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Church Organic

Some years ago, after helping to lead a conventional church, my wife and I came to the place in our lives where we were just “done with church.” We never lost our love for Jesus, but he seemed to get lost in the trappings and programs of “church” as we knew it. Then we met a small group of people with whom we began doing life together with Jesus at the center.

God is doing amazing things through the lives of believers who really “get it” when it comes to loving and reaching out to the people around them. Church for them is so much more than attending a well-planned meeting every Sunday morning with worship, teaching, and programming designed and facilitated by a staff of “trained leaders.” They see that reaching people all around them takes more than just warmly greeting those who feel inclined to attend a service in a church building on Sunday mornings. They identify with the compassion Jesus felt for the “weary and scattered” and are bold enough to respond to his call for laborers in his harvest field.

The Church Jesus Intended

What image does the word “church”bring to your mind?

A building down the street with a steeple, stained glass windows, and an auditorium?

A gathering that people attend on Sunday mornings where there is singing, preaching and a children’s program?

A large organization led by a group of specially ordained leaders who affirm a certain set of beliefs and traditions?

These are common understandings of what a church is, but do they represent what the Lord Jesus Christ had in mind when he announced to his followers 2000 years ago, “I will build my church”? A church is meant to have Jesus as its foundation. He is the head and those who follow him are members of his body—a body that is alive, growing, and on a mission.

When church is seen as an organization, it can easily be confused with the programs, structures, and traditions which appear to hold it all together. But if a church is organic in nature, its very life and vitality flow from the Christ who lives at its core. And in these churches, the reality and presence of Jesus is just as vibrant today as it has been since the days of its birth, days after Jesus returned to heaven.

God’s purpose for the church is that the work of seeking and saving the lost that occupied Jesus during his earthly ministry will continue until his return. Jesus came with a message that the kingdom of God was at hand. He even taught his followers to pray that this kingdom would be experienced on earth just as it is in heaven. The gospel message begins with the promise that lost men and women can find new life in Christ, that sinners can be forgiven as a result of his sacrificial death on the cross. But the gospel continues when the life of Christ is lived out on earth through the lives of his followers who are eager to obey his teaching. This is the church that Jesus intended.

Christ Seen in the Context of Real Life

In an organic church setting, we have the opportunity to interact with people who have questions about life, relationships, faith, God, and spirituality. These are people from our neighborhood, work, or restaurants, stores, and coffee shops that we frequent. They are people who have no consistent context to explore their questions with others who also genuinely seek answers. But in the context of relationship and dialog, the teachings of Jesus and the rest of the biblical story are more readily understood. An organic church becomes a venue for small groups of people to study and discuss God’s Word and share from daily experience how God is working in their lives. People are free to ask questions and to evaluate their assumptions in an open and safe environment. In such settings, people encounter Christ as his life is lived out in relationships and service to others.

A simple organic church is also a place where needs are shared and prayed for. People have an opportunity to serve and encourage one another both during their gatherings and beyond. The church literally begins functioning as a spiritual family of believers in Christ who impact others around them. The loving community that emerges then becomes a powerful testimony to outsiders of the grace of God that is available to all who would come to him in faith.

As people make a decision to follow Christ and to engage with others who have done likewise, they are equipped by the Holy Spirit to carry on the ministry that Jesus began so many years ago. And these believers who form into organic churches can work right alongside other Christians in more conventional churches to serve Christ in their communities. Jesus literally builds his church around everyday people whose lives have been changed and who desire to share the love of God with those around them.

So a church is not a building or a program or an organization. It is Jesus dwelling in the midst of his followers who are committed to carry on his work wherever they find themselves. How this works in the context of real life can be seen in several snapshots of real people.

Examples of Organic Church Communities

A Chinese-American wife and mother began a ministry reaching out to nearly 600 Chinese-born students who attend a major university in her community, inviting those who were interested into her home for Bible study, discussion, and discipleship.

A young Hispanic computer programmer and his wife began reaching out to Spanish-speaking men and their families in a poorer part of their community and conducted evangelistic Bible studies on a weekly basis with the intention of beginning a church in their community.

An active grandparent couple who worked as entrepreneurs and in children’s ministry and a ministry of providing clothing for needy children began opening their home and inviting others to join them as a missional community and organic church.

Several families began meeting together in their homes for meals, studying and doing life together as families.

A former elder and his wife who had faithfully led and served in a small town conventional church stepped out to engage with others in online and organic church outreach.

A single youth pastor resigned his position with a conventional church to move to an established neighborhood in a nearby community. After getting married, he took a job as a coffee bar barista, building relationships with other employees, patrons, neighbors and friends, inviting them to learn more about Christ and the Bible with the goal of eventually planting churches in the area.

Examples of Organic Missional Mindset

An office worker sharing the real meaning of Christ and his church with her co-workers, even building bridges for outreach to their spouses and family members.

A group of believers in a community faithfully ministering to the physical needs of day laborers and their families on a weekly basis.

A pastor stepping out of his comfort zone to intentionally engage strangers in restaurants, bars, coffee shops, taverns, and stores, looking for opportunities to serve people and talk about Jesus.

A homemaker with a serious physical disability reaching out online to others with the same condition providing help, hope, and the good news of Jesus.

A retired businessman giving his time to minister both to church people who are hurting and to neighbors and others who have been incarcerated and trying to get their life back on track.

A young mom offering to pick up other neighbors’ children from school, eventually forming a weekly small group for junior high girls in the area.

A pastor and his family taking the opportunity to host a party at their local community pool and clubhouse where neighbors and families can meet and connect with one another.

A number of individuals and families making financial commitments to help launch an organic church planting ministry targeted toward the unchurched in their community.

A brilliant young woman and medical professional who has a particular passion to reach the intelligentsia in her field engaging her peers in discussions of faith.

A respected Bible study leader moving her suburban women’s group to meet in an area where it is more convenient for the women in local community housing to participate and then following up with organized outreach events to the community housing complexes.

May this passion grow in the lives of more and more believers until every person living in our local communities and neighborhoods hears and understands the gospel of Christ and his kingdom.

(Following 10 years of business management and 20 years of vocational pastoral ministry, Ken is currently launching Christ Fellowship Organic, a missional church planting ministry for everyday believers available to God to make disciples and plant churches in homes, apartments, restaurants or wherever people can gather. Ken holds degrees from Baptist Bible College of Pennsylvania and Dallas Theological Seminary. He has been married to his wife, Michelle, for over 30 years and is father to three grown sons.)

Article Link: http://ccmusa.org/read/read.aspx?id=chg20120404
To reuse online, please credit Challenger, Oct-Dec 2012. CCMUSA.