JohnSWilson3 Blog

Gathering in the Garden
October 12, 2012, 1:53 am
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

I thought I would post a blog related to a wonderful gathering the young brothers and sisters had this morning before school. It seemed to be more of a time of guiding the brothers and sisters to learn how to participate. I think that God did something wonderful in each heart as they learned to share and hear Christ.

I had been asking Father about how the young brothers and sisters could “break the ice” as they gathered together this morning. The idea of asking the brothers and sisters how they feel when they are in garden came to mind. The Spirit had impressed me earlier with the thought of His people gathering in the garden. I have been thinking of this for sometime, something that has impressed me quite a lot as a result of reading “Jesus: A Theography” by Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola.

We had a wonderful group of young people show up, as a result many were not sure how to “interact” with one another. Everyone shared their name and what grade each were in. I asked what they thought was the reason for gathering together. Not many wanted to share. I pointed out how brothers and sisters gathered to be encouraged and strengthened by one another. I noted that when brothers and sisters gathered in the New Testament they brought something of Christ to share, a testimony, a song, expressing love to one another.

I have come to realize that even at an early age the institutional church teaches our youngest brothers and sisters to be nonparticipants in the “one anothers.” But just like the students, adults too, those in Christ, can have difficulty relating to one another because of not having learned to participate in Christ with one another (and I’m still learning).

One of the other facilitators arrived and brought some juice and so we helped serve juice to everyone as we all found our way back to our circle of chairs.

I mentioned to the group that I was going to increase their faith, that is Christ in me. I asked them to think about how they feel or what they like to do when they are in a garden or a forest. Then asked each person to share their thought one at a time. Each brother and sister shared a wonderful thought! Words such as peaceful, smelling flowers, exploring, rest, laying in the grass, climbing a tree, looking for animals, were some of what was shared.

Midway through the sharing a young girl arrived at about this time, her name is Angel. I mentioned to the group that our angel had arrived, :). She was eager to participate with the rest and shared what she felt when she was in a garden.

I then pointed out to the brothers and sisters how each of them said something uniquely different about how they felt or what they like to do in a garden or forest. This is in fact the meaning of gathering together, we each have a measure of faith and gift of Christ to share with one another. If we did not share our measure of Christ we would not have learned something of Christ from you. I then shared how in the beginning God had a garden with Adam and Eve and that God likes gardens and at the end of the ages there will also be a garden. He walked in the midst of the garden. Together we are the garden of God and He is even now walking in our midst. He loves His garden.

I mentioned to the new brothers and sisters how during our time together we often sing songs, either as a group or if you want to sing to the group that would be cool also. The brothers and sisters spent a couple minutes or so looking through the pages of our song book.

One of the brothers asked to sing “Living in the Body of the Lord.” This was funny as the song first begins with the sisters singing the first chorus of the song, and mentioned how in our home church when we meet from house to house that almost always when someone asks to sing this song it is a brother, :). I mentioned the tune was to “Walking in a Winter Wonderland” and guided the sisters in starting the song. It is truly a great song for the ekklesia. In the song are the words “we face unafraid the plans that He’s made.” The thought came to mind and shared with the brothers and sisters that when ever God showed up, or his representative in the Bible the words “don’t be afraid” were almost always mentioned. I pointed out that we should not be afraid of what others will think about we say or do. We love by faith.

Another asked to lead “Here I Am to Worship” and was a wonderful song to sing together. Then another asked to sing “The Revelation Song (Holy, Holy, Holy).” I so love to sing this with the brothers and sisters and was encouraged as well I am sure the other brothers and sisters! I thought about the words “Him who sits on Heaven’s mercy seat.” God prompted me to share to the brothers and sisters after we finished singing that the “mercy seat” was on the ark of the covenant inside the Holy of Holies and that the Holy of Holies was surrounded by a beautiful tapestry embroidered with images of a garden. I then shared with the brothers and sisters that we are the Holy of Holies, the garden where Christ dwells.

It was about this time that we all had to get to out 1st period classes. I asked the brothers and sisters to be ready to share something of Christ when we meet again and to remember that they are God’s garden.

