I should preface this post with this: I could write 10 posts on this topic and still not be done with all I have to say. I’m not really going into the biblical reasons we were called to an organic church (you could peruse those reasons elsewhere, where others have written on the topic like here and here for example), though there are many. I might mention a few of those reasons, but mostly I just want you to maybe sit for a spell and listen to my story. Join me?
About a year ago we left our church. The leaving was a God-prompted thing, the reasons numerous, but what you need to know is that we had no idea what church body we’d be joining next. After a couple visits to local churches it was clear that nothing was jiving with us. We prayed and asked God what He wanted. What path was He pointing towards? We discovered God was clearly saying that we should have a break — not worry about finding a church — and just look after our growing family. We started at-home worship time with our kids and really took a Sabbath day (rested, ah!) and began to teach our kids about Jesus ourselves instead of relying just on Sunday mornings (imagine that!).
Fast forward to a couple months ago and a cross-country move later (which was another God-prompted thing) and we discovered the Body that was waiting for us. Our organic church.
Just to be clear, I’m not talking about a house church. The way I (and plenty organic church folks) define it is: a house church is essentially a regular church with the typical hierarchy (i.e. lead pastor) just in a smaller version that meets at someone’s house. Organic church is different. It may seem like I’m splitting hairs, but I’m really not. There is no lead pastor in an organic church. There’s no plan. There’s no schedule or script. There’s no children’s program. Sound chaotic? It’s anything but.
We rely on 1Corinthians 14:26 as our map. When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.
What this means, is that we each come to the spiritual “table” with something to offer. There’s no sitting in the back unnoticed. It’s a constant flow of the Holy Spirit, edifying of each other, opening up, confessing, teaching and learning. Because there is no lead pastor (Jesus is the lead pastor – crazy, I know) each week our gathering carries on regardless of who isn’t there and who comes. On the other side of that coin, because we are living life together, open and willing to be uncomfortable, vulnerable and honest – there is also a void each week when any of the Body are missing. Like any healthy body, if one part isn’t working, the body suffers.
We definitely have leaders emerging, and we have what I’d call our “shepherd”. We are pleased to see that God brought together a group of people with complementary as well as diverse spiritual giftings. We see the gifts of the Spirit taking place every time we gather for church, but once a week isn’t the only time we gather. In fact, once a week isn’t enough for an organic church.
We saw quickly that what we were doing was forming a family – one that we got to choose – and that meant letting them into our lives. We realized that once a week was too disconnected. We try to get together – anyone that is able – at least one or two other times in the week. Yes this seems like a lot at first, if you’re a large busy family like mine. But dropping down the walls of “leave me alone” has proven to not only spring forth growth in us but also bring some good ‘ol fashioned spiritual attacks that brought our group even closer.
God is blessing these gatherings like nothing I’ve ever experienced. We are learning from each other, equipping each other, exhorting each other and caring for each other. More than once I’ve had church family swoop in just when I needed it for groceries, prayer, you name it.
So, back to our “table”. We are each arriving with something to bring to the spiritual table – the spiritual potluck, as we call it – and then we sit down at an actual table and break bread. There’s something covenantal about breaking bread. We each bring a dish and we dig in to the meal and into each others’ souls (kids included!).
Some people have said something to the effect of, “Oh I have all that in a small group!” but really, it’s so not the same. In a church where Christ is the head instead of a pastor, the expression we have as a Body is completely different. This isn’t us just hanging out and having dinner together. When we gather it’s not only how we each see the group (as our only church, not just a side group) that creates (organically) what fruit and life we have, but it’s the amazing way God shapes our Body, purposefully pouring into us in a way we’ve never experienced. We’ve been freed of the institution of church, and able to just BE the church.
The key here is that we do what works. If something isn’t working, we gather – discuss – work it out (we don’t always all agree) – God works through each of us to find an agreement – and we have a new plan. There’s no resentment or anyone who feels as though they aren’t heard or their gifts go untapped. Each person is so vital. Each voice heard and valued.
We all realize that sacrifices are needed to make this work, and we’ve decided we’re willing make them. We feel this to be the most accurate expression of Church, but we certainly know it’s not for everyone. Of course you know I’m not saying this is the only way or that your way of doing church is wrong. But I can’t help but have this huge sense of “what have I been doing my whole life before now?!” and despite my shyness, I just had to share. This way of being Church, instead of doing church, takes a lot of getting used to.