Organic Church – An Example

In my series on “Why I’m Pro-Organic Church” I looked at what an organic church is and I gave some practical characteristics of what organic church can look like. I also gave a few links to specific testimonies of what a could happen in a meeting. As a follow up, I would like to share what recently happened in an organic church  that I used to be a part of (South Africa, Cape Town). Sadly, I had to move far away due to a work contract, but they are my family and I’m still in regular contact with many of them. The testimony is by one of the brothers in the Church. Here it is:

“Last week, while discussing the first part of Ephesians (which is all about our Identity), a brother mentioned something that they used to do in Primary school. They used to create “Identity Cards” for each person in the class. We thought that this would be a great way to respond to the message in Ephesians and also bless one another.

A sister made some lovely A5 bookmark sized cards and we all got our pens out to write something true and encouraging about each brother and sister in the church. We all chose a card, wrote our names on them and then placed them all in the middle of the room. Each person then just picked up one and wrote something on it. Here are a few examples:

Heart after God.

Makes me feel like I’m a part of a family.

Speaks the truth with wisdom.

And so forth.

The idea is that we keep the cards as bookmarks so that we can always be reminded of who we are, but also of how our brothers and sisters love us.

Afterwards, different people shared about how they felt about some of the elements that were written on their card. They expressed how it encouraged them and made them feel special. I believe that it has reinforced many of the gifts that people have and will encourage them to continue functioning with confidence. It was during this time of sharing that things became so beautifully real, and some brothers and sisters began to encourage others directly in who they are in Christ and in what they mean to us as a body. It was wonderful!

And so the body has built itself up in love. Praise the Lord!”

___

As you can see, organic church is dynamic and diverse. Any range of activities may occur for the building up of the Church. I truly love this expression of Church, as every member can function to encourage one another. People are free to use their gifting and share Christ with one another. The Lord is free to express Himself in His body!

Here’s a few pictures:


Cape Town-Organic Church

Cape Town-Organic Church Meeting

“…Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.”

~~~

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Nathan Odell Nathan Odell is the author of Joined to Him. You can connect with him on

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Comments

  1. YES! I love this idea!!!! That’s awesome. We have such a distorted view of ourselves….. and distorted assumptions of how others’ view us. This is such a great exercise when we hear lies and hear wrong assumptions worrying our brain.

  2. Jason Gould says:

    This activity has been done in many churches across many denominations all over the world for a long time now. I don’t see how this distinguishes “organic” from “non-organic”. Even the underlying message of building the church and encouraging one another in Christ is evangelically universal.

    • Nathan says:

      Thanks for the comment Jason. Obviously, this activity does not distinguish an organic church from a non-organic church. It’s just one of many examples of what can occur at an organic church gathering. A denominational church gathering does not typically look like this. Normally one person gives a teaching while the rest sit passively. In this way, organic church is more in line with the gathering Paul described in 1 Cor. 14:26, where EACH person is allowed to bring and share a hymn, Psalm, teaching etc. to the Church assembly. While denominational churches would agree with encouraging one another and building one another up, this rarely happens in a typical denominational church assembly, whereas this is what predominantly happened in the early church and also in organic churches.

      You can see my post on practical characteristics of organic church here: http://joinedtohim.com/why-im-pro-organic-church-part-3/
      This gives some characteristics of organic churches compared to traditional churches. There are also some other examples there too.
      Part one and part two also help give you a better idea of organic church.

  3. Ryan Saunders says:

    I just saw this comment now. And I only want to comment on one thing: Nathan, why do you continue to make these kinds of generalisations? 🙁

    “While denominational churches would agree with encouraging one another and building one another up, this rarely happens in a typical denominational church assembly, whereas this is what predominantly happened in the early church and also in organic churches.”

    Is it true that this rarely happens (encouraging and building up)?

    • Nathan says:

      Notice I said “rarely”, not “never”. In a Sunday service, there is “generally” very little opportunity for members to encourage one another as one person “generally” does all the speaking. How can you encourage and build up one another during a church gathering when only one person speaks?

  4. Ryan Saunders says:

    Nathan, it is not fair to say that encouraging and building one another up is a rare occurrence when denominational churches assemble. In fact it is a frequent occurrence, at least in my experience.

    I really think you could choose your words more carefully. In the sentence I quoted, you make it out that encouraging one another is a predominant occurrence in organic churches and the early church. And you contrast this with denominational churches, who according to you rarely do these things at a typical gathering. But what kind of data do you have for you to say these things? By what measure is mutual encouragement “rare” for a denominational church, yet “predominant” in organic churches and the early church?

    (I am still confused about your understanding of “each one has a hymn [etc]” (1 Cor. 14:26). And why is it relevant to mention that “organic church is more in line” with the description of how the Corinthians were conducting themselves?)

    I am also not sure what you are referring to when you say “one person ‘generally’ does all the speaking”. I am not aware that it is true generally that one person does all the speaking during the gathering. And even when one person speaks at a time (as Paul directs the prophets, for example, in 1 Cor. 14), then that does not imply that “the rest sit passively”. Listening is active; and listening in itself is even mutually encouraging, since we are modelling to each other teachablity, and confidence in the word of God etc. (I find it quite interesting how Paul uses the phrase “mutually encourage” in Romans 1:12; note the context of Romans 1:8-17).

    Nathan, please be careful with how you represent others.

    May we continue to grow in the love and wisdom of God 🙂
    Ryan

    • In a typical traditional church gathering, the ‘pastor’ gives a sermon and everyone listens. In general, no other people are given the opportunity to give a teaching, share a hymn, etc. Yes, one person must speak at a time in an orderly manner, but not ONLY one person. As Paul says in 1 Cor. 14. EACH ONE has…. each person in the gathering is given the opportunity to share something for the building up of the church. This is not ‘generally’ the case in a traditional church gathering where one person (the pastor) gives a teaching/sermon (compared to the early church (and most organic churches) where every member could/can function and share in a church gathering) . 1 Corinthians shows that many different people were involved in the church assembly. It does not promote passivity. In fact Paul talks quite extensively about how every member of the body needs to function, and not just one, when describing the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12 and Ephesians 4). I also like Romans 1:12. Paul desired that they would receive the gifts of the Spirit so that there could be mutual encouragement. Notice how Corinthians forms a similar narrative. Paul talks about the gifts of the spirit in Corinthians (1 Cor. 12:1-11) in the context of the every-member functioning of the church (1 Cor. 12:12-31) (This context follows into 1 Corinthians 14). The gifts are given so that the church may function as a body for the mutual edification and building up of the body.