Comments related to “pastor.”

These are some comments I shared with a fellow brother and thought others might benefit from it.


I can get dogmatic regarding peoples use of mistranslated terms such “overseer,” “elder,” “pastor,” “deacons,” “rulers,” etc because of the hierarchy men use the terms for versus the organic function of those with this measure of faith and gift of Christ as they were intended.

My guess is the theme of scripture too often has been God’s people deciding to not trust God as Head over them but installing a man as their leader, a cult of personality as it were. “The concept of the Pastor as being a shepherding elder is well established” strikes at the heart of this problem. There is no concept of a single human pastor in the scripture. In the Old Testament these people were types of Christ or types of anti-Christ not an example for the ekklesia to follow. What is well established from the New Testament is that older people are brothers and sisters who have experienced Christ’s care from one another and have learned to express His life of care to others. I do agree that these older people were “pointed out” as examples/guides of those living by the Spirit, but this simply was not an appointment to a position. It was to help the body live by Jesus, keep their eyes on Jesus, by seeing others do so together. We have made a simple gesture of Paul to help the body stay focused on Christ to focusing on people, totally contrary to what Paul had in mind. Installing a man as a leader/leaders whether formally or not has been the bane of Christianity, especially in what we see in the ekklesia in Corinth, and then later in its ugliest form in Roman Catholicism, Protestantism, and every other denomination, to its shame. Thinking we have made a doctrine of human leadership the lynchpin on whether the “church” has it correct or not versus living by our One Leader together. When the focus of “church” becomes about “leaders” instead of Christ she has lost her focus.

The other thought that comes to mind is I have come to realize just how the life of Christ, His Spirit builds up His people. He builds up His body by His Spirit, experienced by His people together and as we the learn to express Him to family, friends, etc. Christ said He would build His ekklesia/His people. This IS job of the Single Pastor alone, but not human “pastors” as institutional Christianity has developed. The Single Pastor living through one another. Every member in Christ can express His life (gift) and we should acknowledge such, which is very encouraging to one another, but this is no cause to “put them into position to use those gifts.” My question is what do we mean by this? If they are living by His life already why would we put them into a position? If anything when we do this we have already focused on the “gift” and not on Christ who is the gift and divided the body between the specially gifted/the clergy and the laity which are two completely foreign concepts in the Bible. It was another problem in Corinth, they focused on certain “gifts” or “gifted men” and not the Gift. I guess my question is that, not considering institutional Christianity’s focus on using “gifts” or perhaps more likely “human talents” for worship services, sunday school, discipleship training, etc how can a body function in body life? I think the answer is body life functions as a result of Christ’s life in His people in closely connected relationships with Christ as Head.

These are some thoughts that have arrested me for some years now. I am compelled by Christ to know Him intimately as I live by His life with His people.

A Play: Jesus’ Life in His Believers (Thessalonica)
February 24, 2012, 11:46 am
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

Jesus’ Life Spreads to Thessalonica (Acts 17)

Narrator: Paul left Timothy and Luke in Philippi to help the brothers and sisters learn to live by the life of Christ in them, to live by faith with love toward one another and their neighbors, while he and Silas travel to Thessalonica.

Paul: (walking with Silas) I am so thankful that Christ brought us together to share in His life and now having seen His life in others in Philippi! I thank you Lord Jesus for the grace you have given these who have believed in your name!

Silas: How wonderful it was to see not just Lydia and her household come to faith in Christ but wonder of all wonders that our jailer and his family as well! How amazing you are Father to lead us in this adventure of knowing your Son by experiencing your life together and to see your life spread!

Paul: Amen brother Silas. Father we ask that you keep our brothers and sisters in Philippi as well as our dear friends Timothy and Luke in Your perfect peace, keeping their eyes focused on Jesus, as they share your life with one another. Look up ahead it seems that there is a Jewish synagogue here in this city of Thessalonica. I believe that God again will do a work here, showing us again that He desires a place of rest, a place to dwell in a people here in this city and in every city in the world.

