JohnSWilson3 Blog

Some thoughts on what I have learned about organic church life
May 15, 2011, 4:42 am
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

After learning about and learning to live with others in organic church life I felt like I needed to revisit some of what we learned. In order to do this I was going back through “Finding Organic Church” tonight by Frank Viola, the same book that we as a group went through together and to some degree practiced some of it. Frank’s chapter 14, “Five Unmovable Principles” is pretty much on the mark. Based on how well we followed these principles determined the state of our relationships together and how we moved forward in Christ together. I do want to be upfront. The below are lessons that I perceived to have learned, my other brothers and sisters may say something different based on their perspective, and that’s okay, God has given each of us a measure of the gift of Christ. Perhaps what I share below, the results that I saw and participated in, was because of a lack of understanding of that measure of the gift of Christ in each of us.

Principle 1: Become like little children. This was not always followed, by me or other brothers and sisters. Some did not “drop your agendas. Drop your ambitions. Drop what you think you are in the Lord. Drop what you think your gifts are.” As a result this led down a slippery slope that tested our body life. Strike 1.

Principle 2: Your feelings will get hurt. Many had a perceived “way” of doing church and did not get their “own way in the church.” There was some “cutting, chiseling, sanding, and refining” but a number decided to leave instead of becoming “welded together to form a dwelling place for the Lord.” There were times when the Lord found a place of rest, but in other times He did not get “His way.” Strike 2.

Principle 3: Be patient with the progress of the group. “Old mind-sets, the old mentality, the old vocabulary, and the old practices” tended to stay in place, just rearranged. While we may have said we were “doing” things differently every time we met, the same things still occurred, perhaps we were in denial at the time. And these things, while good and edifying, e.g. singing, praying, sharing Scripture, eating together, and sharing things about ourselves, [I have shared in this blog under “Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony” of the many good things that did happen] we did not begin with first “deprogramming and detoxification.” We wanted a 1 Corinthians 14:26 meeting from day one. If the group decided to do something differently it was felt we were moving away from the Lord. I guess you could say we were more a house church versus learning to live organically together. I and many did not have very much patience, this was a definite learning point. Perhaps that is one way to transition to organic church life, learning what not to do, which for some reason I and my family tend to find ourselves time and again. Strike 3.

Principle 4: People will leave your group. I and others judged the motives of one another and a loss of freedom occurred. I can’t remember if it was Watchman Nee or T. Austin-Sparks who said it but “suspicion,” no matter how small in the body of Christ is definitely a killer of authentic community. Some felt the way we were going was not spiritual enough, there was not enough Scripture shared, there was not enough prayer, a lack of miraculous gifts, not enough singing, not enough evangelizing, not enough (you fill in the blank), but essentially not according to their expectations of “church” life as practiced in Scripture. Even in my wording it became their and them instead of we. People did leave the group, but we all accepted from the start that everyone was in an experiment of sorts, and were free to leave whenever they decided to do so. Strike 4.

Principle 5: People will experience exciting spiritual growth and healing. I would have to say that in His own way God did provide experiences for each person to experience exciting spiritual growth and healing. Whether each are willing to share or not, learning did occur, Christ taught us something of Himself through one another, often in the more trying situations. But we really did not move forward together into a “close-knit community and learning to live by God’s life rather than our own.” We probably learned more about what the flesh looks like than the Spirit. Strike 5.

With five strikes against us, this in no way means that we didn’t learn anything or that many of us are no longer gathering together. I would venture to say all of us learned many things about ourselves, our flesh, about loving one another, and especially about our Lord. Something we probably would never have learned in an institutional church because of the limited or no participation we are so conditioned to in that pastor centered overly protective environment. The problem seemed to center in moving too quickly into attempting to experience the glories of Christ individually in the group versus learning to experience Christ in us as head in authentic community which takes time. I could be wrong. Some brothers and sisters will inevitably disagree, it is just how I see it from my perspective. Some who read this will get upset. Brothers and sisters I know that I did not always express the love of Christ, I am still learning to put off the flesh and put on Christ with you, we are to love one another, even in each others failings. Frank is right there is a secret to organic church life – “allow the Lord to thicken your skin, and you will survive body life.”

Looking further in the book I noticed that in “building community,” we did make an attempt at doing a couple things to help build community. In most instances because of the distance that we were from one another, having a meeting once a week was the most many could do. As a result it became “let’s try and do everything we can on one day” type of meeting versus learning to meet together in the every day circumstances of life. Perhaps Sunday’s became like for many who grew up living at the institutional church, doing so many “things” that many got “burned out” of this way of meeting. I guess maybe we did not really think of each other as family. Perhaps not really knowing each other well enough caused us to limit our desire to really want to help one another “with real-life struggles.”

The “twelve essential ingredients” that Frank offers are very timely as well. While all that has been mentioned above sounds pretty bad, like we failed, I am of the opinion that we often learn more from failure than if we had not tried. I am a pretty sensitive person with a steady conscientious personality, so failure and conflict is something I don’t really like, it strikes against my flesh, perhaps that’s what the Lord is having me to learn. I like what Frank says “it’s far better to fail than not to try at all.” Being a science teacher I have always told my students that in science we never fail, when something doesn’t work right, or according to our expectations, we just learned what not to do. Too often we have a fear of failure and as a result we never move forward. So it seems we have been learning what not to do.

Looking at the growth stages of what happened over the past year and a half we seemed to have moved through the “four destinies.” Some form of institutionalism occurred, some corporate paralysis, some disintegration, but also some spiritual progress. We had our honeymoon period, crisis, for some perhaps the experience of the cross, and maybe some tested body life. But what we got was only a taste of and mainly missed and what many are still moving towards is living by Christ’s life under His headship organically together, expressing Christ. “Tested body life. Here’s what it looks like: The love the brothers and sisters have for one another has passed through fire. It has matured. The saints realize that they never really fell in love with one another; they climbed to it. Body life is now deeper and richer than it was during the honeymoon stage. Members will fall on a grenade for one another. They begin to experience the words of Jesus: ‘Greater love has no one than this, than to lay down one’s life for his friends’ (John 15:13 NKJV).” This is a truth: “If you set out to gather in an organic way, the word of the Lord will test you. It will try you. The vision for the restoration of God’s house will be sorely tested in your life.”

4 Comments so far
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I agree with much of what you have written.

We are still here with you as we learn how to live by Christ.

Usually, a group/community does not develop a deep love for each other without severe testing. We have only had a little testing, but some more than others.


Comment by Byron Harris

Thanks Byron for the comments, was written to try and help me process what I’ve been learning. Thanks for being there brother. Totally agree with you.

Comment by John Wilson

Wow, i want it, but not. We all want it easy, just look at our society, have it fast and easy. I guess it’s not Christ’s way. I was in an Organic Expression for a year, the wife and I couldn’t keep it up due to the 3 hour round trip drive, it literally took up our entire day. We had a hard time connecting since we couldn’t meet inside the week, only Sunday. I can’t wait till the Lord brings us into another closer one that we can be a part of. Many of the things that you describe in your blog I personally went through in that year, I now have a deeper appreciation of what to expect.

Tim Chisolm

Comment by Tim Chisolm

Thanks Tim for sharing, blessings brother.

Comment by John Wilson

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