Wednesday, May 11, 2011

What’s Wrong with Organic Church? Too Isolated from Traditional Churches

Continuing in our series of “What’s Wrong with Organic Church?” the next item on our list is that we’re often too isolated from traditional churches in our community.

It should be easy to understand why this problem persists. On one side you have Organic Churches made up of people who have left the traditional model, and on the other side you have traditional churches made up of people who see Organic Churches as something of a threat, or at least an insult, to what they’re doing. It’s no wonder that these two groups don’t often work together. But, I’d like to suggest that this shouldn’t remain an acceptable condition in the Body.

There is only one Body, and there is only one Church. There are not House Churches and Traditional Churches, there is just one true ekklesia and different models of how this one church gathers and operates.

If we take this concept of “One Church” seriously, we must also take Jesus and Paul seriously when they instruct us to seek reconciliation and to live peacefully with all men. It really matters to God how we treat one another in the Body. This means that we cannot continue to remain in a place of animosity towards our brothers and sisters in the traditional church, or the ones in the organic church.

God has been graceful to me in this matter. He has continually thrown me into relationship with pastors and leaders at traditional churches locally. This is not something I would have sought after on my own. And God knew this, so this is why He made sure that our little house church would end up partnering with Saddleback (a mega church) to plant an organic church at a motel in Santa Ana together. God is the one who opened a door for me to lead a men’s bible study for a traditional church group each week. He has allowed me to pray regularly with a dear friend who is a local senior pastor of a large denominational church. Why? So that I could constantly be reminded that these people are my brothers and sisters. God loves them. They love God. They are seeking to follow Jesus too. We serve the same Lord. And our differences of modality should not prevent us from serving the poor together, or studying God’s Word together, or praying for one another.

My story involves stepping away from an on-staff position at a local church that we helped to plant. It also involves leaving another church staff position where I was deeply invested emotionally. This wasn’t done without some amount of pain and hurt feelings. But thankfully, God has allowed me to reconcile with the leaders of those churches I left. We still don’t see eye-to-eye about church hierarchy or a business model of church, but we do love each other as brothers and we understand that loving one another is more important than anything else.

Just a few months ago I was asked to preach at the church I left over 5 years ago. It was a huge blessing for me to return and to share some of what the Lord has been doing in my life. I was overwhelmed with their grace to me. They prayed over me for a half hour before the service. They embraced me at the end of the service. They even paid me a honorarium! None of this was expected, and frankly it would have never been possible if their senior pastor and myself hadn’t gone out of our way to stay in touch, to reaffirm our love for one another, and to work hard at maintaining our friendship.

If you’re unsure about it, let me assure you that God cares a whole lot about how we treat one another. The Greatest Command is that we love the Lord our God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength. The second greatest command, according to Jesus, “is like the first” and it is that we love our neighbor as ourselves. Why does Jesus say the second (love your neighbor) is “like the first” (loving God)? Because they are integrated concepts. “If anyone says he loves God and yet hates his brother, he is a liar” (1 John 4:20).

This is why Jesus also tells us that if we are at the altar and we remember that our brother has something against us, we are better off leaving our sacrifice on the altar and running quickly to reconcile with that brother and make sure that our hearts are right before God. (Matt 5:23-34)

Remember, God looks not at the outward appearance, nor does He measure our behaviors apart from examining our deeper motivations and ultimately our heart condition. So, it matters to God how we relate to one another, and especially how we love one another in the Church. And, again, there’s only One Church. So, if you have something against a former pastor, or if you’ve shunned a brother or sister over disagreements about organic church or new testament models, (or any other reason), you really need to stop what you’re doing and seek for reconciliation and peace, “as far as it depends on you.”

If we are truly Kingdom-minded churches, then we will not ever decide to without love or fellowship or assistance from another christian because they disagree with us doctrinally or belong to another expression of church.

I’d love to hear your thoughts about this topic.



Peter said...

I was reading a book about the differences between the persecuted church and the church in the west and one thing stuck out to me was that the majority of persecuted Christians won't move more than a mile from where they are born. The Christians that they gather with are those who arenearby. They can't choose who they want to meet with and who they don't When we go out of our local community to meet, when there are Christians in our community, we are doing something that seems unnatural to the Body.

Anonymous said...

There is a lot of truth in this. For me, since leaving the institutional church, I have still managed to keep many of the close friends that I made while there and even still have some good Jesus centered conversations with many of them. The strange thing is that most of these friendships are with believers that attended a different church than the one I grew up at and left. It's sad really, that I haven't made more of an effort to keep these relationships with my brothers and sisters, many of whom I was a leader with side by side. By God's grace we have to continue working not only toward peace with ALL of our brothers and sisters, but also authentic love and Christ-centered fellowship. Thanks for your words and thoughts, Keith.