[My response to Frank Viola's recent post about Organic Church]
A few days ago, author Frank Viola shared an article about Organic Church that has garnered much attention. This isn't surprising given that Frank Viola is still seen as an authority on the movement, even though he hasn't been involved in an organic church for 8 years. He also admits that he's not interested in writing about the topic and he isn't planting organic churches and he typically refrains from posting anything at all about organic church on his blog, although he does still believe what he's written in his books.
So, this post was a bit of a surprise to me, given his inactivity in an organic church for nearly a decade now and his admitted lack of personal interest in the topic.
Still, he did write the definitive book on the subject and therefore his opinion carries a lot of weight with many people in the organic circles.
That's why his post caught my attention, and it's also why I felt the need to respond to some of what he shared.
It's probably a good idea to mention that I contacted Frank privately about this before I wrote this response. He and I corresponded back and forth on this already. I'm not against Frank. I love him and I do sincerely believe that Frank loves me, too.
Frank also mentioned to me that he had shared his post with several others in the Organic Church movement and that about 95% agreed with his statements. So, please keep in mind that my opinion on this matter is in the apparent minority.
Please don't read this article as an attack on Frank or an opportunity to pick sides. I'm simply responding to what Frank has said as a way to add to an ongoing conversation about a topic that we all happen to have an interest in.
*He says that it's not as popular as it was back when he wrote his books.
*He says that it's very hard to find an organic church in most communities.
*He says that most of those involved in the movement tend to be in the 50's and older range.
*He says that God isn't fanning the flames of revival in America like He used to.
*He says that many "organic church" groups aren't truly organic.
*He says that the term "organic church" is misued and abused.
I honestly agree 100 percent with all of that.
But the relative popularity of the ekklesia of God isn't relevant to me. What's relevant to me is that God has identified a specific design for His Body. Even if I was the only one following His instructions, it would still be important to obey Him in this area.
Are organic churches hard to find? Yes, they are. Mostly because they are word of mouth and not visible on the street corner or found in the yellow pages. It has always been that way.
For example, someone in Orange County, California [where I live] could search for an organic church and very easily conclude "there aren't any organic churches here" simply because they are hard to find. But there are at least seven organic/simple churches in Orange County that I am aware of. There most certainly could be more, but I haven't heard about them yet.
Simply put, just because they might be hard to find doesn't mean they don't exist.
But, what if they really DON'T exist in my community? Well, I would encourage you to start one in your home and begin to pray that the Lord might help you connect with others in your community who are yearning for the same organic expression of His Body.
Are most organic church members eligible for a Senior Discount at Denny's? Yes, maybe. I agree that there was a time very recently when I was beginning to despair that the next generation wasn't going to pursue the organic church. Our local conferences were beginning to look like my High School Reunion. But lately we've experienced a very encouraging shift. Our house church family is now mostly single adults in their 20's and 30's. Another new house church group has started recently among students at Biola University. This is encouraging. Granted, my experience isn't necessarily indicative of the rest of the movement, but it does give me hope.
I also noticed when hosting my "Jesus Without Religion [Or Politics]" groups on Meetup.com that dozens of young adults were very desperate for community and searching for other young Christians who wanted to get together and focus on Jesus. They wouldn't call that "organic church" but regardless, what they're hungry for is what we have and maybe we just need to find more creative ways to share it with them.
I also agree that many "organic" churches are not truly organic. They do not practice the priesthood of all believers. They still have a designated pastor or central teacher who makes all the decisions. They still operate like an institutional church but they've traded their pews for sofas. I get that, and I agree, that's not something I want to promote.
That being said, here are a few things I feel like I need to stress:
Yes, I do understand that not many people have this same experience, but I want to encourage you - if you're still searching - it’s not impossible. It will take a resolve and a determination – and it might be just you and your family for a long while before God sends others your way, but giving up isn’t a solution. Starting one in your living room, is.
Finally, as I read Frank's insightful post one sentence jumped out to me:
“If you’re not in the water when the wave comes, you’ll miss it.”
It’s my firm belief that God is stirring up many other such movements like this here in the States, and all over the world, that might not bear the “organic church” brand but is still based on the simple church model found in the new testament where the priesthood of all believers is freely practiced and encouraged.
NOTE: If you're currently searching for an organic church in your area, please feel free to contact me. If I can't help you find one, I can help you start one. I’ve already made almost every mistake possible, so you can benefit from my failures.
*Free Organic Church Resources>
*Free Ebook Download "This Is My Body: Ekklesia As God Intended" by Keith Giles >
Organic Church Movements [Facebook Group]>