What I’ve Learned in Organic Church Part 2: The Life of the Church Flows from Christ’s Life in Us, Not From Our Activity

*** This article is part of a blog series by some of us meeting together in an organic expression of the church.  The introduction to the series is here.  Other contributors are listed at the bottom of this article.  This series is not based in theory or rhetoric and is not an attempt to “teach”.  Our hope is simply to point to Christ as All in All and to share real life experiences of those who are living together in this way. ***

The life of the church flows from Christ’s life in us, not from our activity.

This sounds obvious, right?  It’s all about Jesus.  Yes, of course.

Except that it is not.  It’s often about many other things, and we don’t even realize it much of the time.  We’ve made a commitment to Jesus (got saved, answered an altar call, said the sinner’s prayer, confessed Christ as Lord, or whatever you prefer to call it) and now it is time to get on with being a good Christian and doing church stuff.  Or so we’re told.

I humbly confess that I spent most of my life with this view of what it means to be Christian.

But does “doing church” and “being good” really sound like what Jesus called us to?

If He called us to something else, what is it?

When I ventured down this path of “organic church” (I’ll define that a little more later) it was hard to give up the priorities that I had placed on other things.  It was actually difficult to make Christ the most important thing in my life because I was so wrapped up in the other things!  I was consumed with studying the scriptures and knowing “proper” doctrine (which changes with the group you meet with), learning what rules I should live by (again, these change with the group) and trying to correct my behavior, taking part in church services, serving in a church ministry, learning what my spiritual gifts are, evangelizing the lost, getting my children involved in church activities, and so on.

Thankfully, I’ve been able to learn together and experience with a group of believers what it really does mean to make Christ the center of our lives and the center of the church.

In our church, we do our best to hold onto Christ as our Life and our Head, willing to go wherever that takes us.  We seek to give Him room to work in us and through us.  We are far from perfect and still have so much to learn as we mature together.  I pray that we continue to keep Christ as Head and at the center of it all.

This willingness to yield to Christ together, to lay down our agendas and aspirations, to listen and rest in Him, and to follow His leading as it is brought forth through the body makes it very difficult to describe what we are doing at any particular time.  We don’t have a list of ministries, programs, or financial campaigns.  We have a Person, and He is our vision and goal.

How do we keep Christ as the center?

I recently adapted the opening lines of the Star Trek franchise as follows:

Christ: the final frontier. These are the voyages of His Ekklessia.  Its eternal mission: to explore endless new worlds in Him, to seek out new life and a new civilization, to boldly go where the old man could never go before.

Our church seeks to explore Christ together and express Him to each other.  We explore Christ through all of life, as He can be seen in all things and all circumstances (Romans 1:20).  We meet together during the week to behold Him and seek Him together.  We read the scriptures and find Him there (Luke 24:27-32).  We meet together as a church weekly and express to each other what He has revealed to us.

We seek to know our Lord.  He is a living and active Being, and while He can’t necessarily be seen or felt physically, He can be known.  He desires to be known and to be loved by His bride.

“There is scarcely a soul that seeks You, that loves and knows You.”  – Michael Molinos

How lonely our Lord must be among all of this activity that is done in His name, yet is often a distraction from resting in Him and dwelling in His sweet presence.  (Even good activities can distract us from knowing Him.)  I like to read biographies.  You can learn a great deal about someone this way, but you can never know them as a real person simply by reading about them.  To have a relationship, to have fellowship, there must be more.

Does this mean that we just sit around and talk about Jesus?

Heavens, no!  I have learned that seeking to know the Lord in an inward and intimate way allows Him to reveal Himself more fully through my spirit (think of it as exercising an internal organ) than my mind could ever comprehend.  It is in this deep spiritual place where true revelation from the Lord is given, for revelation by definition does not originate in man, but in God.

I have also learned that this revelation leads to a choice.  Every single time.  And the choice is this: will I choose my will or His will?  His will may seem difficult to me at times, but it is always in line with God’s good, unchanging purposes, and usually against my fleshly desires.  When we choose to live according to His will as it is revealed to us, we are living by His indwelling life.

As we learn Christ together in this way, we begin to consider ourselves less and love others more.  We have more peace.  We find joy in times of abundance and despite times of suffering.  We do crazy things to help others.  We come to know each other and treat each other as family.  We share Christ with various people in our lives, often in deed, sometimes with words.  We reject legalism and traditions that inprison the Spirit of Christ.  I am learning this as a pattern (not a blueprint) that follows Christ’s life.  Where He is Head and all things are submitted to Him, the fruits of the Spirit naturally blossom and the fragrance of Christ is known.

Out of this relationship with Christ, the activity that He truly desires can be expressed through His body naturally and in season.

But activity without relationship doesn’t lead to much of anything except exhaustion.  If you don’t believe that, think about your marriage, or ask someone who is married.  Activity is not what makes the marriage flourish; it is the relationship, the deep knowing and longing for another person.  This is what “quality time” is really about.  I’ve often heard couples say that they just feel like “roommates”, implying that a deeper connection is not being pursued.  The longer a couple goes on keeping up with activities without resting and enjoying each other, the more the relationship suffers.  So it is with Christ and His bride.

Activities, programs, gifts, knowledge, buildings are not our center.  Nor is meeting in a home, rejecting authority, or criticizing other Christians or institutions.  None of these things will produce an organic expression of the church.

Our center is not found in the external trappings of religion, but in the inward spirit where the Holy Spirit resides in us.  The center and foundation of our community is knowing Christ together through intimate, spiritual fellowship with Him, expressing Him to each other, and following the revelation of Himself that He imparts to us (living by His indwelling life).

