Organic church, simple church or house church are the usual names given to participatory fellowships which meet in homes and “do church” in homes. I regularly participate in two such groups, and have been involved over the past three years in several others which have either dissolved, merged or evolved. I also continue to attend a megachurch sunday evenings which I have attended for 21 years.
Home churches generally self-consciously follow the model and guidelines of the First Century Church—the church of John, Paul, Peter and James. Church meetings were in homes for about the first 350 years A.D. Its focus was given scriptural underpinnings by Paul in I Cor. 14:26: “What shall we say, brothers? When you come together, every one 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.” In other words, it was expected that all would contribute to the meeting instead of one preacher and a few musicians up on a platform. It was participatory; it was the whole body, for the whole body: Christ’s Body.
Matt, a brother from one of the fellowships, recently suggested I write something about home church in my blog. I knew that in my 160-some odd blogs I had already written some thoughts on my home church experience, and I wasn’t sure if any of my observations could add to things already expressed by my blogger/writer friends Jim Wright, Terry Stanley or John Fenn. These men have been very successful in leading home churches and in helping birth others. In addition to those men, over the past four years I have read a ton of stuff on organic church from Jon Zens, Frank Viola, Jamal Jivangee, Milt Rodriquez, Neal Cole and others.
I did a search of my blogs and found 4 or 5 that were relevant. The most somewhat original one was titled: “Perfectly Arranged: Christ’s Body & Spiritual Gifts.” I prefaced that blog with a couple quotes from I Cor. 12: 18-19, 26. These address how God has arranged the members of His Body and the perfection in that arrangement; and also how we should all share in each other’s joy and suffering because we are a part of each other. Now obviously in a megachurch the intimacy of sharing another’s joy and suffering does not happen. It can only happen in a small church, a house-sized church.
I discussed the “motivational” spiritual gifts found in Romans 12:6-8, as opposed to the gifts of “ministry” and “manifestation” found in I Cor. 12. The seven motivational gifts are: Prophecy, Serving, Teaching, Encouraging, Giving, Leadership and Mercy. I was taught about these gifts back in 1995, and suddenly the perfection of Christ’s Body became real for me. No longer was its various parts just a vague metaphor. The gifts of Romans 12 are called motivational because they are the channels thru which the Holy Spirit enlivens our service in the Body. My observation was that every successful, viable church would likely have a good representation of the various gifts. A church that was say, mostly prophets, was probably not one built by the Holy Spirit.
Johnny, another brother from one of my home churches, threw out a brilliant metaphor two years ago which I have meditated on considerably. He said something to the effect that we were all like candles that progressively illuminated the face of Christ—each candle as it was lit revealing more and more of Jesus. I saw that validated in a recent men’s group. This group is part of one of my home churches. Luke, one of the brothers, was hosting the meeting, and prior to the meeting the Holy Spirit had put upon his heart the need to celebrate Holy Communion. It had been many months since this group had shared the gifts of the Lord’s Body and Blood.
Luke provided the unleavened bread and Matt brought a bottle of wine. Before sharing the elements there was a long discussion about the significance and traditions of communion. Oddly enough, there were twelve of us present. That would have been the number present after Judas left the Passover seder at which Jesus said to “do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19). When we share in His Body and Blood we are not only one together with Him, we are also together with each other. That is why it is called communion.
I was frankly amazed as we went around the room and each man shared his thoughts. Most had scriptural references. Paul mentioned the verse in John where Jesus says he is “the bread of life.” Paul also spoke about how when Jesus fed the multitudes with just a few loaves there was bread left over—a metaphor on how Jesus nourishes and nourishes and yet is never used up. There is always more of Him to share. Someone else brought up the passage in I Corinthians 11:24-25 commonly referred to as “The Words of Institution.” Another spoke about how one should not take communion in an unworthy fashion and what that might mean. There was a discussion about confession in various church traditions, and the act of examining ones heart before sharing Christ’s Body and Blood. Another brother mentioned I Peter 2:5 about how we are “living stones” being built up stone by stone “into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood…”
I wish there was a video recording of the meeting. It would help me to recall who contributed what teaching; there was just more rich content than I could take in and remember. In itself, such a video could almost be a teaching tool on how an organic church should work. To me it was a perfect illustration of Christ’s Body and how we are “the living stones” at work building the new Temple. It was also a stunning validation of Johnny’s illumination metaphor. Just like it takes more than one candle to illuminate the face of Jesus, more than one stone is required to build the new Temple: the Body of Christ.