"Genesis" of Organic Church...
Tuesday Morning, January 19, 1999
“As we’re just beginning and desiring to express ‘Church’ in a more Biblical and fruitful way than the popularized version of today, what do we do when our ‘situation’ is NOT GOING WELL??!!”
“The Day Of Small Beginnings” and of BIG Difficulties : )
Many worldwide, it seems, have had their eyes opened by the Spirit to what is NOT Church:
“Here’s the church, here’s the steeple, open the doors and here’s all the people!”
Change that song to include padded seats in a “multi-function building” or “cell groups” or “house church” ...and “a rose by any other name would smell as sweet!” The emperor still is going to catch his death of cold.
These thoughts gathered here, in letters from and to saints in various places, are about this subject:
First, some background, necessary for some... MANY have “Seen” that Jesus is after a BRIDE, and that she is not an “invisible” Bride—anymore than He was invisible when He was here physically. That “invisible church” thought is “ecclesiastical gnosticism” to coin a phrase. Really, that thought is not God’s Thought, but was born to try to describe what we see around us, rather than what God wants and expects. Jesus wants a REAL Bride, a “city on a hill that can’t be hidden!” And this will be built out of, and defined by, Relationship—with Him, and with one another.
His Church is not defined by “attendance,” or an agreed-upon belief system, or unfortunate non-apostolic emphasis (such as gathering around Y2K phobia or homeschooling). “Church” will exist in the realm of love and self-sacrifice, and bearing one another’s burdens, the Law of Christ. Those who have not had a “revealing” of Jesus which “flesh and blood did not reveal to them” are not yet a part of the Church He is building. “Members” must, “from the least to the greatest, ALL know Him”—if it’s HIS church. They must have “intimacy” with Father, “the only true God, and Jesus Christ Whom He sent” if they are saved with Eternal Life in them, according to Jesus Himself. And the local assembly (according to God’s Mind revealed by those “carried along by the Spirit” in His Word) is to LOOK LIKE THIS, not simply “contain a few folks” that know Him and love each other. The local church, which is very much a part of the teachings of Scripture, is to BE an assembly of those who are intimate with Him and one another, with all loving the Light (not defensive about it) and carrying the Light to others. Leaven (those in sin who do not desire to repent and change, and therefore don’t love Jesus, 1Jn. 1-3, 1Cor. 5) and disconnectedness (1Cor.11, 12) are NOT welcome in the local assembly, according to the Head of the Church, Jesus. If these are welcome, it is not yet His Church, and the gates of Hell will prevail: teenagers lost, worldliness untouched, shallow relationships, etc, etc.
Jesus and His healthiest and most fruitful disciples have learned to walk and think “way outside the box” of men’s plans and hierarchies and systems and programs. All the stuff that sounds so noble (“seminaries,” “missions,” “ministries,” “para-church organizations,” “pastors” running “services,” and such) can’t be found in God’s Record of Jesus-life descended from Heaven. Not even “bible studies”? Nope. There is something else, far greater, far more pervasive and extraordinarily life-changing. It’s called, by poor translation, CHURCH. IT supersedes, replaces, fulfills, and dramatically makes obsolete all of those other “things” we have invented to “do God’s will.” It is the 1 Corinthians 12-14, Ephesians 3:10, Matthew 16:18, organic “joined and knit together” corporate Christ-Life...the Bride of Christ manifest in daily life. The local church! “From the least to the greatest, they all know Him.”
Jesus’ Church is not ever allowed to be a disobedient paradigm (1Cor. 5) of 1) a 10% “committed nucleus”, 2) hidden within a bunch of sin and worldliness melted into the assembly, 3) unrecognized (for lack of Light and Love daily relationship), and 4) unchallenged (for lack of love, discernment, or courage).
