We have looked at the characteristics of the institutional church or the organizational church. Let’s look at some of the characteristics of the organic church…
- The form of the church follows the life of the church – just as the form of the human body springs out of the life of the human.
- There are no clergy or professional ministers. Everyone is part of the “priesthood of all believers” and thus there is no division between those who are the professionals (clergy) and the laity (amateurs). Therefore, the members do not recognize the separate class of ‘laity.’
- The organic church recognizes that all members are acting priests and encourages all members to fulfil their calling as disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Allow and encourage all Christians to function in the weekly meetings of the assembly.
- The members recognize that they are the church and thus the building is simply a place for the church to assemble. So, they affirm that people do not go to church; they (together) are the church. This is not only being theologically correct. It is the actual experience of the members.
- Unified around Christ alone. There is no other test of true fellowship.
- Sustained and held together by relationships built on Jesus Christ.
- Are not dependent on a building. They can meet anywhere and be ‘the church.’
- There are no clergy salaries.
- Resources are spent on expanding the Kingdom, planting new expressions of the church, and helping those who are in need.
- Leadership comes from the entire body. Apostles equip the church in the beginning. Elders (when the emerge) oversee the church together.
- Decisions are made corporately by consensus and confirmed by those who are viewed as the leaders.
- Shepherds are plural. They are a gifted people who care for the flock.
- The leadership is always a team and never a solo person.
- The focus of the life of the church is on pursuing Jesus Christ corporately in face-to-face community. Everything else within the life of the church springs out of this.
- The church passes through seasons just like a human does. It is not locked into a ritual or one specific way of doing things.
- Gifts are not seen as offices, but as functions. They emerge naturally and organically, over time. They come up out of the soil, and are typically not titled.
- There is a close-knit community. Members are like family to one another. They live a shared life in Christ.
As we look at the Church as an institution or an organization – as contrasted with the Church as an organism – we see a number of basic characteristics of the institution…
- The form of the church precedes the life of the church. So, the institutional church begins with clergy, staff, programs, rituals, and other expected and normal elements of what a church is viewed to need.
- The church is sustained and maintained by professional clergy – called a minister, a priest, a pastor. In the mainline denominations – these professionals are usually well trained having a Master’s degree in theology from a seminary recognized and approved by the sponsoring denomination or network.
- The Clery lead the laity and seeks to energize them so that they volunteer for many of the church functions that the laity are allowed to be involved in.
- The church limits many of the spiritual functions to those who are officially ordained and recognized as leaders and who are trained for the positions they hold.
- The organizational structure of the church render the bulk of their congregants passive during the church worship services. The professionals lead and minister. The laity (word means ‘the amateurs’) are generally passive and simply receive.
- Members of the church associate ‘church’ with a building, a denomination, or a religious service (typically Sunday mornings).
- People are unified around a shared set of customs or doctrines. Even adhering, at times, to the old order of service versus the new order of service. or, as in my former denomination, the old prayer book and not the new prayer book.
- The ‘life’ of the church is sustained by programs and specials. The specials can be guest speakers, scheduled revivals, seasonal events.
- The organized church needs finances to survive – their main costs are buildings (mortgage and maintenance) and clergy and staff salaries.
- Decisions are made by the clergy or a specially elected ‘board’.
- The pastor (or, in some cases, the elder board) is the recognized leader and minister in the church. This is positional leadership – leader because they have the title ‘pastor’ or ‘elder.’ This is the lowest level of leadership held in any organization.
- There is a seriously strong focus on attendance to the services, maintaining the building, and increasing the budget. The ABCs – attendance, buildings, cash.
- The church does essentially the same thing week after week, month after month, year after year. It is locked into a ritual.
- Spiritual gifts are viewed as ‘offices,’ and people are put into those offices (and receive titles) at the very beginning. Board member, pastor, assistant pastor, intercessor, evangelist….
- It is typical for members not to know one another very well, only seeing each other at weekly church services.