Narrator: As was his custom, Paul went into the synagogue, and on Saturday for three weeks he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, explaining and proving that the Messiah had to suffer and rise from the dead. “This Jesus I am proclaiming to you is the Messiah,” he said. Some of the Jews were persuaded and joined Paul and Silas, as did a large number of God-fearing Greeks and not a few prominent women.

Narrator: The brothers and sisters in one part of the city have gathered in Jason’s house.

Tryphena: (looking worried) My brothers and sisters I am very concerned about the threats that the Jewish leaders have made against us and especially our dear brothers Paul and Silas who shared with us our Lord Jesus. I have prayed asking Father for help and His peace but I have no peace.

Persis: My sister Tryphena you are most loved by Jesus, He is in you and is now your life as we have all seen and experienced, just as Paul and Silas told us. We have seen His love in you, we have seen your faith how you have given yourself in helping our dear sister Mary when she was left on the streets by her husband after she confessed the Lord Jesus Christ.

Tryphosa: Father give us spiritual eyes to see you as our peace. Thank You that Christ Jesus is our rest. Thank you that we no longer try to rest by being religious on a particular day but that when we fix our eyes on You, no matter the day or time, You become our rest.

Aristarchus: Remember brothers and sisters what Christ through Paul told us. He has told us many times that we would be persecuted. Remember the stories of what Paul told us about what the other brothers and sisters have gone through around the world as a result of believing on the Lord Jesus Christ. It was the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem who put to death our Lord Jesus.

Mary: Yes, but praise God that He raised Him from the dead!

Secundus: Amen, and now lives in us right now!

Jason: Amen brother Secundus, God has given us much grace as we have learned to see our flesh as dead and that we are now alive in Jesus by His resurrection from the dead.

Secundus: Yes, even though I was your legal slave, God has made us brothers by what Christ did on the cross, taking away the hostility between us. Thank you brother Jason for not just speaking the freedom of Christ to me but showing me the freedom of Christ by freeing me from my bonds so that I can serve you even better as a brother in Christ!

Tryphena: (looking happy) Thank you brothers and sisters for the encouragement you have given me, the encouragement that is Christ in you. We are most blessed in Jesus, blessed with His peace, blessed with His love, blessed with His grace. How I love you all for your kind words, for the words that Jesus gave you to say at this moment.

Narrator: The disciples hear some loud banging at the front door of Jason’s house. Suddenly men with swords and axes came rushing into the house.

Person 1: (speaking angrily) Where is Paul and Silas?! Tell us now! No one gets harmed unless you find them now!

Narrator: The Jewish leaders were jealous of Paul and Silas; so they had rounded up some bad characters from the marketplace, had formed a mob and started a riot in the city. They rushed to Jason’s house in search of Paul and Silas in order to bring them out to the crowd.

Narrator: The brothers and sisters go to their knees and begin to pray together.

Tryphena: Father help us in our time of need!

Aristarchus: Father forgive them for they know not what they do!

Mary: Watch over Paul and Silas!

Jason: Men why have you committed this crime of rushing into my house and threatening us? We have always meant to lead a quiet life, minding our own business, and working with our hands. What have we done to cause you to do this thing?

Person 2: (speaking loudly) It has nothing to do with those things but because we have been told that you no longer call Caesar king but a dead person named Jesus and this Paul and Silas have been causing trouble causing others to defy Caesar!

Narrator: The men who had rushed into Jason’s house are so angry they do not give Jason or the others a chance to speak. When they could not find Paul and Silas they dragged Jason and some other believers out of the house.

Person 1: (dragging Jason) (speaking angrily) Since we can’t find Paul or Silas let’s take them to the city officials!

Person 2: (dragging Secundus) (speaking loudly) Caesar is king!

Narrator: The crowd, dragging Jason and some other believers, arrive at the city officials.

Person 1: (shouting to the city officials) “These men who have caused trouble all over the world have now come here, and Jason has welcomed them into his house. They are all defying Caesar’s decrees, saying that there is another king, one called Jesus.”

