A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Six

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days. If you would like to see the whole article, go to my website at Strategic Church Network.]

                                                                 

CHALLENGES AND CONCLUSION

There will certainly be challenges regarding this strategy both internally and externally. Change is never welcomed, especially if it includes you! There is no problem with change if it only includes the other guy.

The Congregation – The challenges amongst the congregation will be in the area of understanding and then agreeing with the proposed changes. Therefore, approach these challenges with love and gentleness but without compromising our purpose. Time and patience will be of utmost importance. Knowing when to wait and when to initiate takes the wisdom of the Lord. Therefore, the congregation will need to spend much time together not only in discussion, but prayer as they seek the Lord’s will together.

In the areas that seem to contradict simple, organic church. This will be in the areas of the clergy/laity issue, using a traditional church facility, being part of a perceived institution such as a denomination or “covering” organization, distribution of funds, and those who come expecting to be part of an attractional/program centered church. Each of these areas will need to be discussed, taught and understood. This will take much time and patience as well.

Expectations from the denomination or “covering” organization. One of the greatest challenges will be to get them to not only understand what is being done, but to accept it and give us space to experiment and follow the Lord’s leading. Our desire would be to always follow scripture rather than tradition. This may be perceived as rebellion or foolish by some, but I would attempt to maintain a loving respectful relationship and hopefully this experiment would prove to be a model to help the churches of the organization to become more fruitful and effective in making disciples and transforming communities with the gospel of the Kingdom.

Concerns regarding finances. Most organic, simple church folk do not subscribe to using tithing as a binding principle but see it as an Old Covenant law and practice. This does not mean that giving is not practiced; in fact statistically it is usually greater in organic, simple churches as much as we can tell. There is a strong belief in biblical giving from a New Covenant perspective which has greater sacrifice than the Old Covenant. There is very little measurement of who gives and how much other than the results of what we see many networks accomplish. Funds are usually not gathered for buildings, programs or clergy, but to help the poor and accomplish mission. The congregation can continue to take up offerings, and encourage those who may be gathering outside of the Sunday morning service at the church facility to participate in giving as well. But if they determine to use their gifts for other reasons, they should be free to do so.

How will the challenge of the traditional need to pay for the facility and staff be met? The staff will need to be providing a service that is not merely tied to the institutional activities of a church, but are truly providing a service to the congregation. Of course, this should never be true in the area of discipleship and ministry, which is the main purpose of the church. Instead funds are provided for those who are accomplishing tasks whose time requirements prohibit them from working in the marketplace.

Keep in mind that working in the marketplace is not less spiritual than working in the church. In most simple, organic churches which are small and usually home based, there is no need for a paid pastor or minister. In a blended model, a full time senior leader could easily justify receiving a salary based upon responsibilities and time commitments. The key is for the senior leader never to allow folks to become dependent upon them, but to be dependent on the Lord for all things. Full time ministry does not position us to have a closer walk with the Lord or a special relationship that allows us to hear God better nor does it qualify us to lord over others. It should be merely practical and not mandated.

All that being said; offerings will still be taken at most events and understanding biblical financial principles will be part of the discipleship process.

Concerns regarding the facility. Make the facility available to the community. The facility could be rented by several congregations which would help to pay for the upkeep and expenses of having a facility and possible supplement the cost of any staff including the senior leader. See the facility become more of a community center for the surrounding area. This would lead towards the facility being used throughout the week rather than one or two times.

It would be continually affirmed in word and practice that the facility is merely a tool of the Lord, but not a sanctuary or temple. It would be clear that the body of Christ, the people, is the only temple or house of the Lord.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned previously, this is not an exact science, but an experiment in doing church in a way that is familiar to many who are meeting in houses and are detached from a traditional denominational structure. But many are now attempting to bring the simple, organic way of being the church into their traditional context. This will not be easy; in fact organic, simple church can be more difficult than what we are used to doing. This is not because in its methods or practices we find greater difficulty, it is really much simpler. But, it is because we are not used to going in that direction or doing things that way. It is so much easier to do things the way we always have done and know how to do them. We have all heard the famous quote; “The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” In this age we live in, we must seek and do something different in order to get different results. This dilemma is truly at the heart of the challenge.