When God thinks of you – – And He does so continuously
He is excited about who you are
When we look at ourselves – think about our life – we see:
Our current situation
Our relationships or lack of them with others
The hurts and wounds that keep us anchored to the past
Chains on the brains
Our wants and needs Read more
Is Jesus truly the only way? The Bible states, “And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)
Many people believe that God exists. They just don’t believe that biblical Christianity is true or that Jesus of Nazareth is God born as a man – the human face of God and the Lord and Saviour of humankind.
Certainly, Christianity is by no means the only faith that lays claim to having “the truth.” There is also Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, and Islam (the Muslim faith) as well as many other religions that claim to hold “the truth.”
All serve a different deity, all have their own sacred writings, and all teach a different path of salvation.
So, how can we be sure that we are right and that we have THE truth? How can we know for certain that Jesus is THE Way – the ONLY Way to enter into Heaven when we die and leave this life behind? How do we defend this truth when challenged by those who do not believe?
In this teaching, Ralph will be leading us through an examination and discussion of this bold claim of Jesus being the only way. We will look at the proof that Jesus truly is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” and that there is absolutely no other way to enter Heaven or experience eternal life.
Looking at the organic nature of the Church can be fascinating as well as life changing.
All life forms have a DNA – a genetic code. DNA gives each life form a specific expression. For example, the instructions to build your physical body are encoded in your DNA. Your DNA largely determines your physical and psychological traits.
Since the true Church is organic, it too has a DNA – a spiritual DNA. Where do we discover the DNA of the Church? I suspect that we will find a great deal of it by looking at God Himself.
We Christians uniquely proclaim a triune God. In the words of one of three major creeds in the Christian faith – the Creed of St. Athanasia, “The Father is God, the Son is God, and the Holy Spirit is God, yet there are not three gods, but one God.”
The Godhead is a Community of three, or a “Trinity.”
The Scriptures portray the multifaceted relationship of Father, Son, and Spirit in the richest and deepest language imaginable. With the triune God we discover authentic community – an eternal, complementary, and reciprocal interchange of divine life, divine love, and divine fellowship.
Amazingly, this same relations has been transposed from the divine DNA into the human DNA. It has moved from the eternal God in the heavenliness to the Church on earth, the Body of Christ.
A common question is, “Sure, the Church is organic, but it must have organization, right?” And, the answer is yes! Organization and structure is good and needed as long as it is encouraging the continued growth and expansion of God’s divine “life” as we saw yesterday.
Because the Church is organic, it has a natural expression. Just like the physical body does. Accordingly, when a group of Christians follow their spiritual DNA, they will gather in a way that matches the DNA of the triune God – for they posses the same life that God Himself possesses.
Consequently, the DNA of the true Church is marked by the very traits that we find in the triune God – mutual love, mutual fellowship, mutual dependence, mutual submission, mutual ministry and face-to-face community.
While the seeds of the Gospel will naturally produce these particular features, how they are expressed locally may look slightly different from place to place, culture to culture. However, the same basic features that reside in the DNA of the Church will be present regardless of the physical or cultural location. Never, if a church is following the biblical pattern and expressing the God-given DNA within its members – never will any of these churches produce a clergy system, a solo pastor, a hierarchical leadership structure, or an order of worship that renders the majority passive.
The Church of Jesus Christ – when planted properly and left on its own, without human control and institutional interference – will produce certain features by virtue of its DNA. The Church will look different from culture to culture, but it will have the same basic expression wherever it is allowed to flourish.
I can’t remember how often I have said, “The Church is an organism and not an organization. Yet, although we are an organism, we can still have some structure and organization as needed.”
When a baby is conceived there is no structure – just life. And, it is the lift that is important and eternal. A baby can be born minus a hand or a finger due to something being wrong in the DNA. That baby will survive and grow up to be an adult because he or she has life. Life is the key.
As the baby grows in the mother’s womb we see structure form. The structure includes internal organs, a spine, a head, arms, legs. But, again, it is life that is key. So, the only structure that is needed and is essential is the structure that encourages the life to keep growing and developing.
