Myth #3 – Organic Church is a Spontaneous Free-For-All
Many people who leave institutional churches think that “organic church” means that now there will be absolutely no structure, no planning or preparation, and everyone will be free to share anything they want. This could not be further from the truth. These people have never experienced authentic organic church life and yet somehow make these sweeping statements based upon their own reactions to the religious system. This is definitely a reactionary mindset and is based upon nothing else but a “wish dream”, which is their own idea of what the church should look like. So let’s take a quick look at these three ideas to test and see if they can hold any water.
Idea #1 – The Church Needs Absolutely No Structure
This is a common idea among some newbies after leaving the institutional church. The idea (here again) is reactionary and is based upon the false assumption that organic church is simply the opposite of institutional church. That’s just not true. Organic church is in a wholly different category, mindset, and paradigm then the institutional. It’s not just the opposite. It isn’t even in the same universe!
It’s not that we throw away structure in the organic, but rather that structure comes to have a whole new meaning for us. Of course there is still structure in organic church, but this structure is not mechanical as in the system, it is organic. That means it has a totally different nature. The essence of organic structure is based upon the indwelling life of Christ, not any man-made mechanism that is external.
Paul used the revolutionary metaphor of the Body of Christ in his writings. If the authentic church is a body (and it is!) then we need to ask the question; does the body have structure? Does your human body have structure? The obvious answer is yes and that structure is the skeleton. Notice with me that the structure is completely based upon life and that it is hidden. But what would happen if you didn’t have a skeleton? Your body would collapse into a pile of flesh on the floor! And that’s exactly what happens to many groups who want to be “organic” and without any structure. They end up being nothing more than a pile of flesh in the middle of a living room somewhere!
The purpose of the structure of the body is to support the life of the Body. Watchman Nee once said that form follows life, not the other way around. We can never get life out of form or structure. That has become painfully obvious down through the centuries of institutional Christianity. Spiritual life only comes from the Person of Jesus Christ Himself. But once we begin to experience and live by that life together, there will need to be some basic (life-supporting) structure.
Idea #2 – The Church Needs No Planning or Preparation
This assumes the idea that all planning and/or preparation is institutional and therefore the church meetings must all be very spontaneous. Therefore, we should not plan or prepare for our meetings. I have worked with organic groups of believers for over twenty years and I can tell you that this idea can hold no water whatsoever. You just try it and see if your group doesn’t end up being a boring week-after-week, the same people sharing every time, institutional meeting in a living room. I have seen it happen many times. Groups start out with the idea that everyone will just show up, the Holy Spirit will lead, and the meetings will all be very glorious! It sounds very spiritually romantic but it just plain doesn’t work! Why not? Two main reasons.
First of all, sitting in a pew for years does not equip you to function as a member of the Body of Christ! You have only been equipped to sit and listen, not to function. This is why God has called some in His Body to equip the saints to do the work of the ministry (Eph.4:11,12). These outside workers will come and train and equip the group to function as the Body, live by the life of Christ, and live as a community/family. This is how it was done in the New Testament church. Sounds like preparation and planning to me!
I am not saying here that every meeting needs to be planned out in a detailed way. Some meetings should not be planned. But all meetings will require preparation. The bare minimum preparation for meetings is you abiding in Christ every day! A group that doesn’t ever plan for meetings will become very lazy and a few of the people will end up doing all the sharing after a while. A group that plans every meeting will plum wear itself out! Wisdom comes in the balance of planned and unplanned meetings all built upon the preparation of abiding in the Vine on a daily basis.
Idea #3 – The Meeting is an Open Forum for Anyone to Say Anything
Groups that hold to this belief won’t be around very long! The Church of Jesus Christ is not a rap-session or a free-for-all kind of share your ignorance session. We are not coming to blab. We are coming to express the Christ who lives within us! The meetings do not exist for you to share your agenda or your pet doctrine. And the church definitely does not exist as a platform for your so called ministry! She is there to express and display her Lord.
In first Corinthians Paul gives instruction to a church that was abusing just about everything. What we gain is a window that we can peek into to see the healthy life of an authentic eklessia. In chapter fourteen he gives some guidelines for meetings. After reading that chapter it is very clear that the purpose of the gathering of the whole church was to edify (build up) the body. Let me ask you; what is it that edifies the Body? The Head! Only the life of the Head can build up the Body (see Eph. 4:15,16; Ps. 133). So only those things which build up the body should be shared in the meetings of the church. It’s not a free-for-all where anyone can express the thoughts running through their head! It’s the place and time where the body gets to fully express the life of the Head.
It’s very apparent that the early churches were not forums for thoughts, or discussion sessions about doctrine. Paul tells us (again in chapter 14) that there is a “tool” which can be used in the gathering to express Christ and edify the body. What is this tool? He called it prophecy. But what is prophecy? It is the unveiling of Jesus Christ.
“…For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.” Rev. 19:10b
It’s all about Him! Not you or your ministry! It’s HIS testimony and HIS revealing and HIS riches being declared.
And Paul told us that WE CAN ALL prophesy one by one so that the Body may be edified. He also told us that when the prophets speak, the others should judge. This doesn’t sound like a free-for-all to me!
“To me, the very least of all saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unfathomable riches of Christ, and to bring to light what is the administration of the mystery which for ages has been hidden in God who created all things; so that the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known through the church to the rulers and the authorities in the heavenly places.” Ephesians 3:8-10
Brothers and sisters, this is a very high and heavenly calling!