So, now a bunch of good folks know this and are willing to risk their lives, if necessary. They would do ANYTHING so that Jesus, the Word, would become flesh in His Bride. Now many are “attempting,” but often with great difficulty, to live out “Church” as God has declared it can and should be. You should know that there are some “stages” that it seems most people have gone through in their pursuit of a “city whose builder and maker is GOD.” The passion for the organic, rather than organizational, local Church will LIKELY go through some stages. The following two sections are brief responses to some folks in a couple of different “stages” of pursuit of His Will (Life that is truly Life) for their lives and churches.
One or two families that See “God’s Intent, through the Church” (Eph.3:10), but are “all alone,” without other Believers to walk with:
“We’ve come out of the institutional church setting, but we’re all alone now! We don’t want to be bitter or angry at anyone, so we reject that as something Jesus would never author. But, we can’t seem to find anyone to Walk with our family as FAMILY, either. We know we have Jesus always, but we also know that we really NEED other Believers with Gifts and experiences and maturity with God that we don’t have, in order to not get stale or ingrown. We need people to give to, as well as to receive from. Don’t we? What should we do?”
“How do we start something that looks more like Jesus and His Word than what our consciences forced us to leave? What do we do now?! We’re lonely! If that’s what He wants, that’s okay with us, but we also know that He wants a Testimony of Life in the local church, not just a few families scattered around here and there doing their own thing. It’s clear that God was right (Ha!) when He said we would be hardened and deceived if we did not have folks ‘admonishing us daily.’ So, we truly want the ‘hundred mothers, brothers, sisters’ that Jesus called us to desire, and promised to His people. But right now it’s just us. What should we do? If you have any thoughts for us, we’d appreciate it.”
I know these can be painful and confusing times. But know that you are not alone. “Your brothers throughout the world” are encountering similar testing and refining and Instruction as Jesus builds His House. There are some things, though, you should consider in your situation.
For one, be sure that the reason you live where you do is because you are “seeking first the Kingdom.” If you live where you live for any other reason, and try to add “the Kingdom” to what you want to do—then you are doing no better than “seeking SECOND the Kingdom.” The “Kingdom” is the Expression of His Reign amongst His People, just as any earthly King’s Kingdom would be. So, to seek FIRST His Kingdom would mean that ABSOLUTELY you are first of all living in “the exact time and place” where He wants you to be living. You have chosen to live there for the purpose of growing and giving within His Kingdom.
How else can I say it? If you live where you live for ANY other reason than because it is the best place for you to grow in Jesus (unless there by gunpoint of an unbelieving husband...and even then...), you are in jeopardy. If you try to ADD “seek first the Kingdom” to the place you’ve chosen to live for some earthly reason—then you are doing no better than “seeking SECOND the Kingdom.” If you chose that place to live, or continue to live there, because it is seeking His Kingdom first, then great. But it CAN’T be that you live there because you got a good deal on the land, because you inherited it, because it’s close to physical family, because the scenery is good or the taxes are cheap or it’s near employment, or “away from other people”! How sad any of those reasons would be for choosing to live somewhere. That is as deceptive and deadly as choosing a wife or husband because they look good to the physical eye when they’re 20 years old. How foolish. How dangerous. How common. Don’t do that to Jesus by choosing where you live for earthly or human reasons, and then think you can “add Jesus” like you would add water to freeze-dried potatoes.
Now, after purging your motives, maybe you’ll see you need to move to town, or the part of town, where other Believers are. That may not be what Father wants everyone to do, but what IF that’s what He wants you to do? Let’s say He does, for you. Why would He want you to live near other Believers? So you can be involved with others in Jesus...SPONTANEOUSLY! Although people who have never experienced much wouldn’t believe this, the stuff that happens spontaneously brings about 90% of true Life! Real Life happens...when you’re running errands with a disciple, or doing chores and pitch in at your neighbor’s. It happens when you’re passing by a neighbor’s (Believer’s) house and stop through to discover a child who has just hurt himself so you help them and pray with them. Real Life happens when someone sneaks up on you while you’re getting the mail, and you end up praying and worshipping with a brother or sister. Real Life happens in ten thousand ways that flat can’t happen on a schedule or specified day on a calendar, or in some meeting-centered existence! What a loss of growth in Jesus, for you and your children, when you seek the Kingdom second, or third, or ____.
