the weblog of Alan Knox

Where are the organic/simple church people hiding?

Posted by on Jun 27, 2013 in blog links, church life, community | 41 comments

Where are the organic/simple church people hiding?

Last year, two of my most read posts were “People want real examples of organic church life” and “Why is it so difficult to find organic church life?

In those posts, I talked about how people are tired of theory and simply talking about organic/simple church. But, when they look for real, living examples of these groups of Christians, they often can’t find them. There are many reasons for that, beginning with the fact that most groups are not incorporated, they don’t advertise/market, they don’t have a big, flashing sign with a cute saying, etc.

So, if someone wants to meet others who are interested in this different kind of “church life,” what should they do?

Now, Nathan at “Joined to Him” has written a very good post called “7 Tips on How To Find Organic Church Life.”

After a brief introduction, he offers these seven tips:

1. Pray, pray, and pray some more.

2. Join Facebook Groups dedicated to Organic Church Networking.

3. Follow up on potential leads.

4. Start a blog and talk about your journey and desire for organic church community.

5. Start small and trust the Lord.

6. Move to a new location.

7. Lower your expectations.

(Please take the time to read Nathan’s post. He explains and gives examples for each of his seven tips.)

What do you think about Nathan’s tips? What would you add, remove, or modify?


41 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 6-27-2013

    Alan, you know this has been a sore topic with me for years. The organic church always seems to be (as it’s leaders convey) where I am not. Just got another email from a leader saying how Columbus, Ohio, is booming for organic church, but no explanation why the Cincinnati area is so dead.

    The problem with moving to hotspots (#6) above is jobs, not to mention that what is hot today is frozen stiff tomorrow. I mean, the failure rate of these churches is crazy. Heck, Frank Viola wrote me an email and said he’s not even involved in the whole movement anymore after trumpeting it as the only solution.

    You start to wonder if you’re going nuts when you hear things like that.

  2. 6-27-2013

    I will add this: The house church listing sites are 80% filled with churches that no longer exist. In short, I found them to be a waste of time. Whoever is overseeing this whole thing is not doing a good job keeping the info current.

    And then there are the leaders who don’t want the churches publicized at all, as if they will be infiltrated by spies and brought down. Weird.

  3. 6-27-2013

    Love #5

  4. 6-27-2013

    I think truly organic expressions will only be found by those living in those communities. Many of these have no web-sites, leadership structures or advertising, just flowing with the contours of the land they are living and working in. Anything that moves beyond this ceases to be truly organic. So my conclusion is, they are not meant to be found by anyone other than those that relate into.

  5. 6-27-2013

    I’m beginning to really believe that the Lord doesn’t want me to keep looking for people who desire organic church…. but to just keep my heart open to all and see what the Lord will do.

    Am I willing to just share my life with others – and build very close relationships with people who love Jesus but don’t know or care about ‘organic church life’ (yet). That’s who He has put closest in my life and that is what He is asking of me. Like I ask Alan all the time — are we the Church if I’m the only one knows we are? Are we still building each other up in Christ if nobody but me would describe what we are doing as mutual edification and the building up of His Church? :)

    I truly feel we are building each other up in Christ…these sisters I journey with… but they don’t realize what we are doing is “Church”.

    I realize looking back that this has been a great great thing for me…. because I can’t get into rants, negative feelings about the traditional way of doing things. It truly has stripped us down to just… Jesus. and each other. COOOOOOOOOOOOOL!!!!!

  6. 6-27-2013

    I have not read Nathan’s post yet. Personally I think there is a good reason that finding an organic church is not that easy. It certainly appears, from the world situation, that even here in America, Christians are looking down the nose at greater persecution. I think God is teaching His people to be wise and even how to live “underground” as the church must do in other countries, and has done for centuries and thrived without too much flag waving.

    My own personal experience after leaving institutional church, was a long wait. God took His time sweeping out the cobwebs, and creating a longing that could take me past the irritations and imperfections that I would encounter in organic church and be able to be renewed in all aspects of committed fellowship. I had a few friends, spread out over the world with whom I could share online, telephone and letters. Eventually God provided a couple, and I attended their church with them (a denomination that I have little agreement with bottom line wise) where I was blessed, but the actual fellowship and “practice” of organic church was: having a meal with them after the service and sharing our experiences and the Lord for another hour or two, and studying Russian together. Eventually, several others in my locale with whom I also shared a longing for organic church (which was my first experience in the Lord in a mountainous rural area in the early 70’s). I then read Pagan Christianity, which was confirming and liberating; began to find blogs online and and within a few months we were meeting together and finding that our needs were being met gloriously and attending the other churches we did fell off. The original couple I connected with did not become part of our home church, their life was very entwined with others in the institutional church, but we all love and enjoy them at other times.