All else flows from this, as He guides us.  At least, this is my experience.

May we have eyes to see Him, ears to hear Him, and hearts burning to know Him.

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Further Resources:

A good definition of organic church.

Living by the indwelling life of Christ.  Also here.  And here.

Other Bloggers in this Series (And Post Dates):

R.C. Babione (2/29/12)

Brigette Babione (2/8/12)

Nathan Burgman

Jackie Dukes (2/1/12)

Marc Hardy (1/25/12)

Mark Lake (1/18/12)

Seth Roach (2/15/12)

Tobias Valdez

Carrie Walters (2/22/12)

Michael Young (1/11/12)

What I’ve Learned in Organic Church Blog Series

Several of the saints in our “organic” church are sharing in a series titled “What I’ve Learned in Organic Church” and will be posting each Wednesday for the next several weeks starting today.

An introduction to the series is here.

The first post is here.

I’ll be posting an article on January 18th (next Wednesday) here on the blog titled “What I’ve Learned in Organic Church: The Life of the Church Flows from Christ’s Life in Us, Not From Our Activity”.

Other bloggers participating and well worth following:

R.C. Babione

Brigette Babione 

Nathan Burgman

Jackie Dukes 

Marc Hardy 

Seth Roach 

Tobias Valdez

Carrie Walters

Christ our Penguin

I believe Christ is in and can be seen through all things (John 1:3).  This includes movies, music, poetry, artwork, nature.  Every piece of art is a story in itself, and all stories point to Christ and God’s eternal purpose in some way.

I heard this song (Penguin, by Christina Perri) as I was driving around town today, and I was captivated by the picture of our Lord’s desire to love us and to be loved by us in return.  Truly, our Lord is in love with His family and His bride.

As you watch and listen to the video, imagine our Christ calling you away to fellowship with Him.

The lyrics are in the video (in a very creative way).  I hope you enjoy it, too!

Organic Church Life: A Night for the Sisters

The brothers in the church I am part of wanted to do something for the sisters in our church. As we talked about it in a brothers’ meeting, we decided to create a restaurant atmosphere and serve them a fancy dinner. We rented a local hall and started assigning all the brothers different things to take care of. As time drew closer, we gave the sisters an invitation for the evening, with a time, location, and instructions to dress up (we didn’t give any details as to what was going to happen).

On the night of the event, the brothers worked together all afternoon to transform the hall into a small restarurant. We arranged a long table with fancy tablecloths, floating candles, flower petals, candies, and place settings. Some brothers worked in the kitchen preparing salmon and chicken dishes, salads, appetizers, and other food for the event. We designated waiters, food preparers, servers, valets, and entertainment.  We all dressed up and wore ties.

We requested that all the sisters meet together at a sister’s house and then carpool over to the dinner. We gave them directions and put out balloons to guide them to the hall. As the sisters arrived, they were greeted by our valets, then welcomed to The Agape House by the host. Waiters showed them to round tables that were set up with drinks as a place to talk until all the sisters arrived. Carefully chosen music set the mood.

Later, the sisters were seated and appetizers were served. The waiters announced the menu options and took orders as brothers in the kitchen prepared plates. A game was prepared in which the sisters had to look at a few facts about each brother and figure out which one was false. After dessert, the brothers read a letter that was written as Christ speaking to each sister in turn. We then said a few last words to the sisters and gave them the rest of the evening to do whatever they wanted.

The brothers stayed behind to clean up the hall and return it to its original form. I was amazed at how the night unfolded. Each brother jumped in to do his part and serve the sisters. At one point, a sister asked one of the brothers serving them whose idea a particular detail was. The brother responded that the credit went to all of us because we all act together as one mind. This night was a beautiful picture of that reality in Christ. And, yes, the sisters were blown away!

Do This In Remembrance of Me: Sharing the Lord’s Supper

In our community, we gather in smaller groups each month and share the Lord’s Supper together. Usually someone bakes some actual unlevened bread, and we have some wine or grape juice to share. We share the Lord’s Supper together as a meal. (We do this together with the whole church, too, but less frequently.)

To be honest, when we first started these meals together, they were a bit awkward. Many of us were used to partaking of communion formally in a church building with a priest or pastor leading everyone in what to do. But the beauty of organic church is that we are all priests, and we all now share the responsibility of ministering the life of Christ when we gather together.

As I thought about this awkwardness as we were heading to share the Lord’s Supper with some brothers and sisters, I recalled Jesus’ words when He shared the first New Covenant meal with His disciples: “Do this in remembrance of Me.” (Luke 22:19) I wondered if it could really be that simple. What if we just spent our time together remembering Christ?

We met together with the other saints and began to share with each other while the food was prepared. A brother brought a couple of guests with him that hadn’t been exposed to organic church before. Later, as we sat down to dinner, the awkwardness settled in as we all stared at the bread.

I took a piece, and shared that we could spend our dinner time remembering Christ, the things He has done for us, revealed to us, or recalling stories from the Scriptures (and trying to tell them from memory). We then had a wonderful time reflecting on many great things that the Lord has done for us. As the dinner came to an end, we passed the cup and remembered the new covenant by which Christ lives inside of us. It was very beautiful and it flowed naturally.

Our dinner was nothing fancy. But we remembered our Lord anew and grew closer to Him and to each other. The two guests were intrigued and they came to a church meeting with us after dinner. I can’t think of a better outcome for a Lord’s Supper!