So, a little known fact: most folks should be as near as possible to people that genuinely want to abandon their lives for Jesus. Now, notice I didn’t say that most folks should live as near to folks that “want to have ‘church life’ like we do, and believe sorta-kinda like we do.” This is where major mistakes are made, world-wide. Take note of this. There are many more people (a hundred times as many) that want a “cool ‘church life’ experience” for themselves and their children, than there are people that want to abandon their lives for Jesus. Don’t confuse the two, or you will walk into great, great misery. Health food, homeschool, Y2K, despising authority, family idolatry, not liking the “pastor” (or secretly wanting to be one), wanting to be cozy and small, and a zillion other issues motivate many folks to want to have “house church”—instead of whatever they left. DON’T BE FOOLED by that kind of thing. Care about those folks, love them, reach out to them...but you will not be able to Build with them. And if you try, you will be bloodied, and your children hurt deeply.
Everyone says they “love the Lord” and all that, but what does this mean? It is frankly a cover-up for religious nonsense in many, many cases. You want to be with people that really do love Jesus. And if they love Him, they won’t be offended by Jesus’ clear teaching: “If you really love Me, then obey My commands.” Real love of Jesus means abandonment to Him and His Ways. THOSE are the kinds of folks you want to move near to, and get into your life on a daily (Heb. 3:12-14) basis. DON’T move next door to people who seem to have similar ideas. Move next door to people who love Jesus enough to die for Him, and truly “love the Light.” “THIS is the verdict,” saith the Lord (Jn. 3, 1Jn. 1).
Did I say “next door”? Yes. I did not say two blocks away. WHY? Because, as I said, 90% of Life is getting close enough to be pulled past “planned” spirituality into the spontaneous opportunities that the Spirit of God will give! We’ve had folks who lived a block away from where the daily action was in a cluster of homes, and they eventually moved closer! Sound crazy? Ask them if they would do it again in a heartbeat! What inconvenience of packing and moving, or what dollar price tag would YOU put on your children being able to be shown Jesus DAILY by the lives of Paul and Phoebe and Abigail and Timothy and Samuel and Agabus? And it wouldn’t hurt YOU any, either! : )
As far as opportunities to discover other seekers of Jesus’ Life, there are likely to be some opportunities right in front of you, too. If you don’t have God’s Impetus to go elsewhere at this time, that’s fine. But you also don’t have His permission to just hang around quilting and having “family devos” and “bible bowls.” Get busy! Give and send good books and CDs and DVDs to everyone you think may have a heart for Jesus and His Ways. Take a chance or two—life is short!! How many people can you think of? Maybe a hundred? Act on it. And, do you have any neighbors? Do you ever see a car with a bumper sticker that exalts Jesus? Put a note or a book on the windshield! Ever pass a religious facility on your way to the market? Stop in, brothers, and introduce yourself and see if there is anyone who may be seriously in love with Jesus, and with Light!
No doubt there are numerous people from your old place of “attending” that you felt were top class disciples: true-hearted, Light-loving, and abandoned to the love of their life—Jesus. (Actually, there is NO way to really know whether or not this is true unless you have seen them face “skandalon”—a “valley of decision” relating to hard, practical decisions in following the Lamb wherever He goes.” Most anyone can look like they “love” Him until light exposes them in the inner man. At that point, Jesus said, some “love the Light” and some “hate the Light” and will tell you to “get the log out of your own eye” and give them their space to include the world in their lives.) Find the folks that really want to live for Him, for Real. If you remember anyone who you think may be like that, get involved in their lives, frequently! Show up at their workplace and take them to lunch, with some other brothers. Drop by their home and help them do a repair job. See what Father may build out of helping each other get to know Jesus better.
Don’t make it your goal to try to “build” anything—just love people and help each other get close to Jesus. Leave any “building” to the One who builds the only House that the gates of Hell cannot prevail against. Any other building, orchestrated by men’s ideas and ways, is mostly “in vain.” But you knew that, from experience, as well as from the Scripture, right?