Narrator: When they heard this, the crowd and the city officials were thrown into turmoil. Then they made Jason and the others post bond and let them go. As soon as it was night, the believers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea.

A Play: Jesus’ Life in His Believers (Philippi)
February 18, 2012, 1:04 pm
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

The following is a play that I worked on for our fellowship of students a couple weeks ago who are learning to gather organically at a middle school. Our first year we did some plays related to Frank Viola’s booklet “Bethany,” looking at Jesus finding a place of rest with His people during His earthly ministry. Our second year we did some plays related to Christ’s resurrection appearances looking at Christ’s resurrection life. And this third year we are doing some plays related to Christ’s life spreading through His people who gather as a place of rest in Christ by His resurrection life. It is not meant to be word for word from the Bible and I have taken some liberty in the dialogue. There is some historical accuracy and I have used other passages of scripture to help with the dialogue. The students really loved acting it out, :). We normally do about 4 plays each school year with the intent of learning how to participate together in love.

Jesus’ Life Spreads to Philippi (Acts 16)

Narrator: The location is Philippi, a Roman colony and a leading city of that district of Macedonia. It is Saturday and outside the city gate at the river are some women who have gathered to share about and sing to the God of Israel.

Euodia: (reading from a Psalm) “I will declare your name to my people; in the assembly I will praise you. You who fear the LORD, praise him! All you descendants of Jacob, honor him! Revere him, all you descendants of Israel! For he has not despised or scorned the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help.”

Syntyche: Euodia what do you think it means “I will declare your name to my people?” Whose name is the singer talking about?

Euodia: I do not know my sister. Lydia, do you have any idea? Is it the God of Israel? We must know the name that we are to praise!

Lydia: Sisters I have heard that some men from Troas arrived just a couple days ago. I believe they may be Jews, although I believe some of them are Greek like us. I have heard rumor that some of them may be from Jerusalem. Perhaps they could help us. Let us pray to the God of Israel for help.

Narrator: As the women are praying, Paul, Silas, Timothy, and Luke walk down to the river. The men sit down. The women stop praying noticing that some men have gathered near them.

Silas: (to his companions) Brothers we had expected that since there is no Jewish synagogue in this city that we might find some who worship the God of Israel near the river. And in front of us are some dear women who are praying.

Paul: You are right brother Silas, the Lord has led us to this very place. See what the Lord is doing in front of us my brothers Timothy and Luke. The vision of a man of Macedonia standing and begging him, “Come over to Macedonia and help us” is indeed from Christ Jesus our Lord.

Timothy: To hear Him in us, to experience Christ’s life in us is truly wonderful!

Luke: Amen, brother Timothy! He is our guide, He leads, we listen and follow what He says. Brother Paul has truly helped us to live as new creations by His Spirit.

Lydia: (bowing) My lords, my name is Lydia and these are my dear friends Euodia and Syntyche. We are aware that you have come from Jerusalem and have news to tell us. Our sister Euodia was reading a psalm that said “I will declare your name to my people.” Do you know whose name the singer was referring to? Is the singer referring to the God of Israel? We humbly ask that you share with us what you know for we have heard that something strange has occurred in Jerusalem and that reports have spread of a Jewish Messiah, called the Christ, who was crucified but raised to life.

Paul: I am Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus. I sense the Lord Jesus has opened the hearts of not a few here in Philippi, beginning first with you dear women. Only the Lord knows what will happen, but I can see that God is looking for a house to dwell in here in this place.

Lydia: But isn’t God’s house the temple in Jerusalem?

Paul: My dear Lydia, God does not live in a house made of stone but in a people. From the beginning God has desired a people who would follow Him, to live by His life and be a house to live in. The temple in Jerusalem is only a picture of His real home, the gathering of brothers and sisters who have believed on the Lord Jesus Christ in every city in every place on this earth.

Lydia: Jesus was the Jewish Messiah?