It reminds me of when I used to drive in the snow before the roads where plowed and the ruts in the snow were deep and if you went into them you were sure to get stuck. Therefore you had to force yourself to drive out of the rut, straddling the ruts and fighting the tendency to fall back into them. This was very difficult, but fighting the wheel and staying out of the rut was the only solution. It is the same regarding changing the way we “do church” as we make our way in these changing times to reach our communities and bring transformation to those who live among us by the simple gospel of the Kingdom. We can drive into the ruts with ease. In fact we can just drift normally right into them; we don’t even have to fight the wheel! But if we do this, we find ourselves stuck and going nowhere.

I believe the simple, organic way of being the church is more than a model, but it is the way God intended his church to be and be seen. As we see our nation become more and more distant from the gospel, plus embracing a more post-modern worldview, we must be brave and trust the Lord to lead us beyond our previous understanding and traditions. Thus we see the changes around us as a tool of the Lord and not a barrier to the gospel and relationship with Jesus.

What do you think? What have you experienced in attempting to assist a congregation to function in a more organic, simple way?

God Bless,

Don

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Here are several of the books that have helped me shape my understanding of simple, organic church. This list is not exhaustive, but will give you an idea of the foundation regarding my thinking.

Atkerson, Steve ed. Ekklesia: To the Roots of Biblical Life, New Testament Restoration Foundation, 2003

Atkerson, Steve, ed, Towards A House Church Theology, New Testament Restoration Foundation, 1996

Banks, Robert and Julia, Paul’s Idea of Community: The Early House Churches in Their Cultural Setting, Hendrickson Publishers, 1994

Banks, Robert and Julia, The Church Comes Home: Building Community and Mission through Home Churches, Hendrickson Publishers, 1998

Banks, Robert, Going to Church in the 1st Century, Seedsowers, 1980

Barna, George, Revolution, Tyndale House Publishers, 2005

Birkey, Dale, The House Church: A Model for Renewing the Church, Herald Press, 1988

Bunton, Peter, Cell Groups and House Churches: What History Teaches Us, House to House Publications, 2001

Cole, Neil, Cultivating a Life for God, ChurchSmart Resources, 1999

Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005

Cole, Neil and Helfer, Phil, Church Transfusion, Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Josey-Bass 2012

Dale, Felicity, An Army of Ordinary People, Karis Publishing, 2005

Dale, Felicity, Getting Started: Planting and Multiplying House Churches, Karis Publishing, 2005

Dale, Tony and Felicity, Simply Church, Karis Publishing, 2002

Edwards, Gene, Beyond Radical, Seedsowers, 1999

Edwards, Gene, How to Meet in Homes: A Revolution in Spiritual Depth and in the Practice of Church Life, Seedsowers, 1999

Fitts, Robert, The Church in the House: A Return to Simplicity, Preparing the Way Publishers, 2001

Frost, Michael and Hirsch, Allen, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, Hendrickson Publishers, 2003

Garrison, David, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World, International Mission Board, 2004

Gehring, Roger W. House Church and Mission: The Importance of Household Structures in Early Christianity, Hendrickson Publishers, 2004

Halter, Hugh and Smay, Matt, AND – The Gathered and the Scattered Church. Zondervan 2010

Hirsch, Alan, The Forgotten Ways – Reactivating the Missional Church, Brazos Press, 2006

Hirsch, Alan, and Catchim, Tim, The Permanent Revolution – Apostolic Imagination and Practice for the 21st Century, Jossey-Bass 2012

Jacobsen, Wayne and Jacobsen, Clay, Authentic Relationships: Discovering the Lost Art of ‘One Anothering,’ Baker Books, 2003

Jacobsen, Wayne The Naked Church, BodyLife Publishers. 1998

Kreider, Larry, House Church Networks: A Church for a New Generation, House to House Publications, 2001

Lund, Robert A., The Way Church Ought To Be – Volume I: Ninety-Five Propositions for a Return to Radical Christianity, Outside the Box Press, 2001

McKenzie, Ron, Being Church Where We Live, Kingwatch Books, 2004

McNeil, Reggie, The Present Future: Six Tough Questions for the Church, Jossey-Bass, 2003