IF you’re busy about the Father’s Business in your town or city, and are willing to move anywhere or risk everything, He’ll direct your steps. He doesn’t “steer parked cars.” He wants us all to be moving forward, doing what we can, and then He’ll show us what the next step is. DO risk in the local assemblies where some of the Believers “attend” by getting to know people and getting involved in their lives, as mentioned a minute ago. Don’t do this in order to get them to do something, or leave this and join that—whatever “that” may be. But rather, just spread the Gospel of the Kingdom to every living creature, and help every individual that you meet to know Jesus better, love Him more, and obey Him more absolutely.
In helping others to get the “weeds” out of their lives (sins and ways that choke out Jesus’ Life), you will be helping them to See Him better. You will be freeing them to know what His Will may be for them. As Paul said, folks can only see what the “good, perfect, and pleasing Will of God” is for their lives, when they 1) are learning to offer their bodies as living sacrifices, 2) no longer desire or appreciate what the world does, and 3) let their minds be transformed by God’s perspective and Life. As we all help one another do these things (Heb. 3:12-14, Gal. 4:1ff, 2Tim. 4:2-3, etc.), we can See Him more clearly—and consequently His Will for our lives and for His Church.
I’m not suggesting that you “join” any organization or even be a “regular attender” of a religious institution—just that you get to know as many people as you can. Find out who truly cares by getting involved in their evenings, their jobs, their families, their hopes and dreams and fears and priorities. THAT’S where Life is found. The Kingdom is not “here or there” but within folks who truly love Him. So, only as we get inside of others, we find Jesus. And in doing that, we shed Light on our own lives, and theirs, and the Way becomes more and more clear as to who and where and how we must live to best...“serve the Purposes of God in our generation.” If we’ll pull the weeds, and make the hard choices (obeying His living Word, which are Eternal Seeds sown), He’ll direct our steps, and those around us who are doing the same.
All of that is freeing because NOW we don’t have to figure out what the right kind of church is, or how to “start one.” We don’t have to figure out “how to do it” or anything like that. We just need to go after what we do know is God’s Will on a case by case, day by day, basis, and let HIM build His Church. If we’re really “seeking first His Kingdom” and willing to live anywhere or do anything for Him, regardless of personal cost, He’ll send the Gifts, or raise them up, or make it clear what we need to do or where we need to go. But He’ll only do this out of the fertile ground of those who He can afford to invest in—because they are all truly abandoned to Him. And those who don’t really want all that He is...are free to “attend the church of their choice”—without us trying to “hold something together”! This is very freeing!
A number of folks have come together to express Jesus, in an organic corporate way...but some people become major disappointments and heartaches:
“We’ve come out of the institutional church setting, along with several other families. Also, others have heard that we desire to let Jesus truly ‘run’ the times we gather together, and have begun to be with us on a ‘regular basis.’ Things looked pretty rosy during the ‘honeymoon’ time, as we first came together. But now, it seems reality has set in. What a difficult, heart-breaking mix.
“One family loves to be around during the ‘fun times’ when we’re doing various activities and going places together. But, truth be told, it doesn’t seem that they really want to give their lives away with any depth. They have their own, private, ‘us eight and no more’ lives, and seem to add us to spice up their activity schedules and to have some religious outlet that isn’t too institutional. Not only is it really sad, but it is confusing. How can we pretend to have relationship when they won’t let us into their lives, and don’t seem to value that, regardless of what God has said about it? It’s almost as if (this is scary to say) they think that their family is the church, and we are all just extra, to be visited at their discretion.