    There have been a few times when others have wanted to “join” us regularly but we have instead offered to help them gather in their own home with others as we are full, space wise (5 families, a few singles and about 10-12 kids). Remember that He said that “where two or more are gathered…”. If there is one person you feel a kinship with spiritually, try meeting regularly somewhere or in different places and entering into shared concerns and prayer and sharing. It is much better in my opinion and experience to believe God to form a small group out of the one or two that can agree together, than to look for another group to join…that way the DNA of the church can have its own peculiar uniqueness that fits, the locale, the culture, the people.

  7. 6-27-2013

    Quite apart from people looking for a local expression of organic church, there something simple that those of us already involved can do.

    Every single one of us could keep a list of other people we know. Then, when asked do you know anyone in area x we could say ‘No, but I know someone closer to that place than me, go and ask them’.

    We tend to know more people close to us than far away. So every step closer is a step towards a person who is likely to know more.

    It doesn’t need to be a digital list or even a paper list. It could just be a list you carry in your head. This sort of network has many advantages.

    – It’s not centralised, but distributed
    – Nobody has to keep it up-to-date
    – It’s organic :-)
    – It’s robust and degrades gracefully
    – Anyone can contribute to it now or at any time – just make your list!

    Everone knows somebody, even if not personally. For example, someone stumbles on Alan’s blog and asks him, ‘Do you know anyone in Edinburgh, Scotland?’

    Alan might say, ‘No, but I do know of Chris in England, why not ask him?’

    They ask me the same question and I might say, ‘No, but I know someone in Nottingham which is closer, why not ask him’.

    This should work. Has anyone tried it?

    Also, I support the idea of not being too picky. If you don’t find what you are looking for check out the thing you do find even if it seems less than ideal. Help that to grow, help to guide it in good directions, bless it by your presence.

  8. 6-27-2013

    Thanks Alan for sharing my post with your readers. I just want to say that this list is not meant to be comprehensive or seen as ‘the way’ to find organic church life, but rather a few things that have worked for me and others I know.

    I knew some would take issue with moving… and that’s why I would say it is almost a last resort. Kind of like looking high and low for a job in your current city, only to realize there are none available. The only other job is available in another city. Most people are willing to move in these situations, and if you read my blog post you will see this through the example I gave. Jobs are can also be fickle, they come and go, and may cause us to move around a bit, so I don’t see why that should be an issue.

    @Chris… your suggestion is great. That is currently how I operate and I have managed to connect people with organic churches. This is why I encouraged new comers to follow up on every lead they could find.

    I agree that some of the organic church listings are not that great… but you never know what you might find or who you might meet through them.

    One of my fascinations and questions I always ask people is how they came into organic church life… the stories I hear are always amazing and fascinating just like Rita’s. I’d love to hear more, if people here are willing to share :)

  9. 6-27-2013

    @Rita I agree that it’s mostly about wait wait wait…. and wait some more. At least that’s what has been my experience these past 5 years. Detox a lot. wait some more. Get fed up and then start waiting again cuz if you’re fed up you haven’t waited long enough. and while you’re at it – wait. especially you there Randi because you’re so much in a rush for everything always and so passionate – you need to be reined it…a lot!

    I was so encouraged by Finding Organic Church by Viola recently. I realized that I’m just in the tilling the soil, initiation phase and I can be a Priscilla. Just bringing people together… getting the soil ready for a Church to be birthed. That was so very freeing to me. And helped me SLOW DOWN. and LET GO of expectations.

    I am recognizing more and more that whatever the calling is for my life that I feel like I am headed toward…. which I don’t know what it is….. that the preparation for it will be found in the cross of daily, close, painfully open relationships… and I don’t have to wait for that.

    I see more than ever I’m in a preparation & detox stage…. still.

    I believe the Lord is asking me to surrender my dreams (again), and stop worshipping how He might use me… and instead start worshipping Him by receiving exactly where I am and who I am with right now.

  10. 6-27-2013

    P.S. I am so thankful the Lord didn’t bring us into fellowship with many others right away… like I have lusted after.

