Monday, December 08, 2014

Making Decisions In An Organic Church

One of my favorite memories from the early days of our house church was when we asked the children to lead our meeting. We told them in advance so they’d have time to prepare for this special day. We all anticipated this special morning together for several weeks, and then finally the day arrived.

I’ll never forget, after our usual breakfast and fellowship time, we all moved into the den for our share time. The kids all sat together and we waited to see what they would do.

Then one of them said, "Ok, does anyone have something to share with the group today?"

At first it threw us off a little, and then someone laughed out loud at the irony of it all as we realized what was happening: We had modelled the open meeting so well that their “leadership” of our meeting looked exactly the same! It wasn’t about who was leading. It was only about Jesus and what He was doing in our Body that morning.

As I sit down to write my installment of the “Why Churches Don’t Need Senior Pastors” blog series, I can’t help but recall that special morning when the kids taught us an important lesson – and it was the same lesson we had already taught them – Jesus is our only Head.

Some have suggested – even within the House Church Movement – that human leaders (spiritual parents, elders, pastors, etc.) are necessary for a “healthy” organic church to flourish. I don’t disagree in theory – but in practice I think it matters a whole lot what those “leaders” do or do not do, if we are going to truly experience the Headship of Christ in our midst.

Leadership is a spiritual gift. It’s right there in the New Testament alongside tongues, healing, miracles, teaching, etc. No doubt about that. And, yes, God does provide some who serve as “Pastors” (plural) in the Church.

But what a leader does – or does not – do in the gathering and among the members of the Body makes all the difference in the world.

Some things a leader, pastor, elder might do in the gathering are:

*Gently nudge the talkers to wait for the shy ones

*Gently nudge the shy ones to share what God has place on their hearts

*Initiate prayer for someone who is obviously in need or hurting

*Prayerfully remind the church family why we are here

*Point everyone back to Jesus

Here are some things a leader, pastor, elder should not do in the gathering:

*Tell people what to do

*Dominate the conversation

*Establish the order of service

*Get in the way of the Holy Spirit

*Attempt to create an environment that caters to their own personal bias

If I had to write a hundred page book about how to lead an open meeting in an Organic Church, it would contain 99 pages of “Things Not To Do” and only about a page of what you should be doing.

Why? Because the more we do, the less room we allow for Jesus to move and work in our midst.

But this blog series is all about answering the question: “Who Makes Decisions In An Organic Church?”, especially if there are no “Senior Pastors” around who can just tell us what to do.

Here’s the short answer: “Ask Jesus”.

The longer answer would contain a few suggestions about how to facilitate that in the gathering, but essentially you, as a church family, would take the time to pray together and wait on the Lord and see where and how He is leading you to act or move.

It would be faster to simply elect someone to make all those decisions for you. Obviously. But do you want expedience and efficiency, or do you want accuracy and obedience to Christ?

If your desire is to hear from the Lord, and if your church family really wants to experience Christ at the Head of the Body, then together as a Body you need to stop and listen to the Head, who is Christ. It’s really that simple.

There’s an African proverb that says: “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to travel far, go together.”

I would urge you, as a brother in Christ, not to go quickly, but to go together and to seek the Lord as a Church Family.

Does it work? Yes! It does work. It has worked several times in our own house church family, and it has worked spectacularly for others as well.

For example, one young couple who we know started an organic church recently after visiting with us only a few times. After their group had been together a few months, someone donated a large sum of money to them. Seeing as Organic Churches don’t need money to operate, they were unsure of what to do with the money. So, they came together and prayed and asked Jesus what they should do. Here’s what happened next:

“We bowed our heads and a few different people prayed aloud for wisdom and discernment for all of us to come to an agreement on what to do. After a long period of silence, we asked if the Spirit had put any specific direction on anyone’s heart. One woman spoke up and said, “I kept thinking of the numbers, 60-30-10″ and someone else said, “I sensed the numbers 600, 300, 100,” another “60-30-10,” and finally, a fourth, “6-3-1, double.”

“The woman who sensed “6-3-1, double” went on to explain that the 6 meant $600 and was to go to one need. The 3 meant $300 and was meant to go to the other need, and the 1 was $100 and needed to be kept back. The she went on and said something like, “The ‘double’ is because we are meant to give our own money and double what has been given to us because right now this gift hasn’t cost us anything and we are meant to give out of our own resources.”