Nelson, Stanley A. A Believers’ Church Theology, House Church Central, 1996

Peters, Mike, Meetings In His Kingdom: Jesus Personally Leading His Church… : In Home, City, And Multi-City Gatherings, Kingdom Publishers, 1990

Peterson, Jim, Church Without Walls, Navpress, 1992

Rutz, James, Megashift, Empowerment Press, 2005

Rutz, James, Open Church, Open Church Ministries, 1992

Scoggins, Dick, Planting House Churches In Networks: A Manual From the Perspective Of a Church Planting Team, Fellowship of Church Planters, 1998

Simson, Wolfgang, Houses That Changed the World, Paternoster Publishing, 2001

Smith, R. Maurice, A Kingdom, A People & A River – A New Paradigm For The Post Modern House Church Movement, Spokane, WA, The Parousia Network,  2006

Snyder, Tom and Tina, Cultivating Christian Community: Training for House Church Facilitators, Communities of Care, Melbourne, FL 2006

Viola, Frank, Pagan Christianity: The Origins of Our Modern Church Practices, Present Testimony Ministry, 2002

Viola, Frank, Rethinking The Wineskin: The Practice of the New Testament Church, Present Testimony Ministry, 2001

Viola, Frank, So You Want to Start a House Church: First Century Styled Church Planting for Today, Present Testimony Ministry, 2003

Viola, Frank, The House Church Movement, Seedsowers, 2001

Viola, Frank, Who Is Your Covering: A Fresh Look at Leadership, Authority and Accountability, Present Testimony Ministry, 2001

Viola, Frank, Finding Organic Church, David C. Cook, 2009

Wilson, Mark and Kathi, Tired of Playing Church? Rediscovering the Book of Acts Church, Ampelos Press, 2004

Zdero, Rad, The Global House Church Movement, William Carey Library, 2004

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Five

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days. If you would like to see the whole article, go to my website at Strategic Church Network.]

                                                          

STRATEGIC STEPS

It is difficult to be exact regarding a complete strategy without having an opportunity to dialogue at length with an actual congregation. But there are several strategic steps that need to be taken in order to accomplish the goals mentioned earlier. All of these will need to be established in prayer and a gentle spirit. These steps will certainly overlap so they are not meant to be a hard fast sequence of events.

First – Get to know the congregation. The leadership of the congregation needs to get to know each person individually and learn about their dreams and visions. They should want to spend enough time with them to know where they were in their relationship with Jesus and the church. During this stage, not much would change within the activities of the church including the worship service. If any changes are made it would be done with a clear consensus of the active church members and for the purpose of instruction. There will also be a intentional plan where each of the members of the congregation get to know one another as well.

Second – Prepare the congregation for change. This would be done through teaching both during the main service as well as in small groups and informal gatherings and visits.

Third – Begin to introduce simple, organic church practices including the development of small groups in homes, the marketplace and gathering places outside the church facility. These gatherings would be developed in response to a valid paradigm shift amongst the congregation and not a dictated mandate. Let Jesus lead. These gatherings will include the following (not necessarily in any specific order):

  • Meal/Lord’s Supper – There will be regular meals at the church facility as well as other places where they would gather.
  • Praise and Prayer – Focusing on Jesus.
  • Sharing what God has done, and is doing, as well as words of encouragement and revelation.
  • Ministry – exercising the gifts focusing on one another’s needs. Traditionally referred to as “body ministry.”
  • Ministering God’s Word via teaching, dialogue, discussion and exhortation.

The Sunday service will be focused on celebration and reporting together what the Lord is doing in our lives. There will be corporate training and encouragement in the form of teaching and exhortation. I Cor. 14:26 will be the standard or “order of service”, therefore being a participatory meeting.

Fourth – Watch for leadership to emerge as each one does his part to serve both in the context of the activities of the congregation and in other areas of their life.

Fifth – Begin to under gird and support those who have a specific burden or call, equipping them to do the work of the ministry. The ministry of the church will take shape based upon the gifting and callings of those whom the Lord has brought together. This is opposite of the traditional model where the pastor leads the congregation to do the ministry in which the pastor feels must be accomplished. Certainly the pastors and other fivefold leaders may have areas of ministry that they have a burden for, but these will not be the only ministries established, but it will be from the congregation as a whole. The congregation would encourage that as they gather, they would then scatter to reach their local community and the world.

