening relationship with Jesus. Only He can lead us in the life of spiritual power that we are meant to live in. Further, each part of this process is not a step but a lifestyle that grows out of that intimacy with Him and which deepens as our life with Him deepens. We reach out to others, with our own abilities and gifts, as He leads, inspires, guides, and empowers. We ‘make disciples’ by assisting others to have a similar, personal walk with Jesus. We gather in ways that come naturally out of the other steps (we don’t gather and then try to make the rest happen). And we facilitate others to do the same because we want them to experience His full and fruitful life.
For the sake of providing some guidance on the organic lifestyle, I sometimes use a series of questions. They are designed to encourage us to listen to Jesus and, as we move deeper into Him, walk with Him naturally into the Kingdom, organic lifestyle that He draws us into:
What does ‘Living Organically’ mean to you?