    I see that I would probably would have done much damage.

    I probably would have
    a) worshipped the community
    b) lead everybody into bitterness about the way things are in the church as business.
    c) burned everybody out around me with the pace I was going in my own journey… and forced them into things they weren’t ready for yet…
    d) would have caused a dependency of me and set myself up as a leader which I clearly DO NOT WANT… and that would have happened simply because of how fired up I was and passionate and how I wasn’t yet ready to lay down my personal ambitions and desires and all for the daily cross of the building up with others.

    It’s amazing how even GOOD things can damage us and others. We can’t sacrifice God’s plan for us and all the great thing God has in store future… because we lust after something GOOD of His NOW.

  11. 6-27-2013

    DLE said:

    “I mean, the failure rate of these churches is crazy.”

    You mean like Israel in the Wilderness? What would Noah say about failure rates? I guess it’s all in how you define “failure” and “success”.

    “Heck, Frank Viola wrote me an email and said he’s not even involved in the whole movement anymore after trumpeting it as the only solution.”

    I guess I’m glad Frank isn’t the head. Otherwise, I’d be all stressed out that I have never published a book, collaborated with Barna, donated my book sales to the poor or started a blog – so I could be like Frank. His writings were helpful to me for a season. I actually think it is good he is not in the “organic/simple church” limelight. So many clamored for “how are we supposed to do it then”? A dangerous place to put a man.

    I find the revolving door of “members” to be pretty much like institutional meetings. Many people build on the wrong foundation: Common likes/dislikes, interests, “movements”, doctrine, standards/rules/dress code, potential mates for children. Once offended (and it will happen), is there willingness to reason the scriptures together for a solution, follow the instruction? If that has not yet become part of their life, then moving on to the next of the 31 flavors is what they already know. If they are looking for a man to fulfill their desires, they have already failed. That part has to change first.

    Be still and know that I am God: I will be exalted among the heathen, I will be exalted in the earth. The LORD of hosts is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge. He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

  12. 6-27-2013

    I really agree & relate to what Eric has written.

    I believe that is what the Lord has been doing in our hearts/home… making sure we are desiring organic Church life… not because it’s the next thing or because we are worshipping the community/church itself…. not because we want to be part of a movement… not even just to fulfill our desire to be around like minded people who believe what we believe.

    I see now that by looking for people who understood organic Church as I did… I was doing the same thing I was trying to get away from. Which is creating denominations, separations.

    We (me) were waving a flag like okay all people who do NOT desire the Sunday only Church scene anymore – all those who have the vision for organic CHurch life – we want YOU! Okay so it wasn’t exactly like that.. but that was sort of the underlining message/motive for a while.

    I am thankful God is so good and trustworthy as we seek Him and ask Him to lead… He will lead us! and not let us get too off track. because if it was up to me and all the plans and rush I’ve had with our relationship with His Church… we would be a mes mess mess mess MESS and have caused a lot of damage.

    He will mold us and make sure we are on the right foundation of Jesus Christ alone. I think all this waiting and not giving us what WE want when WE want it – is His beautiful plan!!!

    I think He has put people in our lives purposely who don’t have exactly the same vision yet….. to stretch us to be united in Jesus alone. My closest sisters I journey with are all part of the institution but it never even comes up in conversation. We truly build each other up in Christ and share life together.

    Our church family who DOES desire organic Church – we don’t get to meet with often – only once a week —- and I really do know and believe that is also from the Lord.

    He is so trustworthy to know what our hang ups will be… and how He can protect us from ourselves.

    I really really am enjoying Frank Viola’s new books – especially his newest – God’s Favorite Place on earth…. and I still do get a lot out of his old ones… but I definitely skim quickly over the parts that lay out what it “should” look like or steps on how to do/get/etc….. I pretty much avoid all “shoulds” in specifics of HOW now a days because God continually takes those shoulds and asks me to let go let go let go. let go of the expectations.

    kids bed times. gotta run

  13. 6-27-2013

    I think Eric illuminates some very crucial points to keep in mind, in particular for the young. Being older and with quite a few of our present company also having had many years of experience in how to do church “wrong”, it is not so rife with “dangers” for us… as if we even get near some of those things Eric mentioned, we have a flurry of red flags that go up like fire crackers.

