I really do, on the basis of the Scriptures and even Church history. And by grace, I and 100’s of millions of believers around the globe are today endeavouring to live and practise ‘organic church’ each day [for my own part, I have ‘pastored’ traditional-denominational churches for 38 years and facilitated organic house churches for the past 7 years – so I’ve experienced both expressions of Church].
In the mid-20th century Swiss watchmakers had cornered the world market share for watches. Everything changed when one of their own came up with the quartz watch. His colleagues laughed at him but the Seiko Watch Corporation took one look and the rest is history. Church leaders (generally members don’t battle with this), are you perhaps one of those who can’t even conceive of true church outside of the traditional parameters? I beg you, think again, and be open to the revelation of the Spirit.
[Of course it’s sad that it is even necessary to spell it out like this, but I guess given the gross misinformation concerning ‘Church’ around the world today, it’s helpful to try and re-define some basics]
Before defining each term in my title, let’s provide a general definition of what is meant by ‘Organic House Church.’ I can’t do any better than use Frank Viola’s definition in his ‘Finding Organic Church.’ He puts it like this: “By ‘organic church,’ I mean a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of being constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grassroots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every member functioning, open-participatory meetings (as opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering.”
‘Organic?’ I am involved with an organic vegetable garden which supplies fresh veggies for a home for abandoned children and a number of soup kitchens serving the destitute. The secret is exploiting the most natural processes in the cultivating and planting – it is the Creator who ‘grows’ things (cf. church-planter Paul’s words in 1 Cor. 3:5-9, while addressing divisions in the local church). In a nutshell, any church plant is not so much a matter of methodology, a new style of church, or a new structure – the church flows naturally from the life within the Godhead, and our part is simply a matter of partnering with Father, Son and Spirit. The apostle Peter, in his 2nd Letter to the scattered saints in Asia Minor, puts it like this (2 Pet. 1:3-4), ‘His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness. Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.’ Theologian Clark Pinnock has written, ”The church is to resemble the triune life by being itself a place of reciprocity and self-giving. The fellowship that we have with one another is related ultimately to our fellowship with the Father and Son (1 Jn. 1:3)… Fellowship refers to Divine life and community life, because the community is meant to reflect the community of the Trinity, which is the ontological basis of the church.’
‘House’? It’s simple really – for the first 300 years of the Church (her most productive time in church history?), Jesus’ followers met in homes, with odd exceptions. Most believers are shocked by this. It was only in the 300’s AD, with the ‘conversion’ (?) of Emperor Constantine and the ‘christianization’ of the Roman Empire that believers began to meet in special ‘church buildings’ per se, overseen by the state and a professional OT-type clergy. This pattern has dominated Christendom for the last 1700 years.
So for example, the apostle Paul greets ‘the church that meets at their house,’ i.e. the home of Priscilla and Aquila, his fellow-workers in Rome (Rom. 16:3-5) – it’s the most natural thing. [of course you can meet in a home in an institutional way, and many have done so. Viola points this out in his concern for ‘house churches’ in N. America (note). However, for many decades House Church has been practised organically in South America, India and particularly in China, where the Church exploded from a few million believers during Mao’s clamp-down to over 100+ million today – largely through underground house churches. I met with such house church leaders during a visit to China two years ago]
Coming back to my home country South Africa, there are a growing number of organic house groups springing up across the land. Here in my home city, I have shared with one group meeting in a hospital facility. We have met in restaurants etc, but mostly in the intimate environment of the home. After all, God is family within himself, and has set his blessing on families since the days of Abraham.
‘Church.’ Not a good word. The common NT term is ‘ekklesia,’ stemming from ‘ek’ meaning ‘out’ and ‘kaleo’ ‘to call.’ Simply put, the Church comprises God’s ‘called out ones’ through the gospel (1 Cor. 15), gathering in a locality from time to time for teaching, fellowship, the breaking of bread and prayer (Acts 2:42ff; Heb. 10:23-25; etc). In terms of being Christ’s ‘body’ (1 Cor. 12; Eph. 4; etc) we individually and corporately are the Church, 24/7, in the market-place, wherever we find ourselves. It’s a physical and spiritual impossibility to ‘go to church.’
[Besides the Bible of course, books I have found helpful in my journey include (for the average reader): Robert and Julia Banks’‘The Church Comes Home’ publ. by Hendricksen Publishers; Wolfgang Simson’s radical but prophetic ‘Houses That Change the World’ publ. by Authentic Books; Frank Viola’s ‘Re-Imagining Church’ publ. by David C Cook; Tony Lambert’s ‘The Resurrection of the Chinese Church’ publ. by Harold Shaw Publishers. In terms of ecclesiology, I have been impacted by the writings of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Jurgen Moltmann, F.F. Bruce, Howard Snyder, amongst others]
As Dr. Billy Graham used to say, ‘God bless you real good’ on your church journey with the living Christ!