David Lim, an international leader in “organic” missions, wrote an important and probing article called Towards Closure.
Basically, he discusses (from a more academic but still very pragmatic standpoint) the difference between an “imperial” and an “incarnational” approach to church planting, the Great Commission and bringing Christ into new communities and contexts.
Like me, Dr. Lim is an advocate of organic (or simple) churches because he sees them as not only faithful to New Testament examples and principles, but as best able to fully express Christ in all His gloriously diverse ways in different communities and cultures.
According to him, when such churches emerge within the context of local communities, Jesus then becomes more fully “incarnational” (i.e., embodied and alive) in and through those communities.
He also makes another very important point: By allowing the Lord to adapt to each culture and setting, without imposing some intense, cookie-cutter concept of Him – and how His Church must look and operate – we avoid the trap of “imperialism”.
“Church” too often means forcing others into our own molds, in order to support the sensibilities and biases of our own cultural perspectives.
In contrast, we have been learning to let “church” emerge in all its splendid diversity, as the life of Christ takes root in the rich soil of different cultures and communities.
Last night, two other men and I met with one of the indigenous churches some of us helped start in the jail four years ago.
This fellowship is one of several that we have seen emerge in various housing units within the local jail.
That particular church (typically numbering six to eighteen men) has been a powerhouse for God, as the guys have learned to express Christ to one another through open, participatory fellowship.
Literally hundreds of men have come to the Lord because of them, and they’ve been effectively discipling each other in the faith
In addition, many, many other fellowships have sprung forth from them, as the men in that indigenous church – rooted in the specific cultural dynamics present in any jail or prison environment – are then transferred to other units and facilities.
Two new fellowships, comprised of about twenty new believers, stood on their own two feet today.
Two of us did some foundation laying over the last month, but today we just sat back and let ‘em go – and they did! We literally had nothing to say, and there was no opportunity to do so even if we wanted.
Life was popping out all over the place among them. They were amazed, but I wasn’t. God moves among us when we let Him.
Next week, I’m expecting the same with several more new fellowships we’ve been helping to start, comprised also of mainly new believers.
God is good!
Two recent blogs I liked are:
Giving in Simple Church, by Tim Day.
Like Tim, Marianne and I reject the idea that Christians are obligated to tithe or that the tithe carries over into the New Covenant. But like Tim, we still give at least 10% of our income because we feel that’s what God wants of us personally, as we help and serve others.
Tim’s blog provides some very balanced, practical insight on giving.
The Changing Face of Full-Time Ministry, by Alan Knox.
We need to move past the old mentality of “full-time ministry” and realize that we all are ministering Christ full time.
Both of these brothers, and their blogs, should be on your “must read” list.
Have you ever noticed how those who heavily promote organic food and natural health with the most enthusiasm and sincerity, sometimes look the most sickly and anemic and seem to have the most health problems?
They are reacting to real problems, but have turned their idealistic and seemingly good-sounding concepts into an all consuming idol – to the exclusion of real health which comes from a balanced life.
I’ve also see this among some who are the most ardent proponents of organic church. They’ve fallen prey to unbalanced reactions and aspirations which prevent authentic life and sustainable, healthy fellowships.
As I delve into the history and status of the organic church community in the U.S. (and to some extent Europe), I’ve been impressed with how some “church planters” are able to help diverse fellowships emerge. Each fellowship they help looks very different based on the context of its own local community.
Others, however, seem to forge fellowships that look strangely the same – and like them – from locale to locale.
Marianne and I have the greatest privilege in the world. God allows us to introduce Him to those who have reached the end of themselves, and then allows us to walk with them towards healing and wholeness.
We have the privilege of then seeing those who some consider the discards of society grow in the Lord to become mighty men and women in His Kingdom.
But the highest privilege of all is this: To call them friends.
This is the story of so many when we first met. Listen, and may the Lord move your heart to compassion.
When we teach folks to be the church, God’s Kingdom can’t help but ripple out into all sorts of improbable places through improbable people – impacting whole communities, towns and cities. Here’s just one related, amazing story, among many …
Miguel Labrador posted a very important blog this morning on Why Leadership and Effectiveness Are Not Benchmarks of Discipleship. I highly recommend his blogs in general, and urge you to subscribe to his blog feed. Miguel is doing it, and not just talking about it, and always brings great insight.