    For me organic church did not register as a movement, but rather a coming home. I have shared at other times here about how organic it was in the Jesus Movement for me and about 40 others as the Spirit of God swept us up and out of a rebellious generation that had lost all semblance of a moral plumbline. The first few years were just amazing, simple and sovereign…has anyone read Bruchko? Some of the older leader types in our “village” got saved through an old friend who came visiting with a Bible under his arm bidding us, come let us reason together… and within a year, nearly 40 people with strong ties to each other for many years, were on the same page, relatively speaking, spiritually…without a preacher, pastor or all the trappings of institutional church. After that we entered our wilderness, joining with many others in town and experienced a lot of failure and a lot of lessons. We gained a measure of wisdom and some of us have a very strong bond that has held through thick and thin, life and death. Keeping Jesus at the apex is imperative to being able to endure together. Keeping Him there in every aspect of your life rather than just at the meetings…makes for better chances of an enduring circle of fellowship. I think abandoning yourself to God can gain you much regardless of where you find yourself and whether you feel you are part of a successful “church” or not. Anyone read Alexander Solzenitzen…spent a lot of years in Siberia, prison, found the Lord…(If you cultivate an attitude of remembering that He is orchestrating your life, putting things in it and taking things out of it, that will lead to your benefit spiritually if not temporally, that He does not waste time on meaningless things, but that everything has meaning and is useful in His economy and is meant for your eternal inheritance, you can’t go wrong. “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans…(Romans 8:28 Living Bible Paraphrased). So yes, as Eric put it…He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him…but along the way there will be failures that you will learn wisdom from journeying through. But don’t despise them or get discouraged…just keep your eyes on Jesus. The human condition is the human condition…keeps us needing Jesus.

  14. 6-27-2013

    When you ‘find’ an organic expression and ‘join’ it– it’s no longer an organic expression. You ‘join’ an organization. The essence of organic church is ‘being’ the church. Ironically, the Apostle Paul didn’t go around looking for an organic expression of church to join, he created it where he went (in partnership with the Holy Spirit of course).

    Organic church is isn’t really joinable. It’s the Catch 22 that we 20th century believers have a hard time wrapping our brains around. We still tend to see things through the old paradigm. The Kingdom of God is not constrained that way. Walking in the Spirit is totally by faith, not by sight and is not some out of this world super spirituality. It’s just looking at the world the way God does and watching for evidence of Him at work and joining Him there.

    Along the way, we have relationship and fellowship with those who are also on the journey. We support, encourage, teach, admonish as appropriate and as the situations arise. We love, we serve, we live our lives knowing that God is orchestrating our every relationship and contact. It requires a greater degree of honesty with ourselves, with others around us and with our God than going through the recognizable steps of going to church and being ‘Christian’.

    It requires a faithful acceptance of the value of our obedience and of keeping our light shining on a hill and a confidence of things not seen that only Eternity will reveal. I quite like it but it’s different from anything I’ve ever known and exhilarating as well!

  15. 6-27-2013

    Yes to the comment from Heartspeak. I have joined many different styles and structures from house churches, traditional denominations and entrepreneurial growth churches. I now just want to see the Spiritual reality of the body of Christ and connect when and where others are willing without the safety of visible or invisible walls.

  16. 6-27-2013

    I appreciate all the comments and discussion on this post.

    I’ll just add one thing. Most “organic churches” are dynamic and fluid in nature. So, what some may see as a “failed church” may actually be something completely different, but only seems like a failure from an organizational perspective.

    -Alan

  17. 6-27-2013

    Alan wrote: “Most “organic churches” are dynamic and fluid in nature. So, what some may see as a “failed church” may actually be something completely different, but only seems like a failure from an organizational perspective.”

    The last time I did my “pass-through” on local “organic/simple” church meetings within 40 miles of me, the majority response I got from those few people who did reply back was that things didn’t work out and the leaders went back to “institutional church” ministry.

    Now it may be that these folks were not “genuine” leaders in the organic/simple church movement, more mere dabblers, but still. After a while it gets discouraging. You see name after name for a meeting and yet it dried up and blew away. You talk to the people involved and there’s a sense of resignation there, as if whatever it was that burned brightly for a moment could not be sustained, nor could it ever be.

    Some of us need something less transient. Perhaps other people are content to grab whatever they can for a year or two and call it a success, but I can’t see that the Church is intended to be that way. I don’t read the Scriptures and see a bunch of Christianized Bedouins roaming the spiritual desert, perpetual nomads chasing the spiritual wind.

