Monday, September 21, 2015

Organic church easy to start but hard to find

                                                               "Nothing yet, sir."

Cringeworthy criticisms and shoot-from-the-hip speculations aside, it's amazing what you can find if you take the time to peruse the collective wisdom from the comments section of a thoughtful article.

In this case, I found a few nuggets of wisdom on a 2012 blog post questioning if organic house church is, by and large, a myth. After two years of back-and-forth in the comments, the author became perturbed by the exchange (please, I've had Facebook comment wars longer than this!) but props to him for keeping the dialogue intact. Below are some highlights that I think summarize the "searching for house church" experience better than most published items I've read.

To ask where you can find a list of organic churches is almost like asking where you can find a list of friends you have not yet met. To become friends, you have to meet someone or invite someone first. --Sjur Jansen, Norway 
I think the problem comes in when we try to replace one church model with another church model, without addressing the more important question of community. If we have a community of believers living their lives with one another, the church will happen fairly naturally. if we try to substitute a model of church, even one with lots of Biblical support, for community it is bound to fail. --Arthur Sido, Indiana
The next gem I found is a long one by no other than Frank Viola, the author of the seminal organic church call to arms, "Pagan Christianity? Exploring the Roots of our Church Practices." I'll cite a few pertinent thoughts below.
[W]hat I describe as “authentic organic church” certainly exists, but it’s difficult to find in our day. 
For example, my coworkers and I presently work with almost a dozen groups. We aren’t trying to build a movement ... Paul of Tarsus planted less than 15 organic expressions of the church in his entire lifetime. [...] 
[I]t’s not so easy to find the kind of expression of church life that I’ve experienced and have described in my books. They certianly exist ... but what my coworkers and I are involved in at least isn’t a “movement” by any means. And I’ve never portryaed it to be such. 
[The following text apperared a follow-up comment] ... I don’t believe nor expect that organic church life would be more prevalent today in America than it was in the first century. When one understands the profound cost involved, it’s not easily digestible for most Americans. 
It was even difficult for people in the first-century. Most of the epistles, for instance, are letters written by apostles to churches in crisis. That narrative makes up most of our New Testament, interestingly enough. The traditional form of church is much easier and much safer. And it fits into our American lifestyles. 
I evaluate Paul’s ministry of church planting and its relationship to planting organic churches today based on my 20+ years of experience in the trenches in the book, “Finding Organic Church.” In it, I contextualize the ministry of the apostles for today and draw lessons I’ve learned from observing and experiencing organic church life throughout the years. Right or wrong, it articulates how things look from my perspective based on the New Testament saga and what I’ve learned from the organic churches I’ve been a part of or have related to over the years. [...] 
Many of the people I know have relocated to be part of organic church life, because it’s not on every street corner (again, we’re talking about “organic church” the way I’ve depicted it. Today, the term has become a “clay word.”) ...
... *many* of “house church” people aren’t online. They are, in a sense, off the radar. ...
In short, I can identify with your ache for community as it’s what drove me as a young man to take this journey myself. I’m convinced that this ache is from the Lord, and He will be faithful to direct us based upon it, though it may cost us something in the end. The wilderness is God’s sifting ground, so I’ve discovered. And many of God’s people are in it. But He is faithful.

Check out some of Frank's books here.

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