Frank Viola posted an excellent blog today addressing this question, and you should read it–with all of its accompanying links. However, I’d like to summarize just a bit here, since it’s a long blog, and it may take you a day or two to find a quiet hour to study it. I’d like to note, though, that Franks’ entire article is well worth reading, especially if you haven’t read his books. You’ll get a lot of good information from it.
In our western SD community, the term Organic Church tends to pull up images of “all my friends and my old lady sitting, passing the pipe around” (John Denver; paraphrased slightly). Very funny, not true. We don’t pass the pipe around at all–we’ve never passed a pipe around, nor even discussed the possibility. But we do sit around in front of the fire sometimes, if it’s cold. And we do share our portions of Jesus Christ with one another.
In the “house church movement,” the name Organic Church has been used to refer to any non-traditional gathering of God’s people, whether it fits the original intent of the term or not. Here’s a quote from T. Austin Sparks that more accurately defines the meaning of the term Organic Church:
God’s way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be a vegetable, animal, human or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.
And here it is in Frank Viola’s words:
By “organic church,” I mean 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.
Put another way, organic church life is the “experience” of the Body of Christ. In its purest form, it’s the fellowship of the Triune God brought to earth and experienced by human beings. . . . Organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle-a spontaneous journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples in close-knit community.
House churches are not all alike. I believe that God does work through all kinds of churches, whether they meet in a “church” building, a living room, a coffee shop, or the break room of a business. That said, simply meeting outside a traditional church setting does not mean that a church is accurately described as “organic.” I really do encourage you to read Frank’s whole article, as he describes this a lot more thoroughly than I have here.
Frank Viola works with a number of brothers and sisters in planting and helping organic churches around the world. Two of his brothers, Milt Rodriguez and Gary Welter, have agreed to come here to Rapid City, SD to help us. To start out, they’ll be doing a conference for us on the last weekend of February. I know, I know–that does sound a little institutionalized, but I can explain . . . really! This event has a number of purposes: to draw people together in our area so we can get to know one another and perhaps learn of others nearby who also want to meet in an organic way; to give us all some new insights into the ways God (the Father, Son, Spirit) IS community, and how He wants us to be community not only with one another, but also with Him; and to pave the way for possible future help from these brothers, who are a treasure trove of practical experience in living organic church.
If you live in the “five state region,” (you know who you are 😉 ), or even if you don’t but would like to learn more about how to learn to meet and live life together in an organic way, you’re welcome to join us, whether for the conference or for one of our regular/irregular meetings. We’d love to have you come and to have the opportunity to get to know you.
Love Always, Cindy