      As for how I represent others, I purposefully never mention names of individuals (and I never would in a public forum). I love every member of Christs body. When I offer critique, I am never going against people or specific individuals, but rather traditions and systems. Traditions and man-made systems can hinder the word of God (Matthew 15:6, Mark 7:13). I also always look to stand upon God’s word, rather than the traditions of man. If traditions violate the word, then I am willing to forsake the traditions. I refuse to compromise. I also aim to share in such a way as to draw people closer to Christ even if something needs to be torn down.Everything needs to be done for the edification of the Church, even if it means reform.

      • Ryan Saunders says:

        Hi Nathan

        I am not sure what you are responding to in your first paragraph. You stated that encouraging and building one another up rarely occurs during a typical denominational church assembly. And I am saying that that is an unfair representation. What do you have to say regarding this?

        (You should probably also read my fourth paragraph again, because I am not sure why you are talking about many people being involved and “passivity”. I would say many people are involved and are not passive. Also I should point out that, while preaching the Word is an important aspect of the gathered church, it is not all that takes place. Also note that I agree that “The gifts are given so that the church may function as a body for the mutual edification and building up of the body”. I would add that there are various gifts, and that they are not exclusively for when the church as a whole is gathered).

        Regarding your last paragraph, I say amen. By all means expose the reliance on man-made systems, and forsake the traditions that violate the word. And I am not entirely against the naming of names — that may be called for. But be careful of misrepresenting or making unrepresentative generalisations of those who you are critiquing. Doing so may cause unnecessary antagonism, or a loss of your credibility; not to mention the fact that it is misleading.

        [[Aside: I would be interested in hearing your understanding of 1 Cor. 14:26 at some point. For I am still not sure why this verse is often referred to by those in the organic church (and I do not know why it relevant in this discussion). It is simply descriptive, not prescriptive. Paul does not even say that it is good that each person has a hymn, etc. He simply says that that is what was happening (“each one has”). (Based on the context it seems to me that he is actually implying that things were being done in a disorderly manner; but I will not insist on this point.)]]

        Ryan

        • Nathan says:

          My first paragraph addresses your objections in general, and specifically your question “You stated that encouraging and building one another up rarely occurs during a typical denominational church assembly. And I am saying that that is an unfair representation. What do you have to say regarding this?”. I do not believe this is an unfair representation and I have stated why a few times. If you disagree with my reasons, then I think we should move on, as we’ve hit this point many times with little success.

          Regarding passivity – One person dominating the meeting hinders the other members from actively contributing to the gathering (This can also be a problem in organic church gatherings). Thus, it makes them passive listeners (Yes, listening is good, but everyone must listen to each other, because every-member functioning is vital to body life). The NT gathering was an every-member functioning gathering where all members could contribute – Thus, they were active in functioning and listening.

          I was planning on addressing 1 Cor. 14:26 via email at some point in the future but since you’ve brought it up i’ll mention it here. Simply put, whether prescriptive or descriptive, it is important to note the following:

          -Paul throughout his letter was bringing correction and guidance. In all these practices, he never prohibited any of them, but revealed how they were meant to be done (bringing order to disorder). If it was wrong then surely Paul would have prohibited these types of functioning. This leads me to believe that Paul did in fact approve of these practices, which leads to my next point…

          -Paul affirms many of these practices in other letters, which is in fact prescriptive (Emphasis on ONE ANOTHER):

          “Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly in all wisdom; teaching and admonishing one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with grace in your hearts to the Lord” (Colossians 3:16).

          “And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ.” (Ephesians 5:18-21)

          For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted; and the spirits of prophets are subject to prophets; for God is not a God of confusion but of peace, as in all the churches of the saints.” (1 Corinthians 14:31-33)

          Therefore, my view on 1 Corinthians 14:26 is that Paul is saying “When you gather and do these things together with one another, it is to done for the building up of the Church”. This implies that the gathering described will have the net result of building up the church. Paul’s other letters back this up as they are prescriptive. The reason it is used by me and others in describing organic church, is that this verse is an apt picture of what the churches Paul planted looked like.

          Edit: I found a good article (after I made this comment) on Alans website going into the Greek of 1 Corinthians 14:26 http://www.alanknox.net/2011/01/mutual-edification-and-the-church-command/

          • Ryan Saunders says:

            Nathan, it is not that I disagree with your reasons per se. It is simply that your “reasons” don’t actually address the issue. You are not backing up your claim that “encouraging one another and building one another up” rarely occurs. That is the unfounded criticism that I am referring to. In my experience “encouraging” and “building up” one another is a frequent occurrence.

            I refer you again to my comment made on 7 May 2013, 10:19pm (I think that is in Greenwich Mean Time…)

          • Nathan says:

