I was reading an article on Christianity Today (amongst other blogs) earlier on about the subject of "organic church" and its possible success and probable future failures. Now, I'll admit I didn't (don't?) know a great deal about organic church other than I've heard the name thrown about before. According to the article it includes " at least three ingredients" to be counted as "organic". First being "Frustration with the-church-as-we-know-it" - well I'm sure there's quite a few people who would fall into that category, I know I do! The second ingredient for this recipe for church is "a focus on people (vs. programs)" - now this is another point I reckon a fair few church-goers could relate to. I know we like to say the focus is on people, but there are times that come to mind where it's meant to have been about the people, but the project became the focus. With phrases like "it's our baby" and taking all the ownership of a project too heavily. Not that feeling a sense of ownership is necessarily a bad thing, but maybe when having a project means more to you than the impact it's having on the people it was initially intended for, then maybe it has become a bad thing and the program or project defines you rather than the other way around. We all like control and the feeling of our own little empires, but I believe Jesus was more about giving up those desires to follow the Kingdom and its principles - which is definitely people focussed. If a program isn't reaching people in a positive way, yet we cling onto keeping it alive and running, then we have lost the focus and care more for our own thing than for people.
I'm not saying all churches are like this, far from it, just that we ought to be aware of such things happening. Especially if we are serious about "doing" church right, doing it "the Jesus way" (if there is such a thing), expanding the Kingdom, being people focussed - being organic.
The third ingredient for this church-pie is "mission (vs. institutional maintenance)". Again, another heavily focussed people initiative, which is very similar to the second point, but at the same time much broader. Whereas programs are internal structures for members and maybe external but select groups of people, mission should be global. However local, local church may be, the mission field is still all the places outside of the church doors, and therefore global and not confined to a particular group of people. Yes, I'm aware that mission trips etc are often focussed in a particular area, or people group, but that doesn't take away from the fact that mission is a global endeavour - Jesus' words "to the ends of the earth" should echo through the very core of mission, and indeed, the Church as a whole in terms of where we should be going and aiming for.
Now contrast this with "institutional maintenance" - however you define that, it definitely doesn't sound much like "mission". Should we really be trying to maintain an institution? Is that really what people want in or as a church? But the real question I think is this: do non-church people want an institution?
The Church, the spiritual movement, that Jesus began and that was continued through the apostles should be transformational to people's lives. The love, grace and healing power that comes through Jesus is what should define and change people in the Church and those that come to be a part of it. Institution breeds apathy and comfort that's easy. A place that we can proclaim to be a part of and attend each week, and maybe on a Tuesday and Thursday as well for Bible study and prayer from 7.30 until 9.30pm. If we're honest with ourselves, after reading the Gospels and Acts and then looking at our own church, and maybe the Church as a whole (at least in the Western world), does it match up, even slightly? Is what we have really what we want for Church?
I haven't read lots on the subject of organic church, but from my brief reading today of websites and blogs from church leaders who advocate this style of doing church, but what I've wrote here is what I can gather organic church to, at least in a small part, be like or aiming to have these qualities.
And this is the kind of church I'd like to be a part of.