  18. 6-27-2013

    Dan,

    What you are describing in your last comment is something different than what I was describing in my comment. I would agree that what you described is a failure of some to actually share their lives together in Christ in a less-organized, less-structured way.

    On the other hand, what I was describing as dynamic and fluid is not the same as “a bunch of Christianized Bedouins roaming the spiritual desert, perpetual nomads chasing the spiritual wind.” Instead, I mean that the believers gathering together in one place today, may be gathering in a different place next year, or they may even be gathering in different groups.

    -Alan

  19. 6-27-2013

    Alan,

    Actually, I’m referring to both.

    There’s something a little off about a constantly in flux gathering, where people do not gather together as the same group year after year. That also violates the “tribal” ideal that I read in Scripture.

    There is something to be said for being born, growing up, growing old, and dying amid the same group of believers. You see that in many Orthodox churches.

    Now the American ideal of shifting around constantly wars with that. On average, Americans move every seven years. That plays havoc with any sense of community and may be why it’s so hard to get anything started, growing, and sustaining in the American Church. I’m willing to be wrong, but I see that as a huge negative, and yet there’s a sense within the organic/simple church movement that is not averse to that flux, and I’m not sure why. Growth, yes. Constant moving around of the people within? I’m not so sure. I wonder if it is less a function of genuine Church and more a cultural issue. If so, we can’t automatically sanctify it. In fact, perhaps we need to stand against it.

  20. 6-27-2013

    Dan,

    Either I’m not explaining myself very well, or we see something different in Scripture.

    For example, you said: “There is something to be said for being born, growing up, growing old, and dying amid the same group of believers. You see that in many Orthodox churches.” I agree, if you are talking about real relationships, and not associates/acquaintances based on shared membership in an organization. But, those long-lasting relationships can exist and grow even if the groups of believers are dynamic and fluid.

    -Alan

  21. 6-27-2013

    DLE…not sure what your experience is or how old you are. Constant moving around is not always by choice and is definitely a part of the current cultural climate of the USA. I went to a para-church for nearly 30 years. It became very legalistic over time and especially regarding people coming and going regardless of the needs of the family, financial issues, medical issues, or the needs of other members of the immediate family for elder care or other crisis, etc. In hindsight, this was very crushing and for some folks promoted feelings of being prisoners as it was treated spiritually as rejecting what God was doing in the church and in their lives. Young people especially are vulnerable to intimidation regarding this. God is not that limited. I think in sincere Christians there is a desire to be together, but life presents obstacles to the born, grow up, grow old and die in one place scenario. Also, there are seasons to life…in my older age it was very natural to consider circling the wagons with other members of the family in order to care for my aging mother and eventually to help my siblings and receive their help as we approach the winter of our lives. So that circumstances present families, at different stages, with different options. Staying in one place so that church can be a long term commitment cannot be the priority in my thinking. The welfare of the family based on the best judgement possible would be a much more noble driver in my thinking. Certainly there are advantages to continuity, but as much as I see benefit in that, I would never be able to enter into a group dynamic where Joining and staying was an expected priority over the inevitable unexpected needs that can arise or even the preferences that could influence a family or person. As we are really pilgrims and sojourners…it seems to me that temporary-ness is something we all must make peace with and adapt our expectations too. We only get one day at a time and since the Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, it behooves us to treasure the moments and leave the long range outcomes to the Him. I think that is why words like “simple” are applied to organic churches perhaps.

  22. 6-28-2013

    Heartspeak wrote: “When you ‘find’ an organic expression and ‘join’ it– it’s no longer an organic expression. You ‘join’ an organization. The essence of organic church is ‘being’ the church. Ironically, the Apostle Paul didn’t go around looking for an organic expression of church to join, he created it where he went (in partnership with the Holy Spirit of course).”

    If a church is a group of believers meeting, fellowshipping and sharing life with one another under the headship of Christ in a specific locality (as described in scripture), then it is impossible to say that people cannot ‘find’ this group of believers or even ‘join’ with them in their fellowship and meeting.

    I agree that we must ‘be’ the church, and being the church means it has a practical expression, which is a local group of saints meeting under the headship of Christ.

  23. 6-28-2013

    I think I would have added, “start your own fellowship and do outreach.”

    The Bible says that where two or three are gathered… etc. That’s Church. Why did the New Testament fellowships grow with “many being added to their number daily?” Because of outreach.

    So if you are looking for a place to fellowship, you might do the 7 points that Nathan listed as well as simply start your own and witness and bring in new believers.

