I am aware that the majority of the church world is in La-La Land and that this article is going to be understood by a very small portion of the Christian population. There is still a need to caution God’s people. I believe every true believer whether they know it or not is in search of organic church life. At the same time, sadly avoiding organic church institutionalism is no easy thing. Nonetheless, I salute all my brothers and sisters who have bravely begun this journey of daily living out the Life of Christ, or as some have called, it organic church life.
I plead with you to remain humble as Holy Spirit marks out the path before us. As much as we think this walk will just take a few adjustments it will require a complete restart from the ground up, for as the bible says in Josh 3:4 “you have not passed this way before.” Like Israel the promised land (Christ-likeness) is still before us but we can’t get there following the religious system.
Let’s put down some definitions before we proceed further. Frank Viola has done a great job of following T Austin Sparks the originator of the word organic as it relates to the church here is what he says.
T. Austin-Sparks is the man who deserves credit for this term. Here’s his definition:
God’s way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be a vegetable, animal, human or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.
The phrase, “the organic expression of the church” was a favorite of Sparks’. I’ve yet to find a better phrase to improve upon it.
By “organic church,” I mean a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering.
Let me address another issue from the start. Many would label the statements I am going to share as post-church. If the definition is that I believe Organic Church Life happens wherever and whenever two or three are gathered in His Name I am guilty. If you don’t understand what I mean there is no qualification to numbers of people to have Christ present. If the definition means I have given up on the church or I do not feel that church is relevant anymore I say not guilty. Never have I loved the Lords Ekklesia (His People) more. Never have I felt that the real church of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only one that has the answers for this hurting and confused generation. I believe that His Body is Christ on earth. So as you can see this post-church label will not work with me.
Now let’s look at some principles that will help us avoid returning to an upgraded mess;
1. Maintain the Headship of Christ don’t return to Human Leadership- Perhaps of all the principles I will cover this by far is the hardest one to learn. We know if Christ really leads mighty things will happen not just in the meeting but in the lives of God’s people. Most Western Christians cannot meditate and maintain silence well so many times we forge ahead without Him. Hearing God and flowing with Holy Spirit is not an exercise for our meetings it is an exercise for our Life. The Lord is Faithful and He will meet us. He wants to lead us as a good father wants to lead His children. We must be totally convinced of this fact if we are ever to really experience Organic Church life.
2. The Ekklesia is an Organic People not an Organic Process- I will not return to Religion (Latin re- tied as in bondage) of the system who forgets the church is people. We don’t fit the people to a process but the process is birthed from the love of Christ being expressed among and through God’s people. You don’t need to read how to do Organic Church books you need to ask the Father to teach you how to love Him and His people or as T Austin Sparks says live an “organic expression of Church.” You don’t want to be another loveless organic church expert. When people are around you they should smell His fragrance and they should feel His love. Terms like New Covenant Life/New Creation Life/Organic Church Life are all the same to me. As you can see I don’t separate my sonship and my life from my Church Life. I am not a chameleon, I am a son in a family, with brothers and sisters who I love daily. If there is a difference in your behavior during the week towards that family and how you act towards them in a meeting you are a “relationship poser” and just another Sunday morning entertainer.
3. Seek His Life not Meetings- There is a difference between the “Organic Expression of the Church” as T. Austin Sparks defines it and Organic Church as we use it today. As long as the meeting is the key event we will always have the cart before the horse.
I know Organic leaders who actually teach “How to do a Good Organic Meeting.” Can you see Paul risking his life and traveling halfway around the world teaching such things? God help us! Hear me people God is Love and if His Life is flowing love will be growing! The church is strengthened when people are strengthened not when meetings are conducted to specifications. No matter whose specifications they are. God is still a Creative God. He didn’t stop creating after seven days. I have found that not only are no two meetings the same but what works in America doesn’t necessarily work overseas. It really does return to the simple statement that Christianity is really about “being” not “doing.”
