Organic things go bad. Fruit grows old, vegetables go rotten, and meat will decay. When it comes to organic church groups, the principle is the same. Organic church can go bad, too.
I’ve been mauling over this for sometime now and because my blog gets a good deal of traffic on my Simpler Church category posts, I thought the time has arrived for me to make mention of this.
I don’t expect every organic church advocate to agree with me on this, but it does need to be stated at least for the sake of putting my perspective on record.
I consider myself an advocate for simpler forms of church gatherings and I like the concept of organic church, but I have seen it go bad too often. Usually because an organic church leader becomes crazy anti-traditional church model or the organic church runs beyond its own boundaries of usefulness.
Allow me to start with this later point…
I think an organic church goes bad when it begins with a great deal of liberty and the absence of defined values, missions, and format. Without boundaries and purposes it can easily morph into a free-for-all swing between spiritual activities and social consumption. The Corinthians church was without boundaries and purposes when chapter 14 said everyone was adding their own disorderly input to their gatherings.
By its very nature, an organic church doesn’t have the oversight of a denomination to guide it in its development and accountability in its boundaries and purposes. That is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does become a responsibility of a leader to define for the group the what, why, and how of gathering.
There was an organic church group not far from me, about the same time we planted what is now CrossHope Chapel church in my home, and its leader lambasted me for several things that he insisted we can not do that his organic church would never do.
One was his insistence that no one in the organic group could serve in a pastoral role (despite the fact that Ephesians 4:11 states the pastoral role is a gift from Christ for the equipping of the church) and that I was wrong about bringing a format to our house church gathering.
This gentleman insisted that I was hindering the “Spirit’s leading” by having an agenda of the process our gathering would follow (that is: prayer, singing, Bible study, etc.). He pointed to his own opinion as a dogmatic rule that I should adopt, which was allow everyone to speak and share as they all felt led to speak and share.
He even said that their Sunday gathering would start late morning and sometimes not end until late afternoon. Sadly, his organic church group stopped meeting soon after that and ours is in its 11th year.
I think an organic church goes bad when its leaders are so anti-traditional church model that they find their identity in not being like the churches they don’t like. They don’t know what they are for, but certainly know what they are against. Sometimes in organic church movements we get into a rut because we get use to explaining our gatherings by telling others how we are not like the other churches.
When a follower of Christ complains about the bride of Christ, that’s shaky ground. I think we forget that how a church body meets is a cultural decision, not the dictates of Scripture. We have the principles of Acts 2:42 as essentials to include in our gatherings, but the where or the how of gathering is not spelled out. I know that we have verses that they say “they meet at so and so’s house” but Acts also says the Apostles met at the synagogue on the Sabbath day.
The how and where of meeting as a church body is shaped by culture and different from generation to generation as well as from country to country. I know American organic church advocates like criticizing the churches in our land as religious businesses, but that is our culture.
One can criticize the American church all they want (and I have stood in that line too often) but the fact is that business structure model has been a whole lot more effective in reaching communities than has a single organic church group or even a network of organic church groups.
Who in organic church movement circles hadn’t heard the criticism against clergy, church payrolls, building funds, budgets, and more. However, these are all facets of our society that American citizens find easy to connect with, as compared to walking into a small group gathering in someone’s home.
You may prefer the organic church model because unlike the traditional brick and mortar model church, you don’t have to worry about meeting that budget every month, but you know what? You don’t have that 24/7 presence in the community either.
Everyone from your neighbor who will drive past that traditional brick and mortar model church drives by a witness to the Christian faith, but not everyone from your neighborhood who drives by your house will think, Oh an organic church meets there.
As I see it, if God has called you into the organic church movement, be faithful there. If God has called you into the services of the traditional brick and mortar church ministry, be faithful there. Either way, keep your eyes on the Lord Jesus and keep you hands on the plow.
The grass is not always dead on the other side of the fence.