    I meet with local believers in the DC Metro tri-state area (MD, DC, VA). If anyone wants to fellowship, holler back.

  24. 6-28-2013

    Alan,

    It seems to me that there are many who are expecting to find some static group to which they can attach themselves and be comfortable. The problem is that the very term “organic” defines something which as an organism,is NEVER static, which the Scriptures certainly indicate.

    As one who enjoys gardening and plants, I’d be most disappointed if any of the organisms I plant were to settle for such static comfort which would ultimately lead to death.

    Most of the “organic” start ups that I am aware of fold up, often because of a strong personality, or an inability to accommodate slight non-doctrinal differences of opinion regarding procedures.

    I think Eric has a good handle on the matter.

  25. 6-28-2013

    this conversation is so encouraging to me, thank you!! :)

  26. 6-28-2013

    Rita:

    “(If you cultivate an attitude of remembering that He is orchestrating your life, putting things in it and taking things out of it, that will lead to your benefit spiritually if not temporally, that He does not waste time on meaningless things, but that everything has meaning and is useful in His economy and is meant for your eternal inheritance, you can’t go wrong. “And we know that all that happens to us is working for our good if we love God and are fitting into His plans…(Romans 8:28 Living Bible Paraphrased). So yes, as Eric put it…He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him…but along the way there will be failures that you will learn wisdom from journeying through. But don’t despise them or get discouraged…just keep your eyes on Jesus. The human condition is the human condition…keeps us needing Jesus.”

    THANK YOU. Straight to my heart.

  27. 6-29-2013

    What Shawn said! If you don’t find it, start it! Make disciples!
    My husband and I couldn’t find a simple church when we moved to a different town last year, so we’re reaching out to our little neighborhood and another one nearby, and asking God to lead us to people of peace and open hearts. We have many relationships now in various stages of the journey. We’d rather start with pre-believers who don’t have an dogmatic definition of church. Meanwhile we do Discovery/inductive studies with each other, our family, and whoever will come to our table. Even if they only want the cookies :-)
    So here’s a shout to Shawn – we are in VA – what else is going on here???

  28. 6-29-2013

    Janet – what an awesome comment.

    What are “Discovery/inductive studies”???

  29. 6-29-2013

    An excellent new article on this was just published and was linked on the Following and Fishing Forum facebook page, which I highly recommend for practical instruction, motivation, stories, Q&A re making and multiplying disciples and simple churches. Here is the link to the article: http://www.movements.net/2013/06/29/letting-the-word-do-the-work.html and to the facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/groups/movenetworkforum/

  30. 6-29-2013

    Also, here is a page of links, including the Discovery studies we are using: http://simplechurch.com.ua/en/resursy/e-books-and-other-written-material.html

    It’s an entirely different paradigm for “Bible Study”.

  31. 6-29-2013

    All you wonderful saints are going to look back in 10 yrs at this blog and our lives and chuckle, as you realize that simply desiring Jesus in others, looking for Him in others and bumping into Him here, there anywhere is about as close to organic as we can get at any one moment.
    We and all those that love him, no matter where they are, are the organic church, which is to say, the church, His bride, beloved…friend.
    Speaking of’organic’ as in a place, or time, or composed of some especially aware or obedient saints is to make the same mistake made when seeking for a new institutional church.
    The kingdom of God comes without observation, because it/He is already within us in the fullness of the Godhead.
    In our 40 yrs of ‘being organic’, outside the mainstream church, but within a close community of the most unlikely group of friends a good novel could be wrapped around, we have gone thru exactly the same problems, failures, successes and losses that you did in the systems.
    And for the same reasons.
    The difference is….there is no difference.
    We became different, giving up our idol of finding ‘better’ fellowship, less compromise and learning to love the unlovable brothers and sisters we are stuck with for life.
    And that can, and among you apparently, is happening wherever you are right now.
    What possible change could you effect that would move you closer to God, or your ability to stick it out with some brethren that you discover after a few yrs are weak, and flawed to the point of fearing them?
    Here’s a great summation of organic church life.
    “Sometimes you have to get to know someone really well to realize you’re really strangers.” Mary Tyler Moore
    blessings
    Greg

  32. 6-29-2013

    Great set of steps… it is similar to what we are doing in our location, but it is surprising the people that God is bringing together…

    One man who has followed Jesus by himself for 30 years… He doesn’t have a single friend!!!