Sixth – Prepare for growth. As the saints begin to do the work of the ministry throughout the region, harvest will happen. Therefore there will be groups of believers in many settings and sizes as well as the Sunday gathering at the main facility. Growth will be spontaneous and beyond the control of what can happen at the main facility. Growth will then be in the hands of Jesus who builds his Church, rather than man controlling and manipulating the growth.

This process will not be easy and those working towards a more organic, simple church emerge from a traditional church will face many challenges. I will discuss these in my next post.

God Bless,

Don

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Four

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days. If you would like to see the whole article, go to my website at Strategic Church Network.]

                                                                 

PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY – GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND GOALS:

This is a brief and not exhaustive overview of the philosophy of ministry that would be held to attempt this transition from traditional/attractional to simple/organic:

Jesus is Primary – Jesus is the center of all that is said and done. Jesus is Lord will be the core affirmation, everything else will follow.

Revelation of Jesus   →  →    Mission – Disciple Making  → →   Church Happens.

Traditionally we establish church, and then we attempt to make disciples so that they come to an understanding of who Jesus is. Knowing Jesus comes by revelation. This revelation of Jesus comes first, and then discipleship happens focusing on the mission of the disciple. This activity causes real church to happen. Jesus’ will is to always remain the head of the church. So we reveal Jesus, disciple them and while this is going on, church happens! This also puts Jesus in his rightful place of building His church rather than men.

 Be Incarnational/Missional – It has been said that “What we draw them with is what we draw them to.”[1] That being said, the church must attract them to Jesus rather than to human achievements, personalities and programs. Although attractional churches make it easy for some seekers to visit them, incarnational churches go to where the people are instead of spending time and energy attracting people to come to a service. We see our God as a missionary God and we are a sent people.

Walk in love – Agape love is to be our motivation. Agape is love without expecting anything is return. It is the love in which God loves us. In relationships with one another and the community, our goal will be to express the love of God to all. Our attitude towards other churches in the Body of Christ will be that of love and not comparing ourselves to them, but blessing them.

We focus on Making Disciples – Discipleship will be the purpose of all activities. The simple, organic church discipleship desires to make no man or women dependent upon one leader or any source (such as curriculum or meetings) for spiritual growth and maturity. The goal is to make the disciple totally dependent on his relationship with Christ using the Bible and his relationship with Jesus as his primary source. The only tools needed for the follower of Christ is his Bible and his life being applied to God’s word. Simply, they need to learn to feed themselves rather being dependent on a preacher to feed them. It has been said “to make a disciple all you need is two people who are willing to surrender to Jesus, the Word of God, and then use life’s circumstances that Jesus has given you as the curriculum, and maybe do this over a meal or a cup of coffee.”

We will resist Dualism – Dualism is the practice of seeing life divided as sacred and secular. Our goal is to see all of our life sacred. God is not just in church or worship services. We must see him in all aspects of life. Many times we have two spheres of life – our church life, and our life in the world. This is in error. You are the same whether in church or at work or visiting family or at play with your friends. When a part of our life is separate from our spiritual life or Christian life (church life); that part of our life is the breeding ground for idolatry. When we see all of our life under Jesus’ lordship and sacred, our spiritually is genuine and real. When we give our life to Jesus, our life becomes His, therefore all of our life is sacred.

We will recognize the Priesthood of All Believers – Everyone has a part, a gift, and no one is better than another. Every believer must function as a priest and king. The church is a gathering of these priests and kings; a chosen people doing the Lord’s will.

GOALS

Here are some basic goals that would guide the congregation to a more simple, organic expression of church.

  1. Transition the church from a traditional/institutional/attractional model to a simple/organic model.
  2. To use the facility (which many times has an historic and cultural identity in a community) as a bridge to the community that expects church to be in a building and that has Sunday services. This will facilitate and spiritual environment where when there is gathering, it leads to scattering. The building will be seen as a tool and not a sanctuary or temple.
  3. To make disciples who follow Christ and are able to mature regardless of the condition of organized Christianity or society, but based upon their relationship with Jesus and their family in Christ.
  4. To equip the church to do the work of the ministry via the gifting/function of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher.
  5. To acknowledge the church as already sent into areas of the community to reach those who may never come to a church service; establishing discipleship groups in homes, businesses and social gathering points.
  6. To prepare the congregation to reach/disciple the nations (people groups) that have come into our communities as well as those who live in areas of the world where the gospel has not been preached.
  7. To multiply the numbers of disciples that then make disciples themselves. Growth will not be measured by those who attend a service, but by those who are actively doing the ministry of Jesus as He has gifted and called them.
  8. To serve as a base for other simple, organic, and house churches who need a place to gather with other believers for times of celebration, instruction and fellowship beyond their own gathering.

