November 15, 2012 by nathanodell
As someone who has been experiencing and enjoying Organic Church for some time now, I felt it would be good to finally put some words down. I am writing this series of blog posts for many reasons but primarily because I was inspired to do so by another blog I found (A Former Skeptic: Why I’m pro-Organic Church), which I deeply identified with. The term ‘Organic Church’ has been thrown around quite a lot and for this reason different people have different definitions as to what Organic Church means or looks like. The reactions I get from people when this topic comes up include confusion, intrigue and judgment. This does not surprise me since people are much quicker to judge and reject something they don’t know or is different to their experience. In this series I will define what I mean by “Organic Church” by describing what it is and what it is not. I also want to describe how I came to discover this form of Church and how it has had such an impact on me. The main reasons I am writing this series is as follows:
- To family and friends who are confused about the journey I am on. I hope this will answer some questions.
- To those who are on a similar journey to the one I walked, who are questioning whether or not organic church may be the way to do church, hopefully this can answer some questions and maybe encourage you. You are on a journey that may feel very lonely but you are most certainly not alone.
Brief History of my journey
Most of my life up until about a year ago, I had been part of an institutional church (mainstream denominational such as Baptist, Catholic, Anglican etc.). I grew up in this environment like many others and this formed my understanding of what the Church should look like. I had some great times and learnt a lot of things from being part of an institutional church for all these years. I was quite zealous for the Lord, which meant I got involved in many church programs such as youth leadership, young adult leadership and others. I also felt I always needed to be on the cutting edge of whatever I felt the Lord might be doing. This involved getting heavily invested in movements that emphasized things like prophecy, supernatural healing, gifts of the spirit, theology, evangelism, apologetics etc. which I later realized were ‘things’ that mostly distracted me from the person of Christ who is the reality of all these things (see Wisdom and Power). Because there are so many different streams and views between different institutional churches, many of these things I got into were opposed to the views of the church I belonged to. This caused much frustration in me because I always felt like it was my job to get people to believe the same as I believed, and I longed desperately for my church to embrace what I had embraced. After a long period of frustration and a chain of unfortunate meetings and events I decided to leave my church. In all honesty, if I had to do it again I would have done it VERY differently (see How (Not) to Leave a Church). The next few months were strange. I tried visiting a few other institutional churches but I always left feeling dissatisfied. The best way to describe this period of time for me was the wilderness experience of the Israelites (see Are you in the Wilderness?). In the wilderness you need to unlearn the things of your previous world. It’s tempting to go back to the former way of life but you must learn to rely on the Christ as your source (mana and rock). You are also on a journey with no clear path or direction. My experience was that I had to unlearn many things I held dear.. I needed to strip down to Christ and Him alone.
While this was happening I was asking myself many questions about church. I was asking if the modern day church was the church Christ died to obtain and Paul died to plant and establish. I wondered why we did church the way we did? Why we have a pastor, Sunday service, offering, pews, ten minutes of singing followed by an hour long sermon delivered by the same person each and every week? Where did this all come from? Is there something more? During this wilderness time I started meeting with a brother who was a bit further along the journey than I was. He had also left the institutional church but for other reasons. Through him I got some books by an author named Frank Viola. One of the books was called Pagan Christianity?, which traced all the modern day church practices to pagan origins. From the sermon, pastor, worship team, pews, liturgy and on and on. Not only this, but each and every fact was researched and cited. This was not just some random person venting his ideas about church, but actual church history. I was literally dumbstruck. I felt physically dazed because all my ideas of church were dismantled and crushed. Whats more, I had no backup plan. If the church as I knew it wasn’t biblical then where was I to go and what was I to do?
Thankfully, the same author had written a follow up book called Reimagining Church, which constructed an idea and vision of church based on what Paul and the early church lived and died for. Church started to make sense in the context of the biblical narrative, which excited me. My anti-church ideas were soon replaced with a deep desire to experience authentic church life. This lead me on the next part of my journey, which was to find believers who were meeting and living as an organic expression of church. After visiting many different groups that meet outside of the institutional church I quickly realized that it wasn’t quite as I had hoped. Many of the groups were house churches, which are basically miniature institutional churches that meet in a home. A home church is not the same as an organic expression of church (see House Church vs. Organic Church). Basically, after much searching, learning and even frustration, myself and a handful of others on this journey started to live and meet as an organic expression of church. So far we haven’t looked back… That has been a summary of my journey up until this point and sets the stage for part 2. Part 2 will describe what an Organic expression of Church ACTUALLY looks like and the reasons why I am pro-Organic.