the weblog of Alan Knox

The accidental organic/simple church

Posted by on Jun 28, 2013 in church life, community | 4 comments

The accidental organic/simple church

A few years ago, my family was part of a group of believers who decided to leave one church organization in order to form another church organization. That new church organization became “Messiah Baptist Church.” We were a typical Southern Baptist group, many of us with ties to a local Southern Baptist seminary.

A few things happened in those early days that influenced what happened in the coming years.

First, several of us were interested in ecclesiology (the study of the church). Second, almost all of us held a high view of Scripture and desired to compare everything that we believed and did to Scripture. Third, we did not have a place to meet throughout the week, so we rented a community center on Sunday and met in homes during week for Bible studies. Fourth, we decided to eat together regularly – every week at first, and then at least once per month. Finally, we were a small, poor group so we could not afford to pay someone to be our “pastor” and to preach every week.

Like most new church organization, we began with a set of bylaws, church membership covenant, and a leadership team (since we couldn’t afford to pay one person). We met on Sundays for a “worship service,” complete with a band and a sermon (with different people – primarily one of the chosen leaders – preaching each week). We had several home-based “Bible studies” since we could not do Sunday school in our Sunday meeting location. (By the way, these Bible studies became the medium through which we built very strong relationships with each other.)

As I said, we desired to compare everything that we believe and did according to Scripture, and over the next few years many, many things changed. The primary thing that changed is how we thought of ourselves and our relationships with God and with one another. Gradually, the focus on the organization faded, and relationships became much more important.

Of course, everyone did not appreciate these changes, and preferred “church as we know it” – as it’s been called. Interestingly, several of us remain connected with those who no longer meet with us because of those disagreement about the church… and we continue to serve them whenever we can.

Today, we continue to gather weekly. But, our gathering are much more interactive and teaching is primarily through discussion and dialog. We do not have a band or even a planned set of songs that we sing each week. We sing if someone has a song they would like to sing. We often gather in each other’s homes, at the park, at the beach, anywhere and for almost any reason. We share our lives with one another, and still easily welcome new people we meet.

As people move away from our area, we often find that we’re able to stay in contact with one another because of the relationships that we’ve built. (Of course, this doesn’t happen with everyone who moves away.)

In many ways, we still have aspects of traditional church organization, especially when we gather on Sunday mornings. On the other hand, we also have many aspects of simple/organic churches. (This is why I often say that we’re a “hybrid.”)

In fact, many people who prefer more organized church think that we’re not structured enough. People who prefer more simple/organic type church life often think that we’re too organized. (And, I like it that way… )

We did not set out to start an “organic church” or “simple church.” If you asked many of the people who we gather with regularly, they would probably not even know the phrases “organic church” or “simple church.”

Instead, we are simply a group of followers of Jesus Christ who are at a certain state in our life with God and our lives with one another and continue to seek to help one another group in maturity in Jesus Christ.

I would not recommend that other groups take that same journey that we take or seek to be at the same point we’re currently at. So, what do I recommend? Exactly what I said above: be a group of followers of Jesus Christ who are at a certain state in your life with God and your lives with one another and continue to seek to help one another group in maturity in Jesus Christ.


4 Comments

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  1. 6-28-2013

    I think that one of the things that defines communities of people is not so much meetings or gatherings but the overlapping of one another’s life flow patterns. People with whom we have a natural interaction with during the course of our lives (work, school, church, play, neighborhood, etc) are people in our community. Some , or all of us may similarly gather in meetings from time to time but even those gatherings may not be the complete group all at once. I may meet with Tom, Dick and Mary on one day and Tom, Harry, and Sue on another day but we may all be in relationship with each other.

    Alan speaks of relationships that persist even past the period/season of regular gathering together. I think this is critical for us to recognize. Groups do not have ‘eternal life’ but relationships can. Historically, we know that the early apostles were together for some period of time but began to each go in their own directions as the Spirit lead them. They did not remain the same consistent group. When they were together, the bond of Christ and the strength of their past relationship was a source of joy and fellowship.

    When I survey my relationships with fellow Christ followers over say, the past 10 or 15 years, I consider the ones that have endured. They are ones with whom I have an ongoing interaction with that goes beyond geography and meetings. Some know others within my sphere, some do not, yet when any of us gathers together, our sharing and interaction is often an opportunity to serve, bless, encourage one another. It’s not a formal process, we just do it. It’s what Christ followers just do!

    The form or structure of our time together will vary whether in my sphere or yours. There is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way. God is a God of infinite variety and to assume that how His people meet can only be ‘real’ if it falls within a certain understanding of ‘meeting together’ fails to take His creativity into account.

    God’s ways are different from ours. Nothing is accidental, but it is all marked by our love for Him and our love for one another. Ultimately, that is the identifier and common DNA— that you will know us by our love!

  2. 6-28-2013

    Alan – I never heard this full story, this is awesome! Thank you

    Heartspeak – your last 2 paragraphs were so stinking encouraging and true, Thank you! :) no right or wrong, eys! It doesn’t have to look or be done a certain way. God is so creative and He is sovereign. Thank you

  3. 6-28-2013

    YES! Just be as you are and be connected with one another in the Spirit of Christ, in His Love, with Him and for Him. It is simple, easy and your joy will be complete.

    Let those who prefer a different style of worshipping go on their way and pray for their blessings.

    God is omnipotence, He creates every person with typical features and characters; there is no duplicate personalities in the world. The creation is God’s masterpiece for His Love. Everyone of us are born for that purpose, so let us be humble and live our life to fulfil His Will.

    Praise the Lord who was, who is and will be forever and ever. His Spirit of Love is our Light and Life for eternity. Let’s be united with Him, for in Him we are ONE GLORIOUS BODY OF CHRIST.

  4. 6-29-2013

    I love your description of a “hybrid” church. I have gotten tired of hearing the rabid opponents of the institutional church go on at length about the evils of their past experience with a megachurch of some sort…where I am most gatherings would be classed as micro churches…and then hearing them go on about their new theology where the “living word” replaces any written word. What you describe has a gentler, more inclusive feel that I would probably enjoy.