Yep, I’ve been reading up some on the organic church movement as well as perusing that ever dependable source of indisputable facts on the internet – the Blogsphere & Facebook! Truth be told, there is a lot that really attracts me about more organic church forms: flatter leadership models, taking the Lord’s Supper seriously as a covenant memorial meal, and doing more than just paying lip-service to the idea of the church as a family. But there are also some ideas that I just can’t go along with among some house church purists. This includes things like: conspiracy theories about the Institutional Church (including the idea that all Pastors are either self-serving, narcissitic, greedy, or psychotically controlling), christian anarchy as a form of church government, and the forbidding of all sermons or teaching in church meetings.
There are in fact some things that large, mega churches can do that, quite frankly could never be done by a church with a membership of only 100-200 people. Without Mars Hill, there is no Acts 29 Church Planting network (Mars Hill also gives a way a ton of free resources). Without Vineyard Columbus there would be no Vineyard Institute to train & equip church planters & future leaders. A friend of mine was able to do an internship last summer at Elevation church – not happening at a small rural church struggling to break 50 in attendance and a staff of one part-time pastor with no secretary (just sayin’). But let’s face it there are some problems with large institutional churches too! Like sitting theater-style seating just encourages an “entertain me” (vice participatory) mentality. Institutional churches can’t seem to help but reinforce the already rampant disease of “consumer Christianity” – if you don’t provide me and my family with the Christian products and services we want (a “rockin” youth ministry, Beach-themed VBS curriculum, Christian concerts, yearly sermon series on Families…) then we’ll just take our tithe to the church down the street with that new hipster worship leader that everybody has been talking about! And anybody whose church has ever broken an attendance of 200 knows the challenge of “staying small as we continue to grow.” Has anybody ever actually, successfully created a church of small groups rather than just a church that has small groups?
We are told “that young adults, in particular, have turned away from organized religion” – OK. But is there any way to find a “best of both worlds approach” in the war between the Organic Church movement and the traditional, Institutional approach? Could a compromise be found in the cell-church model? According to Ralph Moore anyone can Pastor a cell church! All you need to do is develop a weekly sermon and hold a meeting with your staff once a week. Is that an exaggeration? Perhaps, but it depends on how closely you actually stick to a pure cell-church model. It also probably depends on whether your church embraces the end-all, be-all, do-all, Senior Pastor model of church government. Remember, in the cell-church model, all small groups use a sermon-based discussion format, and all of your pastoral care comes from your small group not the larger institutional church body. One thing is for sure, consumer Christians, will flee from a cell church like the place is on fire! ‘Cause they’re not gonna get the program-based ministry that they have become so accustomed to!
So what do you think? Could the cell-church model be the solution to the organic vs. institutional church wars? Can you think of other ways of doing church that involve a compromise between organic and institutional church? Have you successfully incorporated more organic forms & practices into your traditional church? How has it worked out?
Honestly, I’m kinda thinking out loud here, so please, let me know what you think in the comments below!
My family has been a part of starting an organic church for 3 years. We noticed a fews things that organic church is good at and some big holes too. First, organic church is great on the 1 Cor. ministry of “loving each other”. When everyone wants to see it work and everyone is committed to it, the fellowship cannot be beat. Our church would gather together around 2pm on Sunday and although the “official meeting” was only around an hour, most of us would stay around much into the night talking theology, openning up, playing games or just hanging out. Each week was aways different. But we always left feeling filled-up, spiritually and physically (because we celebrated communion as a celebratory feast — and thus were full by the end of the night). We all knew each other, over time, very well and were actually involved in each others lives during the week.
We also believe that the church is HIS Body, not ours.. So rather than coming up with a vision and asking God to bless it, we would pray… “Here we are, Lord. What would you like us to do this week?” Some of us would go on prayer walks around the neighborhood and just pray. God did some really cool things and built his church.
Second, The orangic church model forces the believer to make their faith their own. You can’t fake it for long i organic church. Someone will notice and ask you about it. You also can’t think.. “I should invite X friend to church so they can hear the gospel this weekend.” Dude — YOU are the church, share the gospel now! So, this was very good in personal growth for us.
Third, in organic church, if everyone goes to church expecing to “get” something, than no one will get anything! We learned this the hard way a few times. After that, I always tried to “bring something” to share. This encourages a servants heart and less selfishness in the thinking that: “I should be getting something out of this”.
