May 17, 2010
Defending Organic Church (Part 2)
A prescription for those wrestling with the organic church model.
In the spring issue of Leadership journal, Brian Hofmeister wrote an article titled “The Dirt on Organic.” Neil Cole, also a Leadership journal contributor and the author of The Organic Church, was written a response to Hofmeister’s article. Part 1 of Cole's response seeks to diagnose the problems Hofmeister encountered with the organic model. In Part 2 he prescribes solutions to those still attracted to the de-structured approach to mission and discipleship.
Here is a simple prescription for those wrestling with what Mr. Hofmeister described in his organic church experience:
1. Make disciples, not organizations, and let Jesus build the church out of changed lives. A disciple is one who follows Christ and learns at his feet. Allow them to learn to follow Jesus. They will make mistakes along the way, but that is how we all learn. Protecting people from mistakes is to keep them from learning.
2. Lower the bar on how church is done and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple. Look to invest in what’s proven rather than in potential. As people are faithful with small obedience present them with the opportunity for more. Start slower and smaller and let the growth generate by reproducing new life, rather than trying to grow something too quickly through attraction.
3. Life Transformation Groups (LTGs) are a simple method of empowering ordinary people, even brand new Christians, to connect to God’s word and obey without creating a dependency upon others who will tell them what to think and do. When the disciples are connected to Christ and following him, then the church that is gathered is strong and able to stand on its own without the unhealthy dependency that Mr. Hofmeister felt was needed. In an LTG people are reading a lot of Scripture repetitively and in context. They are also accountable to one another for confessing their sin weekly. Finally, they are identifying and praying for the souls of lost friends that need Jesus as well. I can trust people who are in such a relationship, and in a church made up of such people has the strength to grow, reproduce, and endure. (Search & Rescue is a book that explains how LTGs work and why.)
Years ago we had an opportunity to start a new church from a pocket of people. The church met in the home of a new believer we had encountered in a coffee house. She was young and had just recently given her life to Jesus, so we did not trust her alone to lead others. We had another team member who had been a Christian for some time, who came to us from another church, and was willing to lead. We set him down in a chair to commission him to start this new church. As I laid my hands on him a scripture immediately came to mind, “Do not lay hands upon anyone too hastily and thereby share responsibility for the sins of others” (1 Tim 5:22). I brushed the thought aside as my own imagination and prayed for the leader anyway.
He started the church that week, and slept that night with the young woman who hosted the church in her home. We had to confront him for the sin, but it occurred to me that I shared in the sin for not obeying the voice of the Holy Spirit in that moment when I commissioned this leader. Both the leader and the woman responded well to discipline, but to be honest we have suffered for that poor decision for many years and I myself take the blame.
Just because someone has been a Christian for a while, knows some theological information, and is willing to lead does not qualify him or her as a leader. Do not be so quick to recruit leaders from other churches, look instead to develop them yourself from the harvest. This takes longer in the beginning, but reproductive growth is always slower and smaller at the start. Be a patient farmer and let the harvest itself tell you when it is ready.