4. Follow the Holy Spirit not Plans- As a constant student and leader I am always investigating behind the scenes. I have been invited to many organic meetings and seen things that were planned before the meeting began. When I inquire of the leaders they tell me that it helps to “prime the pump.” Wow! God needs human help to do those things He wants to do among us! News to me! Here is what T. Austin Sparks says concerning Organic Church life;
This Life expresses itself according to its own laws, as life does in every part of the organic creation. It follows its own lines. That part of the creation follows the laws of the life which it possesses, and this is the Life of the Spirit, and you have not to organize or systematize this. Immediately you begin to do it, you bring death in. It is as fatal to try and make a New Testament church after the New Testament pattern as it is to have no pattern at all! It can be deathly to do that. The thing happens if the (Holy Spirit) Life has its way. T. Austin Sparks
What part of don’t touch it do we not understand? Do we really trust God? Do we really believe He will minister to His people? Then, leave it alone! There is always a “thread” being sown together by the Father and we just need to flow with Holy Spirit. It is just foolish to believe that it only turns on and off during our meetings. Our job is simply to facilitate the removal of all hindrances to this free reign of Holy Spirit and even this is done under His direction.
5. Find Safety in Plurality of Seasoned Elders- There is no New Testament backing for “one man” oversight in His Kingdom. There are many traps and temptations that await any one person who would try to lead God’s people by themselves. It takes a seasoned group of leaders (elders) that can hear Holy Spirit well. These “mature sons” don’t just learn to work together in meetings but in every opportunity they have to come together during the week. A plurality of Elders is better suited when things like the weight of leadership (the people are counting on us) or (need for a good meeting to affirm and authenticate my calling) pushes on us. We do it because we say we want to make sure all get blessed. Like if somehow we can really do that without the Lord! Listen my brothers if the people look to you refuse to take His place. It is such a joy now to lead without leading and direct without controlling!
6. Work on Relationships Outside of the Meetings- Relationships are birthed and maintained outside of the meeting. To put the weight of relationship building on the meeting is to remove the focus from Christ. What is the difference between a fake God Bless You in the institution and a fake Hug in the organic meeting? If at the end of the meeting everyone goes their separate ways and our relating ends until the next meeting there is absolutely no difference to what we left! If we take the same love (organic expression) we express daily for each other into our meetings Papa God will continue to manifest His power (exponential love) when we meet corporately.
7. Organic Church Life is not just about Freedom of Expression during meetings but more about learning to Love the Brethren at all times. You can put everyone in a circle and make each one share when it comes around to them and have a dry, dead meeting. So now your form is not institutional but heart still is. New Testament believers did not meet to do organic but to be Agape corporately. Here is one of the main problems;
For some reason we have also taken this verse out of context and made it the foundation for Organic Church.
1 Cor 14:26 How is it then, brethren? Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. NKJV
Putting aside NKJV notes, “Order in Church Meetings,” and looking at the context this is not a plea for egalitarian democratic participation but the Holy Spirit through Paul is asking the question. Why does everyone have to put their two cents in? It is also a cry for all things to be done for the edification of the Body. The Greek word translated “How” should have been better translated “Why.” Why is participation being given more attention than edification?
So why all the emphasis on what happens in the meeting versus what happens as we live life together? Here is a question, “How many believers need to be together before Christ is among us?” What we are saying without saying it is that God needs a quorum before He graces us with His manifest presence.
On the other hand love edifies! That is why if love rules, His people will be edified. Nothing we do as God’s creation is once a week, so how can we love once a week? I have learned that all organic forms and processes flow from His love for one another. The Church in America has been taught bible for centuries, and today it has little or no effect on the culture. What if we had learned to love each other and become an example to the world? Things would be very different today.
So dive in without fear to the Christ life you have been waiting for, and I pray that with the Holy Spirit’s help you will reject any form that returns you to what Christ called you OUT of.
Jose is considered a resource and a spiritual father to many leaders in the city and in the 70 nations where the Lord has sent him to serve.
Originally born in Cuba, Jose has resided in Jacksonville since 1966.