“We returned to group dialogue to check with everyone’s spirit to make sure there weren’t any “red flags” in anyone’s hearts, and, surprisingly, everyone was on the same page. We were then able to discuss how to be people of generosity throughout the week and to plan to “double” what had been given to us by giving back to needs we experienced in our circles of influence.

“A sense of excitement and peace permeated that living room as we reflected on the fact that the Spirit had spoken, and not only that, but He had chosen to do so through different members of our group while the rest tested His voice. People remarked to one another that they felt a part of something significant and how amazing it was to observe and participate in the body responding to the movement of the Spirit.” [From “Sixty, Thirty, Ten, Double” by ChristaMcKirland]

The more your organic church practices this sort of thing, the more common and “normal” it will become. But it will only work if everyone in the church family works together to submit to the Holy Spirit, and to one another, to arrive at the answer that the Lord desires for you.

Who makes decisions in an Organic Church? Jesus does! He’s the Head. He’s the Senior Pastor. The rest of us are all brothers and sisters – and members of His Body – who submit to Christ as Lord, both in our personal lives, and in our corporate times together as a Family.

Once you hand all of this over to an expert or a Senior Pastor, it’s the last corporate decision your Church will ever make together.

Do you want to go far? Go together. Just make sure you’re all following Jesus.


NOTE: This blog is part of an ongoing series. Read the two previous posts by Jon Zens and Richard Jacobson HERE.






the alternative1 said...

that's amazing that we could actually treat Jesus like he is a real live being amongst us.

Anonymous said...

I wonder why home church has to
keep selling itself. In almost or
all of the writing etc. there seems to be a lot of commenting
on how our way is the right way.
Wouldn't your message be more
effective to be just about God,
Jesus and the Holy Spirit?

Keith Giles said...

I'm not selling anything. If the organic church sounds good to you, pursue it. If you're happy being a spectator keep at it.

Keith Giles said...

Hopefully you also notice from this article how Jesus, God and the Holy Spirit are front and center in an Organic Church in ways that are not experienced in an Traditional Church setting.

Eric Chen said...

Been following your blogs and the organic church movement closely. Thanks for all the time spent to share this awesome content.

Quick question - how is a well-led small group/life group different from an organic church?


Keith Giles said...

Great question, Eric! This is a common misunderstanding and I'd love to address this, both here and in a future blog and podcast.

For now, I'd say that the major differences are that a small group is still under the hiearchical leadership of a senior pastor and an Organic Church is not.

Another big difference is that a small group under a traditional church structure is usually denominational and therefore there is never any opportunity for people to share different perspectives on scripture - especially if that view is in opposition to the denomination the church is part of, or if they disagree with the Senior Pastor.

But there are other differences I'd love to talk about in more detail later.

Eric Chen said...

Dear Keith,

Wow! Thanks for the immediate response.

This traditional church and organic church issue is something I have been thinking about for a while now. If you are open, I would love to connect via e-mail, phone, or Skype/Google Hangout.

Another quick question - if a small group in a church is able to function independently of the church hierarchy, is it a de facto organic church? On a related note, if a small group is able to express various opinions that differ from the denomination or disagree with the senior pastor, is it also a de facto organic church?

I look forward to your future posts!

Keith Giles said...

Eric: You asked, "If a small group in a church is able to function independently of the church hierarchy, is it a de facto organic church?"

Well, maybe. Most small groups within an institutional or traditional church are not capable of doing much of anything independently of the church authority or leadership.

However, our little house church started off as a Thursday evening gathering and other than our family everyone who joined us was still a member of a traditional model church.

Our hope was that, over time, they would begin to feel that what they were experiencing with us was much closer to what they were feeling called to participate in than what they were experiencing on Sunday at their traditional church...and that's exactly what happened. After a year or so they - on their own - decided that they wanted to join our family on Sunday mornings.

So, perhaps a group that is part of a traditional church could start out practicing an organic form of gathering and eventually an organic church could form from that. I am very doubtful that it could continue that way indefinetly, however.

Eventually the pastor will probably want to know what you're doing and why you're doing it outside of his jurisdiction. At least, that's been my experience.

You also asked, "If a small group is able to express various opinions that differ from the denomination or disagree with the senior pastor, is it also a de facto organic church?"

No, not necessarily. This, in itself, doesn't make any group of Christians an Organic church. It's only one component.

I've written quite a bit here on my blog about what an Open Meeting looks like. If you search "Open Meeting" in the search bar at the top of this blog you'll find those articles. That might help describe what the major differences are between a small group and an Organic Church.