Now what are some of the steps we should take? I will discuss this in my next post.

Blessings,

Don


[1] Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pg. 95

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Three

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days. If you would like to see the whole article, go to my website at Strategic Church Network.]

                                                          

THE PROBLEM

One of the major weaknesses in the local church in America today is that it has taken on a business model more than that of family. Neil Cole has said; “When you imagine the amount of resources, energy and time invested in a service held only one day a week, it is remarkable. With all the importance placed on this event, you would expect there to be a lot of scriptural directives to make sure people get it right. But if you search all of the New Testament looking for the commands or injunctions having to do with this important weekly event, you will find them sadly missing. Instead you will find verses, chapters, and entire books that speak to how we are to live together as a spiritual family”[1]

In the many churches today, results are measured by the size of meetings and income rather than the number of those who are being obedient to Jesus. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations by teaching them to obey what he taught. We have reduced that command to gathering members so that they conform to the traditions of men and pay for the “vision of the house.”  The senior pastor has usurped the role of head of the church from Jesus and the congregation now looks to the senior pastor as their source for inspiration, spiritual food, comfort, guidance, and he is responsible for the ministry of the church. The five fold ministry may be recognized as valid and welcomed, but never to the degree that the congregation becomes equipped to do the work of the ministry. Ministry is still relegated to the clergy class, office holders and pastoral staff. Unfortunately those gifted in one of the five fold gifts have been elevated to “super star” status. The supernatural ministry of the presence of Jesus has been limited to spiritual manifestations, but never allowing him to actually be the head of the church in all activities.

This business model has caused the local church to be viewed as competitive with other portions of the Body of Christ. This drives the local church to become bigger and more entertaining, thus consumer driven. The pastor is expected to perform via his sermon along with his worship team and other attractions during the service. Finances, talent, time and energy is devoted to making the worship service everything the consumer congregation expects it to be. Unfortunately this leads to a church that has little time for making disciples, developing relationships in the community and simply being family together. Grant it, discipleship may happen amongst the leadership team, but the congregation is merely spectators. If discipleship does become a priority it is attempted through preaching or institutional classes and seminars which focus on academics rather than obedience to Christ. This causes discipleship to be diminished to an intellectual understanding of doctrine and church practice rather than relationship with Jesus and being able to hear him and obey.

The work of the Church in the world today has become complicated and systematic rather than simple and organic. Therefore the goal would be to lead an existing congregation from its present condition to that of an organic, simple church focused on mission rather than events where disciples are being made and hopefully citizens within the surrounding communities are being transformed by the gospel in every area of their life.[2] Those who call this congregation their local church would be equipped to do the work of the ministry of Jesus not just within the confines of the local church events, but also in the world where they live. In fact greater emphasis would be given to the latter. The church would then be a true expression of God’s Kingdom bringing the gospel to where they live, work and play.

Here are some facts and trends to consider:

What is happening in the USA?[3]

  • 65 million attend church, 25% of population
  • Only 4 to 5 million have a great commission focus.
  • In 1995 – 375,000 churches.
  • In 2000 – 324,000 churches.
  • In 2002 – 300,000 churches.
  • There is a 50% divorce rate in the church.
  • Eight out of ten pastors want to leave the ministry.
  • The number of men involved in church is declining.
  • Many children leave the church in their teen years.

