The organic nature of the church

Have you ever tried to “start” a Christian? Most people would scoff at the very notion, and rightly so, because everyone knows you can’t just go out and make someone into a believer. The transformation of an individual from the inside out is entirely a work of the Spirit. Like Jesus said, it’s a matter of being “born”, not of the flesh or the will of man, but of the Spirit. The Spirit of God gets inside a person and fuses the eternal life of Jesus Christ into that person’s spirit, thus effecting that glorious inward work which scholars like to refer to as regeneration.

We all know this is true for the individual, so why in the world do we look at it any differently in regards to the church? I say it’s because we evangelicals have little to no conception of the organic nature of the church. In theory we profess that the church is “not an organization but an organism,” but too often our practice betrays us. The sad fact of the matter is we know too little about this glorious woman who stands at the very center of our Lord’s eternal purpose.

A congregation of any old sort cannot truly be referred to as a church. Take it for what it‘s worth to you, but that is my opinion on the matter. We have made the church-and consequently the church life-out to be something far too cheap and easy to come by than what deserves to be said of this great treasure the Lord Jesus died to obtain. The local, corporate expression of Jesus Christ must be born, just as the individual Christian must be born, of the Spirit. Contrary to all the talk you hear from men about “starting a church”, you cannot start a church anymore than you can start a Christian. Both must be born, for they are not mechanical things but living organisms. This takes time and travail, not to mention one heck of a revelation of Jesus Christ. And that revelation must be a sustained revelation… it must be continuous, on-going. It must be kept fresh and up-to-date-a living, daily experience of Jesus Christ-or else whatever experience and expression of the church there is will fade away and die.

I’ll be honest with you. I’m looking for a man to follow who builds the House of the Lord along these lines. We say the church is not a building, not a place, not an organization, not a thing, and yet our methods are so tired, so old, and so mechanical. Where are the men who spend their all on the raising up of a true and living expression of the church, one that exists in freedom and in love? I’m convinced these men are out there, and I even think I’ve met a few of them in my day, but I’m positive we need more of them. When the Lord said to pray for laborers, I suspect he was speaking of quality as much if not more than he was of quantity. We need men of spiritual quality who build according to Christ.

I’m getting a little off point here, though. The organic nature of the church. Why is the evangelical mind so completely blind to it? Why is a living, organic expression of the church so hard to come by? Tonight I have only the question. I leave the answer to you, my dear readers. 🙂 What are your thoughts on this matter?


About Joshua

Writer, husband, father, friend. View all posts by Joshua

13 responses to “The organic nature of the church

  • Bobby

    it is a process of walking and waiting. At least, that is what I have been doing. I don’t know what else to do. I am being brought to the end of myself. The end of my efforts and devices. My convictions and certainties are being gathered up onto Him and I am wandering, longing for fellowship with others who have been graced with the same vision of a life together built on Christ. It is not in a building or a program, I don’t know where it is, but I am going. I’ll just keep walking and waiting.

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  • Phil

    I see what you’re saying; actually I completely agree with your content. But, I think you’re being a little extreme and unfair. Even many of those who are labeled church planters would describe church in the way you do (which in my opinion is a true definition). I can say that Christ is being shared by those who are, for lack of a better term, “plant churches.”

    Christ would heal someone and send them to the priest… free from it, but wouldn’t attack the means by which people do come to know Him.

    Paul would say, “whether in pretense or in truth Christ is proclaimed and in this I rejoice.”

    Jeff Vanderstelt when he went to start Soma Communities, said this: “If people’s understanding of church is something that you do once a week, then we’ll enter into that, in order to reach people for Christ.” Now people who have come to Christ through Soma communities are actually opening up their homes and living/sharing the gospel (with one another as well as those who don’t yet know Him). If you ask Jeff what Church is, he wouldn’t say a thing you go to on sunday (or a gathering in a home)… but those gathered into Christ. On top of that the sharing of good news is going forward, people are being taught what God has accomplished in Christ…

    Granted I am on the same page as you on most of what you say. I just want to tell people “live what He’s calling you to live,” instead of simply going against organized and dis?organized… I’m kind of tired of people attacking you guys as I am of hearing attacks on their understanding (and I hope it does change). Personally I don’t feel people are drawn to the pointed “we’re better than them because of how we gather” (on both “sides” and it sucks that there clearly are “sides”)… granted your not saying “we’re better” overtly, but the implication is there. So as much as i’d defend you when I hear others talk about how you gather around Christ, I will defend others as well. It seems these petty differences are distractions from Him… I enjoy your writings when they exalt Him… but the petty differences are getting as tired as republicans versus dems… let’s move on already…. If Christ is central… talk about Him.

    • lawdawg23

      Thanks for the admonition, Phil. I always appreciate your honesty.

      I guess my response to what you’ve said would be that not everything you hear/read is an attack, no matter whose “side” it seems to be coming from. At the end of the day we all have to be true to the light the Lord has given us and follow Him in the way of His leading. Even to preach Christ in a general sense is an “attack” upon the world and upon those who do not follow his ways, and there’s nothing wrong with that provided the motivation is one of love. Just because you share Christ with someone doesn’t mean you’re condemning them.

      When I say “organic”, I am not referring to a particular form or way of gathering. That seems to be the common misconception these days, and so you have people saying, “why can’t you just let people be and not say your way is better.” The very statement itself is evidence of the misconception.