When the baby is born – there is a structure that has kept the baby alive for nine months. A structure that can now harm the baby and destroy the life. So, the structure must be removed. We are talking about the umbilical cord. The structure was important and good as long as it continued to encourage life. As soon as it was no longer needed it was removed.
It is the same with the Church. It is organic. It contains life and as the life grows the structure must adjust to not hinder the growth. If a structure was beneficial in the past but no longer encouraging life in the present, it can be removed. It must be removed. The structure or organization is not sacred – it is practical and functional as well as being seriously flexible. The structure or the organizational bones of the Church are simply there to protect and encourage life.
This understanding is basic and undergirds a healthy understanding of what an organic church is.
So, what is the difference between an organizational church and an organic church? We are going to briefly look (without too much depth) at some of the key distinctions between a church that operates according to its organic nature and instincts – an organic expression of the Church – and a church that operates primarily as an institutional organization – an institutional or organized church.
We are often warned not to use the word “organic” because it can mean so many different things to different people. The words ‘organic church’ are in vogue right now and vastly overused – used to describe a wide array of church types. Often, the word ‘organic’ is used in the place of ‘missional church.’ They are often inter-changed within the writings on the Church. Both ‘missional’ and ‘organic’ are clay words. They are being shaped by different writers in different ways. Sometimes very different ways.
The experience of the body of Christ is organic. That is, it springs from life (Christ’s life in us) rather than by human organizational methods. Clearly, the church we read about in the New Testament was ‘organic’ as it had life and exhibited that life. That life was light to those still living in spiritual darkness.
John 1:4 speaking of Jesus states: “In Him was life and the life was the light of men.”
Jesus was not the light. The life of God the Father in Him was the light. The ’life’ is what matters. And, if a church has ‘it’ people know. If a church does not have ‘it’ – people, even those who are not born again, know and recognize that ‘it’ is missing. They may not know what ‘it’ is but they know we don’t have it. Remember, Jesus said, “You are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). In other words, the life of Christ in us is the light that the world must see and experience – the life of God in us is the light – the ‘it’ people are looking for.
One writer stats, “To put it generally, the difference between an organized church and an organic church is the difference between standing in front of a fan and standing outdoors on a windy day. It is the difference between General Motors and a vegetable garden.”
Next time we will look at some of the main differences between an organic expression of the Church and an organized or institutional form of the Church.
The Church of the Future – Part Two
We have looked at:
1> Relationship-centered churches
2> Evangelism-centered churches
3> Small-is-beautiful churches
4> Biblical blueprint churches
Let’s continue today…
5> Personality-centered churches
Led by human personality, these churches will be part of their own narrow circle of networked churches headed up by a gifted teacher. They will be narrowly elitist, labouring under the delusion that they are the only real game in town.
They will have their own exclusive vocabulary and sayings that no one outside the group can understand. They will speak disparagingly of other Christians, mocking and demeaning them as lacking the spiritual insight that they possess. Each church in the union or network will be little more than one mirror looking at another mirror.
Despite what the leader preaches, the gifted leader will draw disciples unto themselves rather than to Christ. The leader will encourage hero worship – although this encouragement will never be verbally admitted to.
Church politics play a major role in the life of these churches. The leader’s disciples will seek to win prominence with the leader regardless of what it costs relationally with other leaders and the people who attend. Various tests will be given to prove the disciples’ loyalty , not to Christ, but to the leader. This will naturally spawn tattling among the leader’s understudies, as each disciple fights to sit at the leader’s right hand.
The growth in these groups may be strong in the beginning. But slowly, members will begin to get disillusioned and leave. The ‘faithful’ who remain to hold down the fort will become part of a very tiny movement will declining numbers. They will become a non-issue in the Christian world. They will not appear on anyone’s radar screen, but will exist only in their own tiny universe.
Even though they will be sitting on the periphery of the periphery of Christianity, they will remain convinced that they are the center of everything. They will have stepped into a black hole, and they will be out of touch will what God is doing in other places and with other people. The Lord will quickly move on from them. But tragically, few in the movement will have enough discernment to recognize it.