Paul: Jesus was crucified but is now alive, He is the Messiah, the Christ, the Lord Himself, for any who would believe in His name. He now lives in His people by His Spirit. All of scripture testifies of the One to come, Jesus, who is both Lord and Christ. It is Jesus who we declare to you today. It is Jesus, in me who is calling you to Himself. I have been called to be a messenger and set apart for the good news of God—the good news he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord. Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to faith and obedience for his name’s sake. And you also are among those Gentiles who are called to belong to Jesus Christ. Jesus is the Son of God who loved us and gave Himself for us. It is by Him in me that I now live. He is now our new life.

Lydia: I am being called to belong to Jesus Christ? Jesus died and rose again for me, because He loves me?

Paul: Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved both you and those here who have heard the message and believe.

Lydia: My heart only wants to belong to Jesus. I believe on the Lord Jesus Christ. He is my life!

Timothy: Only the Holy Spirit can be doing this!

Silas: So true brother Timothy, I stand amazed by His grace!

Euodia and Syntyche: We also have believed!

Luke: Since we are here at the river, let us witness to this city that Christ Jesus has now come to this place and has begun a new work, a new creation!

Paul: Yes brother. The heavenly places will be shaken because God has found a place to dwell in, a people who will live by His Son, a life full of living water.

Silas: (to the women) Since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have gained access by faith into this grace in which we now stand. And we boast in the hope of the glory of God. Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance, character; and character, hope. And hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.

Paul: Yes suffering will come, but hope remains. Christ Jesus was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification. Because you have believed you are completely forgiven and have been raised to new life in Him. You are new creations. He has made you clean, like being immersed in water.

Lydia: Brothers we have the river here. Because we have believed let us be immersed in the water to show that God has taken away our sin and made us new creations!

Narrator: When Lydia and the members of her household were immersed in water, she invited Paul and his companions to her home.

Lydia: (to Paul and his companions) If you consider me a believer in the Lord come and stay at my house.

Narrator: The brothers were persuaded and the new disciples each learned to share by faith with love the Lord Jesus Christ with one another.

Students Learning to Participate in the Life of Christ Together

Students had a wonderful time learning to share Christ with one another today! I thought you might be edified from it and gives you a brief view of the gathering. This is a gathering of middle school students invited to enjoy a time of fun, faith, and fellowship before school begins in a conference room.

Today was an exceptional day in the life of the younger brothers and sisters.They learned that the expectations of gathering together was for each to participate, to edify one another, sharing something of Christ, making Christ Head of the gathering. Too often we let the “leaders” do all of the serving and we become spectators, not growing in Christ as a result, but I purposefully did not try to function but to help the young brothers and sisters participate. This often resulted in moments of silence, which is healthy, helping each to hear Christ on their own and to sense how to share Christ with others. This caused many to “work out their salvation.”

Most were unsure how to share Christ, this often can lend itself to singing songs which most can do, and is a good way to start learning to participate. In the process they learned how to lead songs on their own, songs that they felt led to sing. Too often they wanted me to begin the song, but I quietly remained silent. As a result some were challenged to start a song and so encouraged the brothers and sisters to sing together. One song in particular is “Our Awesome God” a revision of “Awesome God,” one which I love to lead, but did not. Another song that a young sister led was “How He Loves Us” and thinking this helped the other brothers and sisters see what leading a song looked like. One young sister was unsure how to lead a song, although she knew the chorus. She asked if anyone could start it for the group. There was silence. I mentioned that in scripture that the brothers and sisters often “spoke to one another in psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs” and did not have to sing it if they did not feel gifted to sing. She was encouraged and read the entire song to the group. So they learned that you can actually read a song to the brothers and sisters. It was quite wonderful!

A young brother asked if the group could sing “Revelation Song,” another favorite of mine. He asked if someone else could lead it, after a moment of silence a sister said if the group could begin at the count of 3. It was cute, :). At the end of the song I was prompted from the inner man to ask what they thought “You are our everything” from the song meant? A sister mentioned that for her it means Christ being our Creator. I agreed and pointed out how as Creator He has left His fingerprint on all of His creation, so when we fix our eyes on Jesus, when He becomes our all in all, we begin to see something of Christ in everything and pointed to the chair, the floor, the ceiling, the light fixture, the window, etc. This requires spiritual sight.

