It’s not really about houses
As I’ve become an open advocate of organic ministry I’ve engaged in a number of conversations with people who aren’t as convinced as I am. Here are some of the most common responses.
There is no one church model that God designed for every situation.
I agree. What needs to change is more the mindset than the model. Each expression of the church should be flexible enough to fit in to various cultures while being consistent with the nature of the church and remaining faithful to the gospel.
Going back to the New Testament model won’t move us forward.
I would restate that in my understanding organic church is not about a new model. It isn’t about doing things exactly the same way they were done in the first hundred years of the church. It is about examining how we function as a local church in light of what scripture tells us about the nature of the church.
Church as know it is largely centered on what the reformers concluded the heart of church was. Calvin believed that church was all about the preaching of the word and the proper administration of the sacraments. That is one big reason why our concept of ministry is dominated by authorized people speaking words to a crowd of people that listen.
What if the heart of church is not one authorized person speaking to a crowd? A much stronger theme in the New Testament is spiritually empowered people, operating in their spiritual gifts, proclaiming the gospel in various ways and ministering to each other in bonds of love and community. Ministry happens primarily, but not exclusively, in the context in of relationships of mutual love and trust. This is in contrast to the mindset that ministry is primarily received through participation in a program or attendance of an event.
I’m trying very hard to not say all programs are evil, or that preaching as it is done is illegitimate. These things have their place but I am convinced that the dominance of this style of ministry has insulated us from each other. We don’t get to the place where we minister to each other because we get so few chances to get to know one another. They also allow us to shirk our responsibility to minister to one another.
A new testament style church is almost 2000 years old, we need something that fits our times.
The largest and fastest growing church movements in the world today are organic churches. Most of the declining churches in North America are based on a 500 year old model that was built to service illiterate poor peasants in isolated communities within a monoculture.
Deemphasizing preaching is deemphasizing the role of scripture in the church
I disagree. Most Christians listen to sermons every week yet remain woefully biblically illiterate. If people studied scripture in community they would learn more and internalize more because they are actively engaged in biblical study.
What you speak of is too idealistic, it won’t work.
I’ll admit that none of my organic church experiences have been ideal. However it sure was a few steps closer than I’ve ever been before. Some of the house churches I’ve been in had a significant amount of interpersonal conflict. In my first house church it was a contributing factor in its quick demise. In another experience the group faced the conflict with some courage and for the most part remained intact. I saw people change for the better in that group. I saw people put themselves at risk for things they believed in. I’ve had church experiences that gave me hope.
We’ve let our negative experiences rob of us our hope that church can be better than it is. History has shown me that the perfect church has never existed, but churches that are far more effective than most of the ones in the North America have existed and currently exist in other parts of the world. We ignore them at our peril.