“Another family never wants to be all in the same place at the same time (‘have meetings’) because they are afraid that this will make us institutional, too. Their idea of the church is just folks doing spiritual stuff as they please, on their own schedule, as individuals. Any sense of identity, such as Paul referred to, ‘when the WHOLE Church is together,’ seems undesirable to them. They seem to feel like that is too close to what they ‘came out of’ if we are all in the same place at the same time. I understand the desire to avoid some sort of unBiblical systematized calendarized meeting schedule, but how do we get them to see that gatherings of the whole collection of folks that love Jesus, in the same place at the same time, was described by Paul as a glorious time?!
“Still another family thinks that they, and their children need ‘structure’ and regular ‘bible classes’ and the like. They are ready to go back and sit in rows and files on Sunday morning so that everything will be predictable for them. How can we show them that the Principle of ‘a little leaven leavens the whole batch’ makes that a pretty bad idea, since that ‘way’ of functioning has no basis in the bible, and by definition, welcomes leaven without even having a way to know it? Would it matter to them if they knew this? What makes people willing to settle for Ishmael, rather than pay the price for Isaac (as high as that may be)?
“Another family has children that are out of control, and a number of other questionable issues, but refuses to talk about these things. There are also worldly relationships and habits and priorities that feel like fingernails on the proverbial chalkboard to us. They call it ‘a matter of opinion’ and shut us down. They feel like because the phrase ‘everyone did what was right in their own eyes’ is in the Bible, it must be okay to do that, I guess. We know GOD has thoughts and standards and ways...and we should be using this ‘forum’ of Believers to FIND those ways, not ‘agree to disagree’ and never find Him in it all. How can we convince them of this?
“Another family seems to have ‘opinions’ about people and things, but won’t ever SAY anything. At least to any of us. Maybe they do to each other, ‘on the way home,’ but they won’t let us in on whatever they’re thinking. That feels like hypocrisy, to hold viewpoints and opinions and judgments, and not be open about them and try to work them out. It certainly builds walls about as fast as anything I can think of. How do we get them to be humble and honest (and obedient to God, for that matter) and open up to those they feel like are not walking God’s Way? Is it because they are afraid we’d be defensive? Is it because they wouldn’t want to find out they were wrong, and need to change themselves (if it turned out this way)? Is it because they are simply fault-finding to justify not opening up their lives? Or is it that they have just been trained in the form of ‘hypocrisy’ their whole religious lives (expressing their opinions amongst themselves on the way to the cafeteria) and really just don’t know that this is disobedient to God, and destructive of true relationships in Christ? We don’t know. You’ll probably say, ‘Why don’t you just ASK them which one it is?!!’ Okay, you’re right. We’ll do that.
“There are some other stories, too. But you get the idea. We THOUGHT God had called us all together around a common Vision of Christ and His Body, and now we’re finding out that it is not going all that well with some of the folks. What should we do? ANY ideas?”
One thing you should be aware of is this: there is often this pain in the “genesis” or beginning of finding, and exploring, and being built into “organic Life.” Often, there are many layers, as with an onion, that need to be peeled back before you can get to the “heart” of it. Very seldom do things fall together as God would have it, right from the get-go. God allows this, in part, to test US. He leads us “into the wilderness in order to find out what is in our hearts.” Are we doing this for HIM...or for ourselves? Are we trying to BUILD something, or are we simply trying to love Him and serve Him, and love others and serve others, with all our hearts? And then “let the chips fall where they may”?
Nearly always there will be some spouses or families or people who will only go “so far”—and you will not be able to change that. Some “spring up quickly with great joy, but have no root.” Others will let the “cares and worries of the world, the deceitfulness of materialism,” the guitar lessons, soccer practices, 8 hours of middle-class sleep, their bellies, their hobbies or their “focus on the family...” choke out the Life God intended for them. When folks make these choices (and many will, while denying that they are), all you can do is go on with what you know is right. Be both truthful and kind with them. And wait and see. But don’t hang back trying to endlessly persuade folks.