      The organic expression of the church is not a kind of way of doing things as opposed to some other way. It is only saying, “let whatever way we take be one that is born out of spiritual life.” That may look different from place to place and people to people, as it fits their context, but that’s the gist of it.

      In that regard, I do believe there is an apostolic tradition to be applied principally in the practice of the church. Its expression will be unique to each gathering, but the principle will still apply. But again, it is all in this context of being “organic”-that is, following the law of Life rather than a certain prescribed code or way of doing things.

      And that, to me, is indeed a better way. I’ll say that much without shame or apology. 🙂

  • Phil

    thanks bro… and i appreciate the fact that i know i can be honest. There’s a lot i’m sorting out, but I do hear what you are saying.

    Honestly, I think you got the tail end of some frustrations I’ve been dealing with inwardly… disagreeing or bringing critical in an “organized” setting gets you the label of being rebellious… for I have been voicing my concerns about trying to structure community (in my opinion it works on the surface level, but rarely goes deep)… so again… my reaction was to what i perceived as an attack on others. i apologize for the misconception.

    Here’s something I read a few weeks back… he may be speaking to a different context, but i thought it was good.

    The optimist, wishing to defend the honour of this world, will defend the indefensible. He is the extreme patriot; he will say, “I take it, right or wrong.” He will be less inclined to the reform of things; more inclined to a sort of front-bench official answer to all attacks soothing everyone with assurances. He will not wash the world, but whitewash the world…

    We say there must be primal loyalty… the only question is, shall it be a natural or a supernatural loyalty? If you like to put it so, shall it be reasonable, or unreasonable loyalty? Now, the extraordinary thing is that the bad optimism (the whitewashing, the weak defense of everything) comes in with the reasonable optimist. Rational optimism leads to stagnation: it is irrational optimism that leads to reform. Let me explain by using once more the parallel of patriotism. The man who is most likely to ruin the place he loves is exactly the man who loves it with a reason. The man who will improve the place is the man who loves it without a reason. If a man loves some feature of the kingdom, he may find himself defending that feature against the kingdom itself. But if he simply loves the kingdom, he may lay it waste and turn it into the New Jerusalem. I do not deny that reform may be excessive; I only say that it is the mystic patriot who reforms. Mere extreme patriot self-contentment is commonest among those who have some perfectionist reason for their patriotism. The worst extreme patriots do not love a kingdom, but a theory of it. If we love a place for being an empire, we may overrate the success with which we rule. Thus also only those will permit their loyalty to falsify history, whose loyalty depends on history… The more transcendental is your patriotism, the more practical are your politics.

    [Perhaps the most everyday instance of this point is in the case of a true friend and their strange and strong loyalty. True friends are ready to defend through thick and thin, yet are extreme in their criticisms. A casual friend likes him, but leaves him as he is. Those truly loyal are utter mystics in their creed and utter cynics in their criticism… virtue is underrated and value is overrated.] The devotee is entirely free to criticize; the fanatic can safely be skeptic. Love is not blind; that is the last thing that it is. Love is bound; and the more it is bound the less it is blind.

    The Flag of the World – G.K. Chesterton

  • Robin Somers

    Just wanted to say thank-you for your post. I was encouraged. Blessings, robin

  • Craig

    Why is it so hard for believers to find organic church life? I have been thinking about it this way. Israel spent 70 years in Babylon. That’s about 2 generations. Many people were born into a culture without the temple and all they knew was the synagogue system that appeared during that time. So when Cyrus allowed people to return to Jerusalem to rebuild the temple and only a fraction of the people went, I’m sure a lot of it had to do with the fact that they had grown up with the synagogue and it was deemed to be good enough to worship God. It wasn’t what God wanted, but the synagogue was all they had ever known.

    Most of us have grown up in a culture in which the I.C. is all we know. We hear stories about organic church life and it sounds beautiful but it remains true only in stories unless we are part of that small remnant that goes in search of it.

    • lawdawg23

      That’s an excellent way of putting it, Craig. I agree wholeheartedly. Even the Psalmist prayed, “Lord, do not let me forget Jerusalem.” Evidently that is what happened to many of the Jewish people while in captivity, for when the time came, like you said, many of them didn’t care to go back. Let us pray together, brother, that the Lord will stir all of our spirits to go back and rebuild the House of God as she once was, no matter what the cost!

  • Libby Butero

    I appreciated this post very much. Having just found an “organic” expression of fellowship, I am reading all I can to put context to this new way of life. Just coming out of being in one place for the last 30 years, it has required a psychological adjustment that has been slowly evolving over this short period of time. It isn’t something that I can control or even foresee but it has been something that has happened naturally as I slowly allow the Lord to simply draw me closer to Him.

    Whenever I hear someone being defensive about how they worship or how others worship, that just tells me they are still grappling with the call. Once (after several years of discontent and 2 years of no fellowship)the Lord placed me in a setting meant for me, all the defenses and angst were gone. With all that I thought I was looking for, and knew was possible, it ended up not being like anything I could have imagined. The establishing of organic fellowship really is a birthing process. At least that has been my experience. Not knowing you and being new in this experience, I just found it rather miraculously unusual that you could describe it so perfectly.

    I have one comment regarding that phrase “going back and rebuilding like she once was”. The early church was a template of how the Holy Spirit wants to operate but not necessarily to be photocopied. The latter house shall be greater than the former! Just a thought, not a debating point for we all shall see eventually and so far it seems like the church is running right on schedule. Praise God!

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