However…. One of the struggles in our particular church, was the lack of good teaching. There were a few people that could teach and tried.. But the group, myself included, was so afraid of “personal agendas” or “false teaching” (at the time), that much of the attempted teaching would lead to “debates” afterward or confusion because many the person teaching didn’t explain something right. After this happened a few times, may people who maybe “would” teach, didn’t want to anymore because they didn’t want to be critiqued or they didn’t have the engery to debate.
So thus, in our church, teaching was “reduced” over time to 5-10 min blurbs of “this is what God should be this week” or “this is what God did this week”. But true exegetical, contextual, proper hermeneutic, Bible teaching was never attempted anymore. Over time this, I believe, effected our church negatively. People would seek our teaching on their own time from the internet and this would sometimes bring division in the church. Some would focus on loving people, others would be always looking for the next depate, etc.
All that to say.. The institutional church isn’t all bad. It would be nice to have some leadership in the organic church at times. Some churches have great Bible teachers. Or great programs, that really do produce good lasting fruit! The problem with the people in those churches is that we become addicted to Bible teaching and don’t pratice what we are learning. In the organic church, we can get so focused on “being the church” that we can forget important doctrines of the faith and this can weaken us over time.. Especially as the church begins to reproduce, or we are trying to make new disciples. When a new Christian is excited about their new faith, it would be really nice to have a “new believers class” to go to! Mainly because I don’t have the time to put one together.
In some ways, I think it could be possible to merge key elements of both worlds. But I’m not sure how that really works. If any of you figure it out. Please let me know! Although, someone once told me.. If you ever get to the point where you have church all figured out, then you are not really operating as the church anymore.. Maybe we aren’t suppose to figure it out.. Maybe, just maybe, God wants us to be just like little babes and be completely dependant on Him for everything, every minute.
Hey StillLearning (me too – still learning) – first off thanks for sharing your story. I also really appreciate your honesty and fairness in being able to see both sides of this, the good and the bad! I’ve never actually been part of an organic/house church, but I too have found that some of the best “church” experiences that I have had are those late into the night conversations long after our small group has officially dismissed. I also feel sometimes like my small group is “real church” and that what happens on Sunday morning in the corporate gathering is more like a public persona. It’s easy to hide in large corporate gathering, but in smaller group gatherings you either open up eventually or are probably out of there ’cause you’re just not ready to be real yet. I love our small group leaders like they were own brother & sister, but truth be told, there’s probably not anybody in our small group capable of doing the kind of in-depth teaching-training-equipping that you’re talking about (e.g. putting together a new believers course).
Thanks again for your input. Your perspective is definitely helpful as I think this stuff through!
Hey StillLearning (me too… still learning) – first off thanks for sharing your story. I also really appreciate your honesty and fairness in being able to see both sides of this, the good and the bad! I’ve never actually been part of an organic/house church, but I too have found that some of the best “church” experiences that I have had are those late into the night conversations long after our small group has officially dismissed. I also feel sometimes like my small group is “real church” and that what happens on Sunday morning in the corporate gathering is more like a public persona. It’s easy to hide in a large corporate gathering, but in smaller group gatherings you either open up eventually or are probably out of there ’cause you’re just not ready to be real yet. I love our small group leaders like they were own brother and sister, but truth be told, there’s probably not anybody in our small group capable of doing the kind of in-depth teaching-training-equipping that you’re talking about (e.g. putting together a new believers course).
I’m also not a fan of the “invite your friends to church” mentality because the Great Commission is to go and tell, not make ourselves attractive so that they will come to us and hear the gospel (a failure to understand the distinction between the church gathered and the church scattered).
Thanks again for your input. Your perspective is definitely helpful as I think this stuff through!
Yea, there are good and not so good in each model. I know a slick answer would be to say we should take the best from both worlds, but that does not alway’s work out. To me, the question probably swings on our conviction as to how we perceive fellowship and the “One Another,” passages of Scripture as well as our understanding of the Priesthood of all Believers, assuming of course that we have the conviction of practical application to these truths also! Also, the incarnational ministry of the Believer to the World needs, I believe, to be both understood and practiced as a way of life . I do not believe that the institutional Church knows how to either teach authentically on these truths without giving them application. What do you think?