Today has been a good day. I went to church with Tim and the family. We sang about five songs, Tim preached, and then we fellowshipped. I met some pretty sweet people who were very on fire for God. The congregation was very eclectic and eccentric. They were very friendly, warm, and full of Christ’s love and joy. You could see that the Christ they worshiped had changed their lives and brought them out of some dark places. I met two men that I took a special liking to, Brian and Don. Brian was extremely talkative as well as extremely on fire for God. He explained that he had come to the faith about five years ago. Since then he has started several small groups and has been leading others to Christ. He gave me his card and told me that if I ever needed anything prayed for to call him and he would pray for me and he made sure that I knew he was serious about his offer. Brian introduced me to Don. Don was a quiet, shifty fellow. It took me a little bit but I got him to talk. I asked him how long he had been a Christian and how he ended up at Moss Brook (that’s the church’s name.) He told me that He had been a Christian for many years and started coming to Moss Brook because of the solid Biblical teaching and the Pastors’ humility. Apparently the last church he went to wasn’t practicing everything they preached. That was all fine and good, but what really interested me was what he told me about his youth. Don explained to me that he has been on his own since he was 12 and he said he started working odd jobs traveling the northeastern United States all by himself when he was 14. He said he has a hard time trusting people and he doesn’t feel like he knows himself that well. Don said all this with a smile and I could tell that Jesus really had a hold of him. He said he just takes one day at a time and tries to submit himself to the Spirit. What a guy! We had small group later at Tim’s house and again I met a very diverse group of people, intellectuals and blue collared people doing life together. We played catch phrase and some of the men shared about recently losing their jobs. Again it was obvious that these people trusted in a Jesus who carried them out of some messy situations. They were disgruntled about their job situations, but they had full trust in Jesus.
My time up here has really challenged me on how I view Church. Tonight Tim and I had a great conversation about the Church. I’ve come to the seemingly obvious but sometimes overlooked conclusion that Church is not something that you go to, but rather it is something you live out. The Church is a living organism that is meant to be fluid. The Church is meant to make disciples. The Church is meant to bring Jesus to a broken and hurting world. “Gee you’re really breaking new ground here Copernicus!” I know, I know just bare with me a second. When the Church is discussed in the Bible Jesus says that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. (Matt. 16:18 ESV) The last time I checked, a gate was a poor weapon. Most people use gates to keep things out. It’s more of a defensive device used for protection. So from this verse as well as the chapters on the Armor of God, which focus on offensive weapons and frontal protection, I think that the Church is meant to be on the offensive striking Hell with everything it’s got. The problem is that we as humans have bought into our humanity and chosen safety rather than the life of combat. We have institutionalized the Church and fortified it. We draw up documents and statements describing what we are against and wait for Satan to attack us. Until he does though, were are perfectly content and comfortable coming to church on Sundays and going about our business in a manner that is as politically correct as possible as not to offend someone or disrupt the peace.
Tim believes that the Organic Church (essentially the house church or as they refer to it, the simple church) has taken this idea of a fluid and offensive Church and put it into action. This structure is composed of a network of simple churches, essentially small groups, with a team of pastors at the center of this network. Tim and his team act as the Paul and the leaders of these simple churches are their Timothys. In this model multiplication is much easier because everyone can act as a church planter. Say someone is lead to Christ via one of these small groups. That person can then go and take their new found faith to their sphere of influence and presto a new simple church. Then with some training via this theological curriculum known as Truth Quest, they can become the new leader of that simple church. It’s a neat little system that removes a lot of the politics from the Church and raises the level of ministry that a lay person does. It also promotes the use of each individuals special gifting and pushes people to make disciples.
When I was talking with Tim about this earlier this evening I asked him how he talks about this without sounding like he is down on the American Church. He said that he didn’t really but that it is not his intention to come down on the institutionalized church. He said that God has used and is currently using that style of church to make an impact, but He said if the Church doesn’t start doing new things it is likely to die out in the next 50 years or so. I then asked if there was a way to implement any of this Organic method into the already existing Church. To that he said wineskins. Say what? He said you can’t put new wine in old wineskins. Let’s say that you lead someone to Christ and they are on fire for Him. They are so on fire that they convert nine of their buddies and now you have a functioning small group. From there you decide to take them to your church Sunday morning for the celebration aspect of Church. At church one of them runs into some aged believer and exclaims, “Hey I’m so on fire for God. I can’t wait to change the world!” To which the aged believer replies, “Yea I felt that way once too. Don’t worry that feeling wears off.” You’ve just ruined the wine. Tim explained that every church has a deeply ingrained DNA and it’s not wise to try to change it. So he said you’ve got to use new wineskins, which in his case would be the Organic model.
God’s church is diverse and ever changing. It doesn’t need defending and it should be on the offensive taking ground for the Kingdom. This can be accomplished in many ways and that is the important thing to remember. We serve a God who is creative and adventurous. A God who makes axes float and has fish eat people just to make a point. It’s stupid to argue about how Church is implemented and to avoid that we need to recognize that God’s Church is not a building or an institution, but a living organism: a body of believers doing life together, sharing in the joys and sorrows of life, and stealing ground back for the Kingdom.