A sister led “The Love Song” and everyone had a lot of fun trying to sing it. 🙂 As a result one young sister testified of a wonderful friendship she has with some other sisters and gave an example, edifying one of those sisters next to her. So much so that they hugged each other. There was much joy. I asked the group where did “love” come from? A sister quoted a passage from 1 John 4 from memory about love coming from God. I pointed out that our sister who testified of her love for her other sisters, that love, actually came from Christ in her, and that her love is because of His life in her. I could sense that this was a moment of reflection.

I could tell Christ, for the time we were together, found a place of rest with His people. There were a number of new students and sure that many went away refreshed that in freedom we can actually participate in the life of Christ, and saw love being expressed. It was a wonderful time of encouragement!

Gathering Together to Reimagine the Lord’s Supper
August 14, 2011, 7:19 pm
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

The brothers and sisters met at our home this Sunday, gathering together to learn Christ and to make Him Head.

We shared a common meal, a pot luck, of food and drinks for everyone to share from. We shared with one another about life, some in the living room, some in the kitchen. Interestingly much of the discussion was on food and experiences with trying new kinds of food and enjoyed the time of sharing.

We all gathered together in the living room. We shared about various things and then began sharing stories of forgiveness, reminding ourselves of some examples in the past of great forgiveness in spite of some horrendous situations. As we were sharing stories of forgiveness we noted that the chapter in Reimagining Church that we were going to read today was on “Reimagining the Lord’s Supper” in that our discussion had been on food and forgiveness. The thought seemed to go deep.

Some shared stories about the need for putting off the flesh. Some saw this as pruning to bear fruit. We shared further about the importance of pruning in our lives, to bear more fruit, and how it doesn’t seem pleasant at the time, but that God has a purpose for it.

We read from Reimagining Church from Chapter 3, “Reimagining the Lord’s Supper” and had a wonderful discussion from what the New Testament says and looking at it differently from what the institutional church normally “practices it,” e.g. instead of as a common meal but as a separate practice and made into a religious ceremony. Each shared something of Christ related to the common meal and the importance that it has in helping the body of Christ not to forget its foundation in Christ alone and to move forward together in Him.

We spent some time sharing together, playing with little Aaric who was a delight to see enjoying playing around the room. Even brother Byron got down on the floor and was playing with the blocks with Aaric and the other boys, :). We look forward to gathering together again at Byron and Brenda’s home next as we “Reimagine the Gathering Place.”

Books to Read to Help Understand the Organic Nature of Church

Was asked to share a list of books that might be helpful to better understand the organic nature of church. Obviously there is much that could be listed but here is the list that I have read and that has greatly helped and influenced me. These have helped me to see the organic nature of the body of Christ that we see in the New Testament, God’s heart that the body of Christ, living in the freedom of Christ together, sharing His life out of that freedom in grace and truth with love, to the full expression of the Son.

I have listed them by author(s). Each have their pros and cons and each person who reads them will look at the pros and cons differently. As most will say, none have figured it all out, and much has been more in exploration and experimentation.

Frank Viola and Milt Rodriguez books tend to be more wholly organic and look at organic church from a more practical corporate basis. T. Austin-Sparks, Robert Banks, and Jon Zens books tend to look at organic church from a more theological basis. Neil Cole’s books tend to look at organic church from a cell like church movement perspective with a more individual disciple-making basis. Tony and Felicity Dale tend to look at organic church from a simple and house church perspective. Each author brings their own flavor of living by the life Christ together in His body and each have provided me many areas of edification and growth in understanding what it means to live by Christ in His body and to expressing Him outside of the body. There are many other authors out there with their own books such as Leonard Sweet and Wolfgang Simpson, I just haven’t gotten to reading them, hope you can forgive me, :).

Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet:
– Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ

Frank Viola and George Barna:
– Pagan Christianity: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices (a deconstruction of the institutional church)

Frank Viola:
– From Eternity to Here: Rediscovering the Ageless Purpose of God (mind blowing look at God’s eternal purpose from the entire Bible)
– Reimagining Church: Pursuing the Dream of Organic Christianity (a reconstructive look at living in organic church)
– The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament (great guide to reading the Bible, especially the New Testament in chronological order)
– Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities (very useful in looking at how Christ in His ekklesia grows and spreads organically from the book of Acts and today and useful helps for those looking at venturing into this kind of life organically)
– Revise Us Again: Living From a Renewed Christian Script (most practical of Frank’s books, really helpful at looking at different mindsets within the body of Christ and how to love one another despite our differences)

Milt Rodriguez:
– The Community Life of God: Seeing the Godhead As the Model for All Relationships (best book I have read on the subject)
– The Butterfly in You: Discovering Your True Identity in Christ (wonderful analogy of sanctification, living by the life of Christ)
– The Temple Within: Fellowship With An Indwelling Christ (really impacted me on learning to hear Christ, and am still learning)
– The Priesthood of All Believers: 1st Century Church Life in the 21st Century (important treatment of seeing life in the body where ALL participate not just a few)
– The Organic Church: Something New In case You Might Be Interested (great look at what organic church is and is not)

Jon Zens:
– A Church Building Every 1/2 Mile: What Makes American Christianity Tick? (similar to Pagan Christianity but focused more on American “church”)
– What’s With Paul and Women? Unlocking the Cultural Background to 1 Timothy 2 (best commentary on the confusing passages by Paul related to women, must read!)
– No Will of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity and Personhood (group of essays on the false teaching of Patriarchalism)
– The Pastor Has No Clothes (great look at the hindrance that clergy-laity divide has in the full functioning of the ekklesia)
– Searching Together Magazine

Robert Banks:
– Going to Church in the First Century: An Eyewitness Account (a short and wonderful historical fiction story of an unbeliever visiting an organic church in the ancient city of Rome)
– Paul’s Idea of Community (Revised Edition) (the book that questions the institutional church and its practices that limit body life)
– The Church Comes Home (with Julia Roberts) (haven’t read this yet)

Neil Cole:
– Search and Rescue: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes A Difference
– Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens
– Organic Leadership: Leading Naturally Right Where You Are

Tony & Felicity Dale:
– The Rabbit and the Elephant: Why Small Is the New Big for Today’s Church

T. Austin-Sparks:
– The Centrality and Supremacy of the Lord Jesus Christ
– God’s Spiritual House
– The School of Christ
– The Stewardship of the Mystery
(these are just some of his best works, as far as I’m concerned everything that Sparks wrote is probably the most edifying works I’ve ever read short of the Bible, :))

Dietrich Bonhoeffer:
– The Cost of Discipleship
– Life Together: The Classic Exploration of Faith in Community

Watchman Nee:
– The Normal Christian Life
– Christ The Sum of All Spiritual Things
– The Normal Christian Church Life: The New Testament Pattern of the Churches, the Ministry, and the Work (this is from a Chinese house church cultural perspective)

George Barna:
– Revolution: Finding Vibrant Faith Beyond the Walls of the Sanctuary (more of a postchurch perspective)

Gene Edwards:
– The Divine Romance (wonderful story in the form of a play of God’s eternal purpose from an view of the angels in creation to the resurrection of Christ)

Larry Kreider:
– House Church Networks: A Church For A New Generation (this comes from a perspective that both large cell churches and house churches are both important, this is the first book God used to help me see the importance that hierarchy and church structures hampered more than helped the church, seeing that church was not about leaders but about functioning in the body, although the author doesn’t necessarily share this view)

Brother Lawrence:
– The Practice of the Presence of God: The Best Rule of Holy Life (comes from the perspective of a monk but has many great truths about living by the life of Christ in every aspect of life)

Jeanne Guyon:
– Experiencing God Through Prayer (tends to appear to come from a programmed approach to prayer like most studies on prayer but has a more organic perspective than other)

I have many other books, devotionals, theological, commentaries, studying the Bible, church history, discipleship, leadership, counseling, worship, ministry, evangelism, etc but these in almost every case come from an institutional bias with a focus on individual Christianity, living the Christian life by your self in the world. These I still keep, I guess to help me remember that it is not about living an individual Christian life but about living by the life of Christ in and to His body and expressing Him through His body.