Neil Cole states: “Churches lose 2,765,000 people each year, between 3500 and 4000 churches close their doors each year for the last time; while only 1100-1500 churches are started. Not a single county in all America has a greater percentage of churched people today than a decade ago.”[4]

George Barna has discovered that:

  • 4 out of 10 born again Christian do not attend church totaling 10 million.
  • 15-20 million do not attend a traditional organized church.
  • Majority of those making a decision for Christ in an evangelical church were no longer found attending church after eight weeks of making their decision.
  • Over the next 20 years the number of Christians seeking spiritual fulfillment in traditional churches will decline.
  • In 2007, 70% of Americans relied on traditional church expressions, by 2025 this number will decline to 30-35%
  • There will be alternative expressions of spirituality (house & market place churches) will rise from the current 5% to between 30-35%.

In light of these statistics, the church is certainly in need of a change, a reformation, a return to a more organic, simple model revealed to us in scripture.

In the next part of this post we will discuss the philosophy of ministry and the guiding principles that will help a local church transition from traditional to organic and simple.

God Bless,

Don


[1] Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005 pg 40

[2] Neil Cole states, “Church attendance, however, is not the barometer of how Christianity is doing. Ultimately, transformation is the product of the Gospel. It is not enough to fill our churches; we must transform our world. Society and culture should change if the church has been truly effective.” Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005. Introduction

[3] Source: Dawn Ministries, 2007

[4] Cole, Neil, Cultivating a Life for God, ChurchSmart Resources, 1999, pg 11

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Two

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days.]

FOUNDATIONS AND DEFINITIONS

Below are several points that will help to define and give foundation to this strategic plan. These of course are not exhaustive and there are many more points that can be discussed and many reading this would want to add those points. Feel free to do so by replying to this post.

  • Church: The presence of Jesus among His people, called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet (1).  It consists of a specific DNA: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission.(2)
  • Simple Church: It is being the Church wherever we live in relationship with Christ, his body and the world he has called us to reach. This is done without being dependent on facilities, professional clergy, elaborate services or structured meetings, but dependent on knowing what the Father is doing and obeying Him. Typically when simple churches gather they follow the pattern for the church meeting described in 1 Corinthians 14:26. The life of a simple church is a 24/7 experience and extends well beyond weekly gatherings.(3)
  • Organic Church: A term first coined by T. Austin Sparks. It is a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering. (4)  The church is best described in scripture as a family, a vine, a seed, a field or a body. The church is a living system which reproduces more rapidly and simply than an institution or manmade structure.
  • Church Growth: In the traditional model, growth is inward, focused primarily on gathering. In simple, organic churches the growth is outward focusing on scattering. (See Genesis 11:1-9 & Acts) Therefore the emphasis is on multiplication and simple models which multiply easily and quickly and is not based upon attending a worship service alone.
  • Making Disciples: This is the main task of the follower of Jesus. Making disciples should be the priority of the church so that each one is able to hear the Lord’s voice and become obedient to Him. A disciple is then able to “feed” themselves and not be dependent on an institution or an individual such as a member of the clergy to feed them. Maturity is the goal rather than dependence on an individual or a service. There is a tangible, real relationship with Jesus who is there source of spiritual food and direction. This is done in the context of the church as believers grow together and learn from each other rather than from one human source.
  • Leadership – Jesus corrected his disciples and told them that they were not to lord over others as the gentiles do. He strongly stated that this practice should not be among them. (Matt 10:25-28) Therefore all leadership will be that of a servant, equipper and willing to put others first. Leadership will not be defined as he who holds an office over others, but those who serve to undergird others. Thomas Wynn a friend of mine has described leadership: Leadership is like a skeleton, it supports, gives definition and strength, but if it is seen the body is either sick or dead (5).  For more information watch the video “Upside Down Leadership” at http://vimeo.com/16525058 .
  • Incarnational – Incarnational means you live among those whom God has led you to reach. Your lifestyle, while holy and reflecting Christ, is like those you are called to reach. This causes the gospel to penetrate areas, locations, peoples, cultures that would normally never attend church services.
  • Missional – Missional means to be outward in our movement rather than trying to attract people in – we go to where they are.
  • Gathering and Scattering – This is a blend of church life which incorporates a gathering model (slightly attractional) in order to scatter thus still being missional, simple and organic (6).

A few key scriptures (emphasis bold, underlined):

These are certainly not exhaustive regarding the strategic plan, but touch on a few critical areas.