            My reason is fairly logical actually. How can you encourage ONE ANOTHER and build up ONE ANOTHER in a church gathering if only one person speaks? For “One anothering” to occur, it requires that more than one person speaks. Thus, because generally one person speaks in most traditional assemblies, encouraging and building up ONE ANOTHER can rarely occur. I am not saying that people never leave a traditional church assembly feeling encouraged. What I am saying is that the ONE ANOTHER aspect ‘rarely’ occurs due to the nature of the way assembly is carried out. I fail to see how this is not backing up my claim as it is quite simple and logical. If encouraging one another does occur in a traditional gathering, then great. But it rarely has the opportunity to happen in a typical gathering where people arrive, sit down, listen, go outside and exchange greetings and a few pleasantries, then go home.

            Further comments on this topic will not be accepted due to being off topic and repetition of points.

          • Ryan Saunders says:

            Regarding 1 Cor. 14:26 :

            “Paul throughout his letter was bringing correction and guidance. In all these practices, he never prohibited any of them, but revealed how they were meant to be done (bringing order to disorder). If it was wrong then surely Paul would have prohibited these types of functioning. This leads me to believe that Paul did in fact approve of these practices, which leads to my next point…”
            — I agree with the gist of this. Paul did not prohibit having a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Paul did approve of these things – he did not have something against them. And yes, in the letter Paul did reveal how the Corinthians were to behave.

            “Paul affirms many of these practices in other letters, which is in fact prescriptive (Emphasis on ONE ANOTHER):”
            — Yes that is true.

            In fact I even mentioned to you (in my email) that I “agree that all believers are encouraged to ‘… [teach] and [admonish] one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in [their] hearts to God'” referring to Col. 3:16.

            I think you will agree that Col. 3:16 and Eph. 5:18-21 are in fact are fairly general. They do not only apply when the church is gathered, and in context Paul is not specifically referring to the gatherings.

            Concerning Col. 3:16, I also tried to make clear (in my email) that Col. 3:16 is not permission for everyone to teach or have authority over the church (I referred to James 3:1, and 1 Ti. 4:16, among other things). And not everyone is responsible for teaching the church as a whole; in fact many brothers must not become teachers – that is prescriptive.

            Regarding 1 Cor. 14:31-33, the phrase “For you can all prophesy one by one, so that all may learn and all may be exhorted” is not prescriptive. It does not prescribe that everyone or anyone should prophecy. I hope you see that. In fact God puts a limit to the number of persons that may prophecy or speak in tongues: namely no more than three persons may prophecy or speak in tongues (see 1 Cor. 14:27-33). (Furthermore, Paul mentions in those verses that if there is no interpreter, then there should be no speaking in tongues – this is prescriptive).

            (When I refer to 1 Cor. 14:26b below, I refer to the middle phrase in that verse: “When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation.”)

            So if your view of 1 Cor. 14:26b is based on the verses that you referred to, then that is incorrect. Because, it is not true that these verses back up the idea that 1 Cor. 14:26b is prescriptive. The phrase “each one has” is simply not prescriptive. If it said, “each one should have/ought to have/must have/etc.”, then it would be something that we must do.

          • Nathan says:

            Hey Ryan. Even if it is descriptive, it is describing what the early church gathering looked like, and still looked like after Paul made his corrections. The fact that Paul talks about the every-member functioning of the body in almost all of his letters to churches, coupled with the vivid picture of the early church gathering we see here, is enough to convince me how the church should look and function. If you are implying that the early church did not look like an open participatory and every member functioning gathering, then I believe you are jumping through some serious hoops to arrive at that conclusion. I don’t have a problem with people doing church differently to the scriptures, but they mustn’t try and impose their view into the scriptures. Most, if not all, serious biblical scholars agree that the church we see today looks and functions very differently to the early church gathering, regardless of whether they see it as a good thing or a bad thing.

            I’m going to close this debate off, because it has strayed off the topic of the original post. We can continue via email if you think it is necessary.

  5. Ryan Saunders says:

    I respect that. It is your blog, and it is your right to moderate the comment thread. This thread has strayed off topic, and this straying did start with my remark. I was disappointed because I felt that you were making unfair generalisations. I acknowledge that you disagree with me on that point.

    Now, I think that you (more than anyone else who may have read our exchange) may be aware of this already, but I would like to reassure you: I have not been trying to be difficult and I have not been trying to provoke you. My concern for you is sincere. I do want to understand your position better. And I do want to hold you accountable for your words. And I do want to encourage you to show integrity in your teaching, and dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned (Titus 2:7).

    And I welcome concern and encouragement from you, including reproof and scrutiny.

    I will take up your offer to continue discussion through email, with the hope that we can bring clarity where we have not been clear, and with the hope that God would bring unity through the truth — that he would correct and teach us.

    I will endeavour to be patient with you. Please also be patient with me, if there is some important truth that I am missing. May God continue to give us growth.

    • Thanks for your contributions to this discussion Ryan. I respect you and your concerns, and I also respect your mature response. Blessings brother.

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  2. […] that causes a brother to stumble is to make every effort in pursuing mutual edification among a group of brothers and sisters. The opposite of tearing down is building up. Let us build one another up rather than tear one […]

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