My Smart-Aleck Response

Ministry One to Another?

On Facebook, I posted a comment supporting a recent blog by Neil Cole about why the “organic church movement” is important. One of my smart-aleck Facebook friends responded:

Organic Church Movement? Is that a movement naturally fertilized? Or maybe movement marching only to organ music. Could also be a church movement of Kidneys, Livers and Colons?

So I thought I’d be a smart aleck in responding:

Organic church is the antidote to artificial church – you know, the kind where you go to a directed “service” and are expected to be passive, while the rock-band performance is called “worship”, the monologue podium speech is called “sharing”, the fifteen seconds of being told to stand up and shake hands with some anonymous folks around you is called “fellowship”, and looking at the back of the head in the pew in front of you is called “relationship”.

It is the antidote to sole-proprietor “pastors” who build organizations around their gift and calling, as opposed to community and participatory meetings where we minister one to another as commanded in the New Testament.

It is the antidote to “clergy” who are over “laity”, as opposed to unassuming elders who come from among, and are of, the people.

It is the antidote to “rah rah” youth ministries that isolate our children and perpetuate false spirituality through continually induced emotional highs that leave little substance – or maturity – when they eventually go out into the world.

It is the antidote to passive, spoon-fed Christianity that revolves around the Sunday morning “show”, controlled programs and manipulative “vision”.

Next question?

20 responses

  1. …looking at the head in the pew in front of you is called ‘fellowship’… This is exactly why my wife and I left organized church in 2005. Although a rather comical statement portraying the vacuous and vapid excuse for fellowship in institutional settings, it is normative for most of what calls itself church today. Real relationships, authentic friends who do not leave you because they decide to go to the next great church who are currently offering better “worship”, or better “youth meetings” or whatever the ‘church du jour’
    have for their menu. Well said, Jim: could I please have a little more salt for my ‘church du jour’

    Craig Schlumbohm


  2. I love it…I love it. Boy are you even on target. Now, if you want to have fun, take an old entrenched church and get it to go organic. The life of Riley. NOT. But, when you show a church that in 5 to 10 years they will have to close their doors…it wakes enough up to at least give it a try…for how long? I’ll let you know when I get the boot…


  3. One thing that is helping me is Eddie Hammett’s book “Making Shifts without Making Waves” Now, understand there have been a few waves but so far they haven’t washed me out of the boat. I highly recommend Eddie and his group “The Columbia Partnership” to anyone trying to re-enlife a traditional church.


  4. As long as we treat church as a corporation with a ceo and a board of directors,rather than a relationship with the Father and learn to live out of His rest,people will struggle with this concept.We have been trained to run our lives from a business model concept which is dead and does not come from the well Jeshua.


  5. I am trying to NOT throw the baby out with the washwater. Our church was founded in 1884 by a group of very organic pioneers. Somewhere along the way, it got hijacked by the entrenchers. We are making great strides in underscoring the meaning of relationships by engaging our community. And the efforts are paying off. Our senior pastor was out of town last Sunday and I preached on Acts 2:42 – “Empowered for Fellowship and Prayer”. Most frequent comment was “Ouch, we needed that”. Not bragging, just saying that we can make a difference.


    • Jon, I think the grace you’ve been given, and are showing, to help with such a transition is wonderful. Seriously, keep us posted on how it goes. I know that Felicity Dale, on her blog at, sometimes mentions churches that have gone through this transition also. You may want to also connect with her.


  6. Like with any other movement that set out to make sense of Jesus’ in this world, “organic” needs to be careful in its (valid) descriptions of church gone wrong. People sitting in an “artificial” church might think that’s the real thing! What have they heard, what understood? Who was there to lead them? Not the very “pastors”, “priests” etc., who live from the artificial system? Let’s keep loving these folks as well. Jesus was tough with the pharisees of his time, but they KNEW the scriptures and were supposed to lead the people of God. Our average church folks of todays artificial churches have no idea, how marvelous it is to truly follow Jesus Christ.


  7. @John Adler…your last statement is true…they really don’t. I am finding that the best way to re-energize a dead church is to teach the folks the real meaning of discipleship. In doing to, you are emphasizing that church should simply be a group of disciples who are dedicated to reaching the lost…isn’t that what the great commission is all about. I am teaching a core discipleship class and we are seeing people respond positively. Keep us in your prayers.


  8. Jim, I would like to forward this to the readers of my Simple Church email. If I have your permission, what is the best way to do this?
    Jack Guerin, New Zealand


    • Jack, thanks. That’s OK with me. How about a blurb or summary with a link back to the full blog? Really, whatever works best for you so long as it includes full attribution and a link to the blog.


  9. Not wanting to be negative at all, but I guess I have lived all of my Christian years in what is being described as “artificial church”. One of the comments suggest I have no idea and how marvellous it will be when I truly follow Jesus Christ. I have enjoyed the teaching of the pastors and teachers. I have loved the fellowship I have enjoyed in small groups. I have enjoyed some rich relationships with older men of the faith who have helped mentor me. My own dad is in prison, but somehow I managed to turn the tide and live free of his issues. I met my wife in the artificial church and raised three children who have all grown up loving and serving Jesus – all in the artificial church. I have seen quite a number of my friends come to know Jesus, most of whom are still growing in their faith – some are leaders in the artificial church. In saying all that, I applaud your vision for the organic church. It may be that this is a God inspired reformation towards a new wineskin God is establishing. I have never met any of the writers here, however I am a little sad that the generalization appears to be that my personal experience with Jesus is somehow inferior because I worship in a church they dislike. I was discipled in such a way as to seek an intimate relationship with Jesus – and I certainly do so – as do many of my friends who attend our artificial church. I hope that we might one day be seen as brothers and sisters in Christ without having to “truly follow Jesus Christ”. Hope this isn’t seen as a smart aleck response. That certainly wouldn’t be my intention. Please forgive me if I am out of line.


    • Beloved Graeme,
      I love your comment! Praise to the Lord for blessing you so richly, it is wonderful and uplifting to read your words.
      Now, what is true for you unfortunately isn’t the case for many, many others. In a way, you’re “organic”, as you feel and act as a part of the body of Christ! Millions don’t. For these people the “truly follow Christ” applies. It shouldn’t even have touched you.
      In Jesus’ Love, John


    • I have seen the Lord do many wonderful things in many lives in the traditional church. His grace and love is sufficient for all structures, and I would never suggest otherwise. Although my church roots back in the 70s were “organic”, I was part of some very good traditional churches over the several intervening decades until I finally left the institutional structure a few years ago and moved back into organic church.

      My observation from the organic framework, both back in the 70s and now today, is that the fruit in folks lives, and in the number of people coming to the Lord and growing up to become mature believers, in the organic church environment far exceeds anything I ever saw even in “successful” traditional churches. That does not mean I am discounting the good that happened in the traditional churches, but that I am seeing even more good fruit in our organic fellowships.

      Here’s something I previously wrote that relates to this:

      It is always the case with those of us who have grabbed hold of something that we see as better, that we will contrast that with the old. The main thing is for us each to accept the grace we’ve been given to grow where we’ve been planted. I respect that, whether organic or institutional.


  10. Leaders: we will alway need leaders. The “we” being us as human being. Who hasn´t had a bad leader experience in a secular worksituation? As I grow older I come to apreciate the need of good leaders. This is also, of course, true in religious groups. So – my thoughts being: How to educate or nuture a leader to be “good”.? This is a most important task and includes the courage to stand up when we see leadership gone wrong, Church or other. And a good leader can lead almost anywhere, in so called organic or other churches/ organisations.


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