Reflecting on three years in organic church life

Sometimes it’s good to look back down-we’ve come so far, we’ve gained such ground…” (Petra, Road to Zion)

Right now my journey through life has led me to one of those in-between places where just about everything is up in the air. I find myself waiting on the Lord for a number of things, the main one being which direction now to take with the church life. You may recall me referring many times in the past to the gathering of which I was, until recently, a part. Imagine me saying that word “was” while breathing a heavy sigh of disappointment. Time and circumstance have led to the dissolution of our little assembly, mainly because the majority of those once gathering have now moved away to another town.

Our meeting began almost four years ago when another couple-friends of ours from college-moved down from Wisconsin. Their sole purpose in coming was to pursue fellowship with the Lord together. We had high expectations back in those days that the church life would just explode overnight as soon as we began to assemble. Boy, were we wrong! For nearly two years it was just the four of us coming together, being joined from time to time only by my parents. We did receive quite a few visits from many friends and family from out of town, but on the local level we found it nearly impossible to stir any interest.

Then at last, about two years ago, we were joined by another couple. From then on we began to make contact with other saints, some who would stop by for an occasional visit and others who would meet regularly with us for a time but then stop coming around for whatever reason. We also ran across another group of brothers who had been meeting for prayer and fellowship on their own for quite some time, and for a while we tried to blend the two gatherings together, criss-crossing each other’s meetings in the process (although many positive relationships came out of this venture, the merger itself did not work out). Then just over a year ago my brother-in-law and his family moved down from Canada, and in the past year we established contact and enjoyed fellowship with a number of churches all across the state of Ohio and beyond. Heck, we even came to the point of receiving regular visits from a brother whose function is akin to what many in the organic church world would call a “church planter” or “worker.” For a while it seemed we had all the elements in place.

Alas, however, in our case the old adage came to pass that “all good things must come to an end.” One couple moved, then another, and others who were meeting with us decided to pursue other courses, and now there is nothing in the way of a visible gathering left to show. Cue the sad music. Not really. 🙂

Anyway, I share this bit of history with you in order to show what I mean by saying that my family and I are in a time of transition. Also, I wish to set the stage for some future posts in which I will share a little of my own experience from the past three years of living in a local, organic church life. Albeit small, the journey I took with these brothers and sisters was nonetheless real, and perhaps some reflection on the way will not only do me some good but you as well.

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About Joshua

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

21 responses to “Reflecting on three years in organic church life

  • Jim Brown

    Hi Josh, I read with a sense of sadness the dissolution of the work there. Reading one of Nee’s book he mentioned the difference between a work and a church, indeed it is a progressive process and I’m sure you know what I mean. About 6 years ago it happened the same way with us here in Dahlonega, GA. and I went through a season of seeking the Lord in these matters concerning His church after we disbanded. It’s not easy to give an answer to this kind of dilemma having been through this. Forgive me if I appear to be doing that but don’t give up brother, God wants to build a testimony of His Son in your City an expression of the corporate Christ. As we here have been going through Paul’s letter to the Ephesians it seems the Lord has been emphasizing the eternal purpose, but as great a letter as it is and we often think that these people were mature saints to receive such a letter, I wonder if that is not the very foundational truth he first imparted among young churches he planted.

    We have a tendency to go to Romans or Galatians which is pretty much man centered and deals with the recovery of man’s relationship with God. But Eph. & Col. proceed from God’s plan of the ages even before the sin entered the picture. If then the letter to the Ephesians is foundational teachings from Paul, then to see this as a genuine revelation by the Spirit it will be a point of unity, that is, to see Christ, God’s fullness in His Son and to see the church which is the fullness of God corporately will indeed build a unity that nothing else can because it is a corporate expression of His Son which every member of that body has an intricate part. The problem arises when He actually begins building His church through the chiseling and anvil of making the stones of the building fit together tightly. Friction happens and unless we have this vision of fulfilling His purpose pulsating with each one of us we will all have a tendency to run and protect our flesh and self-centered life.

    Sometimes we have to come to a a place where we give up and that is usually when the Lord is able to do something way beyond our idea of “How to.” I do want you to know though, your writings have strengthened the church here in Dahlonega. We will be praying The Lord will do what is necessary to put His Name there among you.

    Jim

  • John Wilson

    thanks brother for sharing, look forward to your future posts, :).

  • Josh

    Thanks so much for the encouragement, Jim. I just got off the phone with George (your neighbor), and I hope to meet you brothers sometime in the not-too-distant future, whether here or there.

  • Josh

    John,

    Thanks bro. Hope they are a blessing to you.

  • Duane Czaicki

    You are not alone Cheryl and I are in a transition also we are probably moving to Appleton WI. We don’t know any people there but we are hoping the we will find true church life. You and your family are in our prayers and mabe someday your family,the Werhiems and our family can find the church together.