6> Christ-centered organic expressions of the Church
There will be a number of non-traditional churches that are truly organic and centred on the Lord Jesus Christ. If they are smart, they won’t use the term ‘organic’ since it has been hijacked and rendered meaningless. However, Christ will be the focus of their sharing, ministry, songs, and conversations.
But more importantly, He will be exhibited by their conduct. This does not mean perfection, of course. But the graciousness, kindness, humility, and inclusiveness that marks the character of Jesus will be evident among them.
These groups will explore fresh ways of knowing Christ through varied Christian traditions. They will receive the help of outside Christian workers. At the same time, they will be genuinely open to all of the body of Christ. Not in some surface manner, but in a deep and practical real way. They will not deem themselves to be anything significant or special in church history. They will not obsess over their legacy nor their unique contributions to the Christian family. They will be content to live and die in obscurity.
As a result, God’s favour will rest heavily upon them. Perhaps without even realizing it, they will be His instruments for spreading the revolution to mainstream Christians as well as to the lost.
These groups will not only express Christ to one another, they will also display Him to the world. They will reengineer evangelism, displaying Christ’s love, compassion, and service to the lost. Like their Lord, these churches will become ‘the friend of sinners.’ They will preach the gospel in words and in action being very involved in the life of the various communities in which they live.
In short, they will reclaim the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ to the world.
The Church of the Future – Part One
Much has been written regarding the Church of the future. One would hope that this Church is the one that Jesus is building (Matthew 16:18). That He would be the foundational Cornerstone as well as the Head of this Church (Ephesians 2:20; Colossians 1:18). And, that it will be designed and built by people who are guided and directed by the Holy Spirit.
The majority of churches being planted currently are what we refer to as “non-traditional” churches. This means that the way they express their corporate life is not the same as the more established and traditional type churches. Examples of the latter would be: Roman Catholic, Orthodox, Lutheran, Church of England (Anglican), Methodist, and others.
Within the non-traditional churches we see a wide variety of approaches to establishing churches and expressing the corporate life of the church once established. Within these non-traditional churches we see:
1> Relationship-centered churches
These churches are built on the notion that a church should exist for no other reason than to forge deeper human relationships. Churches of this variety begin strong and are valiant, but after the first few years they typically begin to run out of steam and disintegrate. The become a ‘country club’ for members and others who look, act, and talk like they do. The reason these churches will have a short lifespan is simply – they are built upon a foundation other than Jesus Christ and the mandate He gave to His Church – The Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20).
2> Evangelism-centered house churches
In the New Testament the purpose of evangelism was to win the lost. As the numbers being born again grew they gathered together and formed house churches. The purpose of evangelism was to build the Church.
Evangelism-centered churches have reverse this order. Proponents of these kinds of churches exist in order to evangelize more effectively. Because of this, these churches will multiply as a strategy to gain more converts. But the concern is that often they will multiply far too rapidly. Because their emphasis is on evangelism, they will be slow or even negligent in developing a solid biblical and theological foundation. Because these churches will be built on a very thin theological and biblical foundation, most of them will disintegrate and burn out within several years.
3> Small-is-beautiful churches
Many believers from traditional churches will continue to give up on the format of the traditional church. So, they will move out and form neighbourhood house churches. However, in spite of having physically left the bigger, traditional church they still maintain the traditional style and structure of what they have left. It is familiar and they are comfortable with it. As a result, there is a hierarchical structure firmly in place. Eventually, aside from moving out of the building into the home there will be very little that will distinguish them from the garden-variety traditional church.
4> Biblical blueprint churches
These sorts of churches will be built on the idea that an ironclad blueprint can be found in and extracted from the New Testament and mechanically followed. Instead of allowing the functions, gifts, and ministries of the Church to emerge naturally and organically our of life, members will be put into offices immediately in an attempt to conform to a “biblical blueprint.” Most of these churches will devolve into elder-controlled churches. Their meetings will be stiff and perfunctory.