The term ‘organic church’ is often misunderstood as a description of:
- A way to do church, i.e. a house church
- A non-institutional expression of church
- A church system without hierarchical leadership
- A free-flowing, Spirit-led gathering
- An expression of church that has no form or organization to it
All of this misses the point and causes us to compare ‘organic church’ to other kinds of church ‘systems.’ With this understanding of organic church we miss, completely, the true, living nature of church as the Bible reveals it. In other words, we lose sight of what the church actually IS.
Perhaps a good plumb line for grasping the term ‘organic church’ is T. Austin Sparks’ words:
God's way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be vegetable, animal, human, or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order, and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.
Organic church, then, refers to:
- The nature of church which is alive. It can be cooperated with but not created. Its life can only come from the Spirit of God who is the author of all spiritual life, both individual and corporate.
- The order in which life comes forth. Organic life starts from within, and moves from one living disciple to the next, and only appears as a corporate expression (gathering) when the natural order is followed.
The challenge to move beyond institutional church systems is not to replace one system with another one, rather it is to re-discover and cooperate with the true living nature of the church as God created it.
BUT, what does this look like? Our need to outline the blueprint for organic church is the same one that comes from our misunderstanding. Yes, their are forms and shapes that typically come out of this intimate walking with God, both individually and corporately. But if we begin with forms and structures we continue to miss the core reality of relational connection that underlies true church. We want shortcuts to the reality of life with God that do not exist.
Organic church, then, is a lifestyle that comes out of an inner life with an involved, intentional, at-work, Kingdom-bringing God. As such, organic church describes an adventure… the greatest adventure of all time.
In future posts, we will discuss the principles and forms that underlie living/organic church, but don’t expect this to be the blueprint for ‘church planting 101.’ We have to step back from this kind of thinking, unlearn the premises of our man-made structures, and then connect and cooperate with the Spirit who fills His church with life, liberty, joy, power, and love.