    A lesbian couple… by far the greatest two people we have EVER met.

    A Lutheran/Catholic… How does that work again?

    And a few others….

    Nothing “formal” yet… and maybe nothing formal ever. But that’s okay. We are having great conversations with them about God, Jesus, Scripture, and grace.

  33. 6-29-2013

    Right on Jeremy. Love it. Way back, we had a ‘meeting’ to identify and bury our known prejudices in the sea of forgetfulness, where God sank our sins. Wouldn’t you know it, God, who has a wry sense of humor, was waiting for us and responded almost the next day by sending us folks, (most whom were probably Christians or knew enough to be)to love, who were too raw to fit into the churches around us. Here’s the humor part.
    Every single one of the many good church going brothers and sister that we knew are dried up, or gone while many of the unwashed tax collectors, harlots and publicans we took in are radiating Jesus today.
    I was the first one of them, so I speak from experience.
    I was taught (PJF) overtly right from the start to ‘Pay Jesus Forward’.
    Today, even my kids are attracted to weak, fearful, troublemakers, losers, dissolution-ed PK’s etc.
    I’m proud of them for following Jesus in His foolish choice of hitching their wagons to folks with no future on earth, but who are ripe for heaven’s picking.
    Greg

  34. 6-29-2013

    I have only a 3 year history with organic church but have found it easy to locate networks of people who are walking out their faith outside of the institution. Not all house churches are a universal fit just as is true of the regular garden variety. For me church is much more than a meeting … it is a way of life. It might be better for people to simply begin a “church” rather than to go looking for one. – Karl

  35. 6-29-2013

    Regarding the movement of people today and mobility of everybody in today’s age…. vs… the immobility of people in the past….

    I think about that a lot. Could use some feedback.

    I think it’s beautiful that the Lord calls some to be committed to their christian community for life – like a marriage. There are new movements of people who are really determined to stay together geographically, physically…. it’s like they are taking a vow to go back to the way of life where it was rare for you to move to a different county, much less a different state. We have to make vows now since it’s so rare…..

    I have had many discussions with those who are committed to shared life community. Intentional community. I think of Rutba house in Durham – where the “core group” has committed for life (I believe). They see those relationships like a marriage I guess? like the family was decades ago….. and centuries ago… and in biblical times. Where people didn’t move away…. oh wait, but then there’s Abraham and the list goes on and on of how many of those heroes left family…..hmm….

    BUT I don’t feel called to that, at least not yet…mostly because I don’t see anybody else willing yet… I don’t think you can just meet a person and find out you both desire community and then commit right there…we would never do that in marriage…. well at least I wouldn’t…it takes SOO much time & relationship building (some people need more time than others)… but my point is, I think the commitment for life is going to be a SMALL # of people in my life… and I believe it will probably happen naturally and not formally. I know how expectations can kill relationships!!

    I can only think of one other friend that isn’t family that I pretty much KNOW I’ll be with for life.

    I do believe that He has called some to be committed to the people they are with, for life…. but not everybody. And it doesn’t have to be so formal. Like everything else – God is so creativity and the journey doesn’t look the same for everybody. Again, even this argument of which way it should be. Should we be committed to stay together for a certain time once we found each other….. or should we just be open to whatever never needing a form or regular gathering or be intentional about staying together for a certain time…… It’s an argument that isn’t black & white. It’s just another thing that could divide us if we focus on it. Even in those intentional communities… the people who don’t feel called to commit for life – there’s a constant flow of people in and out. so there’s a mix there too.

    I think it’s beautiful that God is so creative and capable the way He spreads out His Church and we are able to have fellowship throughout our life – as we move to new places and all.

    But I DO have to say, I am so envious of those who have close close friendships with people for a long time. That’s what I get for moving from my hometown :) BUT I am beginning to see God giving me relationships with people who DO desire to form roots here! I see Him starting it… maybe I’m just so impatient!?!?! I sometimes dream ahead to when our kids are older and wish some of us really would have stayed together & raised our kids together!!

    But I go back and forth on these next thoughts. I could use some insight. My extended family lives a long way from us. But family is family, right? We stay close to them. There’s a commitment & love there for life.

    But at any one point in our lives, we are CLOSER to a certain set of people than our own family…because we share life together & spend so much time together. we are in daily life together… so we are closer….. but then every time… that group has parted ways….. and then we are no longer close to them than to anybody else… until the next group……

    but the family is always right there in the background, a constant – even though they aren’t close geographically or sharing life daily. I am committed to them and believe the Lord is using me in their lives (and vice versa!)….

