Countless people who have read my older books, Pagan Christianity (released January 2008) and Reimagining Church (released August 2008), write to us and ask, “I live in [city], where can I find an organic church?”
My answer: Stop looking and asking, for heaven’s sake.
I’ve said it many times before, but in case you’re new to the blog or haven’t read my FAQ page yet, I’m going to repeat it.
Stop your quest for looking for a New Testament styled church (I abandoned the word “organic” awhile ago because it’s been hijacked and doesn’t mean anything specific anymore).
Why do I say to stop looking for an organic expression of the church? 3 reasons:
1. I hasten to point out that the chances of you finding an authentic, healthy organic expression of the church that’s centered Jesus Christ as Head and that has face-to-face community in your town is slim to none. And slim left town.
Yes, you’ll probably find dozens of “home” groups. But it’s rare to find a group that meets in a home — even if it calls itself “organic” — that’s not a glorified Bible study or a “small-is-beautiful” version of an institutional church.
(By the way, I’m not an advocate of house church. As I’ve spoken and written countless times, there’s nothing magical about meeting in a house. And “house church” and “organic church” are not monoliths. They have about as much variety as do plants – from thorn bushes to palm trees! My books don’t recommend “house church,” but rather, they describe a church expression that’s based on, in, and through the Lord Jesus Christ as head.)
But the truth is, expressions of the church like I’ve described in my books are rarer than hen’s teeth. Yes, they exist. I know about a dozen of them . . . real ones. But they are exotically rare, and they have always been rare throughout church history.
Read that sentence again
They’ve always been rare . . . even in the first-century. (Paul only planted about 14 in his life-time.)
Why are they so rare? Three reasons:
a) The institutional form of church is still very popular because it’s so familiar. It’s the kind of “church” depicted in movies, television, magazines, and all media. People fear what’s unfamiliar. The voices of establishment evangelicalism and mainstream Christianity only promote the institutional form of church and its leadership structure. So it will always be popular and accepted unless something cataclysmic happens. And I don’t expect that to occur. Remember, the Catholic Church is still strongly with us despite the Reformation that occurred 500 years ago.
b) The institutional form of church is very convenient. Ministry is done for you, and there’s a place to drop off the crumb-snatchers. True organic expressions of the church require everyone’s involvement, devotion, time, energy and ministry. Passivity isn’t a commodity like it is in the traditional church. Everyone is expected to carry a piece of the ark and take responsibility. It’s anything but convenient.
c) Organic church life is PROFOUNDLY costly. I’ve talked about this at length here, so give it a listen. Face-to-face community exposes everyone’s flesh, so it’s not an easy ride. It’s a marriage of glory and gore. And that’s where the transformation occurs, if you can learn the cross and not skirt it. When it comes to real body life, many are called, but few can stand it.
2. Don’t confuse a particular form of church – like “organic church” — with “the deeper journey.” They aren’t the same. In my observation, most groups that meet in homes — including so-called “organic churches” — are no deeper than most traditional churches. And as I’ve said thousands of times, there’s nothing magical or spiritual about meeting in a home. Some of the worst churches I’ve ever had the displeasure of visiting met in homes and called themselves “organic.”
3. You can find deep Christians who want more of the Lord in the setting of the institutional church. They’ll usually be found in a cell group or weekly home meeting attached to the institutional church. But those people exist, and they do exist in the institutional church. You just have to look for them.
They also exist outside any church form. For many have grown tired of “church as we know it” and it proved toxic to them. So they stopped “attending.” But they exist. And they are looking for people just like you.
That said, refusing to fellowship with other Christians until you find an organic expression of the church in your town is like a young single woman who is waiting for the perfect man to come along before she accepts a date from anyone else.
It’s foolish, at best.
Develop relationships with Christians where you live. And keep an eye out for those who want more of the Lord. Seek them out, even.
Most of my readers — who are on the deeper journey — are not part of organic churches. Some are leaders in traditional church world, but they are hungry and thirsty for more of Christ. And that’s why they read the blog, the books, and listen to the podcast.
Now . . . if you can’t find an organic expression of the church where you live, and you feel God doesn’t want you involved in anything else, then start a group rather than trying to find one.
In my book, Finding Organic Church, I outline the steps to begin meeting organically where you live . . . right there, right now.
So instead of trying to “find” such a church, how about taking steps to prepare the womb for one to be born right where you live?
If your answer is, “I don’t have the time or energy for that,” then I have big news for you.
Neither do you have the time or energy to be part of an organic expression of the church.
In fact, such a response tells me you haven’t the foggiest idea of what organic church life is about.
And for heaven’s sake, if you’re miserable in the institutional church you attend, why on earth do you still attend?
Don’t wait for an angel to appear and tell you it’s okay to exit. That won’t happen.
If the church you’re attending is making you miserable, stop complaining and leave in peace. But don’t slam the door when you exit and take no one else with you.
So there you have it. The truth as clearly as I could put it.
From now on when readers ask us “I live in [city], where can I find an organic church?,” the link to this post will be sent to them.
I hope you will take it to heart.
P.S. Regrettably, a lot of people who read Pagan Christianity and Reimagining Church aren’t aware of my most important books. This is a shame to me because my best thinking and most valuable contributions are in my more recent books. Namely, God’s Favorite Place on Earth, From Eternity to Here, Jesus Manifesto, Jesus: A Theography, Jesus Now, and Revise Us Again. You can view them all here.
See also my article on the present ministry season I am in.