December 30, 2012 by nathanodell
In part I I described my journey into finding out about organic church to the point of starting to live it out with other believers. However, I did not give a definition of what an organic church is, looks like and how it functions. This post will try to answer some of these questions and hopefully you will be able to see why I am pro-organic Church.
What is Organic Church?
The term “Organic Church” is often thrown around these days and is generally used or understood as a synonym for “House/Home Church”. The phrase has been molded to mean different things to different people. It is therefore important for me to define what I mean by the term “Organic Church”. Simply meeting in a home/house does not make a church an organic church. The building or meeting place is not the crux by any means.
An Organic Church is simply a group of believers learning to live by Divine Life together in a close knit community. The members are learning to live by the indwelling Christ and Him alone. This expression of Church is “Organic” because it is based on Life and life is organic in nature. Thus, the church is more like organism rather than an organisation. The central focus in the group is Christ and Him alone since He is Life. The group has a deep love for Christ and is focused on knowing and experiencing His infinite riches. By doing so the group expresses Christ to the world because He is living His life through them.
These characteristics are what defined the early church. The early church was known as the ekklesia (the assembly) because they assembled together around this purpose. Just because people meet in a home does not make them an Organic expression of Church. Many house churches still have institutional structures and topical things they focus on such as doctrines, bible study, eschatology etc. or meet based on common interests such as business, home-schooling etc. In my experience of these groups, they have little to no concept of how to live by the indwelling life of Christ as a group. Few know what it means and entails to pursue Christ with one another.
Thankfully many christians outside of the institutional church are starting to see that the ekklesia is all about Christ, discovering and displaying Him with one another and that the driving passion is God’s eternal purpose and desire, which is not based around our own human needs. (see http://www.frometernitytohere.org/ for a book written about God’s eternal purpose. It is in my top 3 most important books I have ever read! Also a MUST listen message about God’s eternal purpose in a podcast by the author: http://ptmin.podbean.com/2010/08/04/the-eternal-purpose/)
What does it look like?
This section is taken from a post by Frank Viola, which I feel has described organic church very well.
T. Austin-Sparks is the man who deserves credit for term Organic Church. 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.
Put another way, organic church life is the “experience” of the Body of Christ. In its purest form, it’s the fellowship of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings.
To use an illustration, if I try to create an orange in a laboratory by employing human ingenuity and organizational skills, the lab-created orange would not be organic. But if I plant an orange seed into the ground and it produces an orange tree, the tree is organic.
In the same way, whenever we sin-scarred mortals try to create a church the same way we would start a business corporation, we are defying the organic principle of church life. An organic church is one that is naturally produced when a group of people have encountered Jesus Christ in reality (external ecclesiastical props being unnecessary) and the DNA of the church is free to work without hindrance. In short, “organic church” describes a kind of church life that embodies the biblical teaching that the church is a spiritual organism and not an institutional organization.
To put it in sentence, organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle-a spontaneous journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples in close-knit community. Describing what an organic church looks like is like describing what a plant or human looks like. They all have a basic DNA, which allows them to function and express life but may look slightly different on the outside. The life and DNA of an organic expression of church is Christ Himself.
I hope you as a reader now have an idea and picture for what an organic expression of church looks like. Since I have started being part of an organic expression of church, it has been one of the most exciting experiences I have had and in part 3 I will share some of my personal experiences and other stories of what can occur in an organic church meeting and general organic church life.