  • J kreider

    Just because there’s no sign of like minded just because there may be no sign of like-minded saints near you currently, doesn’t mean your season has ended – just changed; you’re still a part of something bigger than yourselves. For a while it was visible to your physical eye. Don’t look at it as a closing book, just a chapter, or even a preface 😉 you guys could always join us and the two
    “Mennonite” families in pa 🙂

  • J kreider

    Sorry for double typing- on a phone right now 😉

  • Josh

    Janae,

    Thanks. There’s been a deep sense among us that the way things are going right now is necessary and good for everyone involved. Just like you said, a change of season. If the church truly is the “planting of the Lord,” then like any living thing it will often have to undergo a kind of death in order for life to re-create itself in new and fresher forms, and I trust that is what is taking place with our fellowship now.

    Thanks for the invite, too. 🙂

  • Steve Hill

    It would be my observation that all groups focused simply on gathering as believers to be the church will fail if they do not have an intentional, sacrificial commitment to serve some portion of their world that does not know Jesus. Jesus came to seek and to save that which was lost. He leave the 99 safe ones to go for the one who is lost. IF we want to walk with Jesus we have to follow Him as He goes.

  • Josh

    Good observation, Steve, and thanks for the comment. I agree we must be occupied with all that is on the Lord’s heart. I’m not sure I would go so far as to list evangelism as a failsafe to the longevity of a church, though, which is probably not what you’re saying either. The members of the gathering I was part of certainly had an active concern for those on the “outside,” and yet things still came to an end. But at the same time there were probably seasons where we were a bit too ingrown in our focus as well, which, as you say, is not healthy for any group of people.

  • Alan Knox

    Josh,

    I finally had time to read your post, but I haven’t read all the comments yet. I don’t know if this has been said yet, but, while transitions are not easy, I think they should always been seen as learning and growing experiences. I do not see transitions – even the kind you are experiencing – as bad things. Think of all the ways you and others have grown through your time together, and realize that God is bringing new people into your life – people that he will use to help you and people that he will use you to help as well.

    -Alan

  • Josh

    Alan,

    Thanks. My thoughts exactly. 🙂

  • Yo

    Josh, I finally got a chance to read this. I know, I’m a little slow, but you’re used to that.
    Our two years of fellowship with the Church in Portsmouth have been the most spiritually productive time of my life. I was, at first, a little disappointed too, but I also have a sense of hope and anticipation as we wait on the Lord during this time. I’m looking forward to seeing something new and wonderful develop after our time of waiting and seeking the Lord. We just need to wait on Him and follow Him until He leads us.

  • Josh

    Well said, Yo. Thanks for commenting. Let’s get together after the holidays are over, we’re looking forward to seeing you guys again.

  • sybiljean

    THANK YOU JOSH FOR SHARING SOME OF YOUR HEART. (THERE IS MUCH MORE PAIN TO THIS STORY I AM SURE.) FOR ONE WHO IS STILL “IN THE WILDERNESS”/ALONE, AS FRANK VIOLA SAYS; I FIND IT SAD AND SOMEWHAT DISCOURAGING : (
    BUT THAT SWEET FELLOWSHIP WITH THE TRIUNE GOD NEVER DIMINISHES DOES IT? PRAISE THEM FOREVER.
    I’LL BE WAITING TO HEAR MORE ABOUT THIS TRANSITION. (THERE SHOULD BE A SYMBOL WE COULD USE FOR “THUMBS UP” ; )

  • zacharymarko

    It sounds like there is nothing to worry about. What is ‘organic’ ought to have some ebb and flow…so perhaps this ought rather to be expected, and there is much to be gained from all that is learned and experienced. The only things to be disappointed in such cases are expectations, and the expectations, not your vision or longings for fellowship, are what will be evaluated in context.

  • Josh

    Duane,

    Thanks bro! I do not doubt that would be an awesome experience. Sarah and I pray all the best for you guys with your new move.

  • Josh

    Sybil,

    I appreciate the thumbs-up. 🙂 We go through many seasons in life, but the Lord is good all throughout, and His fellowship is sweet. He is a Land of many hills and valleys, that much I know. To know Him well we must traverse the low points as well as the high peaks.

  • Josh

    Zach,

    Thank you for the comment, sir. I appreciate your thoughts on this, and I agree. It probably is a healthy thing to have my expectations laid low from time to time. Whether I like it or not. 🙂

  • Church transplanting 101 « Called to Rebuild

    […] Previously I shared a little of the history of the gathering I was part of for the last three years or so. Part of that history included some friends of ours actually moving to our town from other places in order to pursue the Lord together. […]

  • Church transplanting 101 << Called to Rebuild « Rough-Hewn Blog

    […] Previously I shared a little of the history of the gathering I was part of for the last three years or so. Part of that history included some friends of ours actually moving to our town from other places in order to pursue the Lord together. […]

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