•    Matt. 16:18 –“…I (Jesus) will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
•    1 Cor. 14:26 – What shall we say brothers:  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
•    1 Pet. 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
•    Mark 4:26-29 – He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Biblical Issues Regarding a Simple, Organic Church:

1.    The simple, organic church holds fast to Jesus Christ as its only Chief Shepherd [Senior Pastor] (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:10,19).
2.    The simple, organic church recognizes the Bible as the sufficient and authoritative guide for its beliefs and activities (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The Scriptures in their fullness have no need for modification or supplementation by outside philosophies, fields of study, or other influences (cf. Col. 2:8; 1 Jn. 2:27). The authority in any teaching, gathering or activity of the church is the Word of God rather than a denominational statement of faith or a leaders interpretation and traditions.
3.    The simple, organic church depends upon the Holy Spirit’s supervision and empowerment in all areas of ministry. (1 Cor. 3:8; 12:1-11; 1 Pet. 4:10; cf. Eph 3:7, 4:7; 1 Cor. 12:1-11).
4.    The simple, organic church strives to maintain truth and unity, not sacrificing one for the other (Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Tim. 3:15). It is non-divisive both in name and character (Jn. 17:20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13).
5.    The simple, organic church acknowledges the priesthood of the believer, each having direct access to God through Christ, and with responsibility and authority to minister to one another. (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Gal. 5:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14; Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24; James 5:16)
6.    The simple, organic church accepts all believers in Christ as members, one of another (Rom. 12:5; cf. Gal. 2:9). In keeping with its non-divisive character, it does not seek to establish a separate, local church membership in the traditional sense.
7.    Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teaching gifts are functions, not offices or positions. For example, the simple, organic church is pastored by those gifted to function as pastor rather than a position held by one professional clergy. (Acts 20:17, 27; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:14).

The next part of this article will discuss the problem that prompts us to seek for change in the way we see the church and her function.

Don

Footnotes:

(1) http://www.cmaresources.org/organic-church-definition

(2) Cole, Neil and Helfer, Phil, Church Transfusion, Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Josey-Bass 2012 pg. 18

(3) http://hrscn.org/About_Us.html

(4) http://frankviola.org/2010/01/11/what-is-an-organic-church-a-plea-for-clarity/

(5) Thomas Wynn: Leadership in the Kingdom, http://vimeo.com/19847639

(6) Halter, Hugh and Smay, Matt, AND – The Gathered and the Scattered Church. Zondervan 2010

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED (Part One)

Introduction:

[Several months ago I was asked to put together a strategic plan for a church to become more organic and simple. The following article is what I submitted with a few editorial changes.]

The following strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone. It is still in the theoretical stage, and will certainly need to be tweaked as the opportunity to apply this plan is pursued. The idea of merging the concepts of organic, simple church to a traditional attractional model church is revolutionary. Although some have accomplished this with success (1), it is still experimental and risky. With the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days.

A personal note:

Several months ago my wife and I were observing the fact that some of the things we were doing were changing and not producing the results we were expecting. We felt like we were adrift and needed to hear from the Lord regarding what we should do or what needed to change. So we took a few days off and went away to seek the Lord. We found a beautiful cabin the mountains of southwestern Virginia and determined to find our way as we listened to the Lord. To make it brief, what we discovered was that because of my ideal view of what the church should be, I had become stingy with the calling and gifts that the Lord had freely given me. I was given these gifts to minister and equip the Body of Christ, but because of my dreams for Church as God sees it, I was withholding what Jesus had given to me.

The solution is not yet clear other than I need to stop being exclusive and be willing to serve the Church regardless of how she functions. Therefore I committed myself to the Lord to serve his bride no matter what she looked like. That brought be to a place to consider what a more blended church would look like and the process to bring her to a more organic, simple expression which gave me the opportunity to write up this strategic plan. By “coincidence” after this time of seeking the Lord, I had received Neil Cole’s newest book (with Phil Helfer); “Church Transfusion – Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out” which greatly influenced some of my conclusions and observations. I recommend this book greatly.

I hope that this strategic plan will get you thinking about this process as well. Our next section will be discussing some foundational issues and definition regarding simple, organic church.

Don

Footnotes:

(1) Cole, Neil, Church Transfusion – Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Jossey-Bass, 2012

Hi Folks!

Just published our recent newsletter. If you would like to read it go to http://conta.cc/IIQOXs

Don