To elaborate on one point just made, when you come up against the painful barriers you mentioned above, be sure to kindly speak with them, if you possibly can. Tell them what you’ve Seen. “Without Vision, the people cast off restraint.” If they don’t really know that God is after something radically different than the “attending” thing, then they may not have sufficient strength to fight the battles they will face. Maybe it will be the battle of parental insult, or some other painful repercussion of obeying God by doing something other than the world’s religion. Show them the Holy High Calling of Jesus’ Life descended from Heaven, and describe as best you can what it looks like “on earth as it is in Heaven.” Everyone can read Acts 2:42-47, but many have been told that Jesus-Life was just “cultural” and not “relevant.” Everyone can read Jesus’ Teachings and many can quote them, but few have experienced a Holy Nation, a Royal Priesthood, a People “being many, are one Body.” “Contending as ONE MAN for the Faith,” “one heart” “one mind” “of one accord” is nothing like what most have experienced. “Joined and knit by every supporting ligament”—most would have to say they have NO idea what that “feels” like in practical daily life. They NEED you to show them what God has said about it all, in order to break them out of the hypnosis of what their past lives may have been.
Remember it is usually personal sins or compromises that blind us to Seeing Him. “Without holiness, no one will See the Lord.” “Who can ascend God’s Holy Hill? Those with clean hands and a pure heart.” “Some have wandered away from a pure heart, a good conscience, and a sincere faith. They want to be teachers, but they don’t know what they’re talking about, or what they so confidently affirm.” Knowing that God said SIN causes us to be blind to Truth and deaf to His Voice, we now know the importance of being vessels of God’s Word in daily life. In addition to helping people see the Vision God has for His People, so that they would not “cast off restraint,” you may need to help them find the sins that have held them back, personally. Offer to them, perhaps, anything that you’ve seen that MAY be the “one thing you lack” sin causing the inability to See. (Is it family idolatry, health food idolatry, pride, fear, or worldly lifestyles???) Invite them to reconsider allowing these things in their lives, if they are there. If they love Jesus, they will “love the Light” as well, according to Jesus—so they’ll be glad you mentioned it, and will be glad to pursue it if it’s there. And, someday, because they love you and love Jesus, they may help you, too. : ) Life is good. : )
Even if we are able to speak with, and reason with folks (as Paul was “insane” enough to do with the Corinthians, as he put it), remember this: Jesus didn’t chase people down. And Jesus didn’t do what everyone else did, just to make them comfortable. (Remember Jesus’ intentional offense of the religious leaders? What was the big deal about washing His hands? Couldn’t He at least have done that so as to avoid being controversial and divisive?!) Do your best to be kind, but we can’t ever sink back into a lower way just to accommodate others. That’s not “loving”—it’s compromise. Mis-applying Romans 14 is not helpful for anyone. The spouse that won’t radically live for Jesus because of an unBelieving husband or wife, is NOT being loving, and is not doing them a favor by hanging back at their level. We’ve never been given permission by Jesus to disobey Him for ANY reason. When you really love others, you invite them to come along, and you do your best to show them kindness, and you give up whatever you CAN for them...but we are never permitted to compromise any Truth of God to make a human happy. We would never shove it in their face by mocking them or humiliating them (that’s what Romans 14 is about, not exalting “weaker faith” as an acceptable alternative to Faith and obedience)...but we still must go on.
If these guys you’re grieving over are really in love with Jesus, they’ll come around if 1) they see you living it, and 2) you’ve done your best to plant the Seeds of Truth, and 3) you’ve shown them, in kindness, what the “weeds” may be in their lives that are causing them to not See so well. “Though the eye of sinful man Thy glory may not see.” Just remember, if sons of Abraham, we can “NEVER go back to the old country” for anyone—anytime, anywhere. Love them, but don’t go backwards (or hang around in limbo) for long. Stay in touch, don’t embarrass them, but pour yourself into those who DO want the Whole thing Jesus intends.
Without addressing each of the different “types” of families you mentioned, the WAY to deal with those, and the thousand other possibilities of how the enemy introduces chaos and heartache to try to crush our hearts and energy, is pretty much captured by the thoughts above.
Two more key thoughts, and then I’ll quit for now: Return good for evil, and PRAY without ceasing.