    So who am I closest to? At any one point…. it would look like I am closest to the people in my daily life…. but in the long term, I am closest to my family – because of the commitment.

    so DOES God desire us to commit to some core relationships in His church for longevity? just like our extended family!?!

    So that we are committed like we are to our family… AND… share life on a daily basis like our coworkers, neighbors, friends day in and out.

    And I wonder about you all who have found that type of relationship that TRULY is family. Did your Church family replace your family? Where do you go on holidays? Has your church family & regular family ever combined? who is being welcomed into who? Does the Church family become part of your family…… it’s not like your extended family could get welcomed into the Church… unless they choose to :)

    what I desire are the longstanding committed relationships. We have enough ways to connect. It’s so easy for me to meet people… but the longevity…. it’s just so long :) You have to be so patient & understand the mindset that our parents took 20-30 YEARS to build the relationships they have now in their hometowns…. so many people I know really WANT the long relationships… but is anybody willing to STAY and WORK for it???? it doesn’t happen overnight right??

    It’s amazing to me how many people move in this area…I am not sure what they are seeking that they are not satisfied with here.

    I wonder if moving has become so easy in our world that it’s really just the first thing people turn to when they are dissatisfied or something isn’t perfect or the going gets tough…. the running away syndrome… rather than the mindset of previous generations to simply be content with the imperfect life full of daily disciplines & mundane-ness & that everything takes so much work…. and time.

    I’m not saying that’s true for all….of course it’s not…. but just wondering if it’s more of a problem than we realize.

    Can we keep the small town mindset of staying where you are, being committed…. and throw away the small town mindset of closed minds & small ideas? There’s pros & cons to everything…. I am beginning to see the beauty of the small town, for sure! Am I just getting so old!?! I just turned 30… maybe I’m just..old

    Perhaps because we are in the information age.. the ‘small towns’ can have all the same information, diversity of people & ideas…. AND the small town mindset of loyalty, small focus, community!!

    Is the constant flow of His people moving about a symptom of His calling to spread the Church and not be tied to the American dream of home, possession, FAMILY!?….

    or

    is it really a symptom of our inability to work hard at things & the religion of feeling & experience and the faulty thinking that life in the Lord is full of excitement daily and thrill and victory and prosperity and ease? …so when it’s not…. you better move, cuz you must be missing something and must be in the wrong place.

  36. 7-1-2013

    Thanks again for all the comments everyone. I love the way that you help me – and others – think through these issues.

    -Alan

  37. 7-3-2013

    People resist the pain of change even if the Scriptures support the qualities of organic, relational church. The church system of today offers a full-time livelihood to many pastors and church workers who might not benefit financially from changing over to a New Testament patterned relational church system. As with any type of church, unbiblical teachings can be found if those involved do not diligently study and obey the Scriptures. Organic churches are no exception as can be seen from reading some of the information on websites outlining the structure of the traditional vs organic church systems. Jesus didn’t come to build organic/house churches and traditional churches, he came to build his churches. It is the pattern in the New Testament Scriptures alone that should be used for determining church structure and operation. Where the Scriptures are not clearly specific or dictate a definite pattern, there is room for Christian liberty for some variations in church operations such as places to meet. The Scriptures mention in several passages that a church met in someone’s house. The Scriptures also describe believers meeting in Solomon’s porch which is not a house. The house in itself is not the issue. The brotherhood, oneness and sharing of church life with other believers is the major point to be emphasized regarding location and size of a meeting.

  38. 7-3-2013

    Wayne,

    You said, “The brotherhood, oneness and sharing of church life with other believers is the major point to be emphasized regarding location and size of a meeting.” I agree completely.

    -Alan

  39. 7-3-2013

    I looked on a house church website and saw Solomon’s Porch Church listed there. It was located in Jerusalem. Two years later I went there and no one was meeting there. It must have failed. I wish Peter would keep his website more current.

  40. 7-4-2013

    C’mon Rod….you should know that “Pete’s church” went through that whole apostolic succession thing and is run out of Vatican City now. Their recent call for a one-world financial overlord had me a little concerned, but hey, it’s “Pete’s church”! They have lots of people and really old buildings they still meet in, so it must be a success.

  41. 7-4-2013

    Rod and Eric,

    Ha! Thanks for the laugh.

    -Alan