Brothers and Sisters Reimagining Church
July 3, 2011, 7:57 pm
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

It has been some months since I last posted on how the brothers and sisters here in the west Houston area have been learning to gather with Christ organically. For some time we have been going through a season of building relationships, getting to know one another better. Today I sensed a new season, a new sense of freedom in our sharing with one another, every person sharing freely their heart and the Christ in them.

We enjoyed coming together this morning at our home enjoying catching up with one another over a shared meal, encouraging one another. In the same room, the breakfast/kitchen area, some were enjoying a game of chess. Later we went into the living room and discussed using Frank Viola’s book, “Reimagining Church,” to learn how to move forward in Christ in a more organic way. We had read together the last half of “Finding Organic Church” many months ago together during a season of learning about how to gather and we did so with baby steps. It was following that time that half of the brothers and sisters decided to no longer gather together as I shared in a previous blog. Thinking that, because of what had happened a few months ago, we were waiting on the Lord for the season to relook with fresh eyes how to live by the life of Christ together.

We had some discussion on how to go about reading “Reimagining Church” together and decided on each person reading a page or two going around and letting each person read and participate. Each either had a copy of the book or had it on a kindle or phone. We read together the Preface and the Introduction concluding with “I Have A Dream” that described Frank’s dream of a church lived organically by the life of Christ and not on some thing or someone. This led to a lot of open and mutual discussion of the impressions each of us had from what we read. Much of the conversation centered on learning to know and love Christ better, learning to listen to Him, having a clear conscience in relating to one another, and entering Christ’s rest. Some shared words from scripture, some shared stories, others asked questions. Most had not read the book yet and think that the Spirit had a big impact on reviewing what we thought had been our expectations of what and how we gathered. Of concern was how to live a shared life with our families because of being so far apart.

We spent some time later sharing together, opening hearts towards one another, others helping clean up. We left with a sense of the importance of Christ being our Head and our life. We discussed where to meet next week and others shared about how to meet up together during the week. We are just some brothers and sisters reimagining church that Christ desires.

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.”

Being Church As Family by Molong Nacua
March 28, 2011, 1:49 am
Filed under: 1- Discovering Organic Church Life Testimony

Here is a note from facebook that my brother Molong posted. I loved this post and think it speaks to the idea of how the body of Christ reflects being the family of God. The Lord is pleased when He sees His Bride living and loving together by His life. May we learn to do so.

We encourage each extended family to live close to each other. Being church may change not only the way we live but also WHERE we live. It takes a commitment to do this, a commitment to love and care for each other deeply. The early church didn’t just live ‘from house to house’ simply because they liked each other. Living together is their ‘default’ system.

So, we ate together, drink coffee or tea together, play together, do gardening together, do market together, do laundry together, pray together-sing together-laugh together- doing things together. It is organic-church-life, it is JESUS-LIFE-TOGETHER. This does not make you busy at all for the hours that you spent to do market, etc together is the same as other saints.

We don’t do meetings but we meet a lot. We don’t do ‘scheduled’ meetings but meet ‘spontaneously’ instead. How can you plan a schedule to meet when you just live next door? So, we don’t do ‘prayer meetings’ but we pray a lot! We don’t do ‘Bible Study Meetings’ but we discuss the Bible a lot – while we do gardening, laundry, walking, playing or having coffee.

Everyday we meet over coffee or a meal. Everyday, just as the early church. We help one another, we buy meds for each other, we pay bills to each other, we buy rice for each other. We don’t have ‘Christian neighbors’ but we are FAMILY. We don’t sponsor a brother or a sister to school, we HELP them. We treated one another as our own family members. It is not about ‘pastoring a member’ as you see in modern churches but it is FATHERING AND MOTHERING YOUR NEXT GENERATION as your own ‘children in the Lord.’

Find out more about Molong and how he and the other brothers and sisters in the Philippines are learning to live and love by Christ’s life at his blog: