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.
When you point that out, however, they slip into denial and sometimes even anger. They often respond with all kinds of rationales for why they are sickly and anemic, and even try to silence those who have dared say that their revered organic emperors – the authors and conference speakers they’ve followed – have no clothes!
A New Generation
God is raising up a new generation that simply seeks the balance of being faithful to a core set of basic “organic” principles, but not to the exclusion of all else.
Those core principles are:
Simple participatory fellowships that look different in different contexts and cultures, while generally avoiding the burden of centralized buildings, overhead, the clergy/laity divide, and professional staff – with their associated programs and podium-focused mentality which tends to produce passive Christians who expect to always be fed and led.
Actively ministering one to another in our gatherings and just normal day to day lives.
Expressing Christ in us, among us and through us – as we equip and encourage one another to go and serve Him in all the diverse spheres of life where He may call us.
Each believer being equipped to go and make disciples, baptizing and teaching all that Christ commands, as we proclaim Christ and reproduce His life and new fellowships within distinctly different settings, cultures and sub-cultures.
Diverse non-hierarchical leadership as we all submit one to another, based on earned respect, persuasion and leading by example.
Encouraging, developing and expressing the different gifts, callings and motivations that should be a natural part of any healthy fellowship.
Being faithful to what God is showing them, but not dismissing God’s differing grace in others who may be in growing and serving the Lord other contexts – including institutional churches.
We reject, however, those who have used “organic” to peddle non-Biblical idols of their own creation in their various books, blogs, conferences and “ministries”, like:
The guruism of detached and unaccountable “church planters” and “workers” who claim they alone establish local church legitimacy.
Disastrous existential theologies which emphasizes the validity of the vibrant life of Christ in us, but teach that He somehow is at odds with His own propositional truths, external moral precepts, Biblical commands and even the authority of His external Word of scripture.
The post-modern disdain for authentic leadership, as they never seem able to develop local, diverse elderships which naturally should emerge within any healthy fellowship.
The cookie-cutter and overly intense models of organic community and church life which are touted by those who have never lived out their ideas in any sustainable way, but which they alone profess to understand as they promote their “deeper life” concepts to others.
The pattern of promoting weird and unrealistic practices – like having to relocate to be part of some “worker’s” grand vision of Christ and the Church; suppressing our God-given souls (heart, mind and feelings) to conform to that vision; suppressing dissent and open questions when things don’t pan out or they are deviating from Biblical norms (like denying there are any Biblical norms, beyond their vision!); needing to conform to some “group think” concept of “community” which often destroys any semblance of a healthy balanced life and other legitimate commitments (like family, vocation, education, etc.); and discouraging any practical expression of diverse gifts, callings and motivations.
All the other crazy stuff that has produced a pattern of destroyed lives and destroyed fellowships.
These unhealthy delusions often take root among the book-hooked folk, who have been enticed by grand visions in popular books that bear no resemblance to reality and which often become the biggest impediment to actually finding and functioning as healthy fellowships.
Crazy or Healthy?
God is beginning to shake things up to show what is truly of Him – real, healthy and fruitful.
He is removing the chafe of the intense crazy stuff, which often is soft-peddled in books and blogs by authors like Gene Edwards, Frank Viola, Milt Rodriquez, Jon Zens and Jamal Jivanjee, but becomes fully evident in their resulting – but typically short-lived – fellowships.
Instead, a much more relaxed, balanced, diverse and joyful expression of the Body of Christ is finally emerging.
Those who want health, and not the guruism of new “revelations” divorced from sound doctrine and actual experience, will move forward. Those who don’t, won’t.
Those who are moving forward, however, have been learning to simply affirm the essentials, avoid the crazy stuff and those who promote it, chill out, and enjoy the journey to wherever God is leading (without having to conform to someone’s intense “vision” and “revelation”) – while finding maturity and balance as they let healthy fellowship emerge in their own unique contexts.
Sometimes there is outside help, but often God just decides to sovereignly move among us when we are ready.
My plea is that we seek health rather than continue to chase after weird ideas of what “organic” means – to the point of serving idols that suck our lives dry with intense demands for subservient commitment to some new “vision” and “revelation”.
Rather, chill out and learn to discern the good from the bad. If you need examples or help, make sure it is from actual healthy fellowships that have demonstrated proven experience, good fruit and sound doctrine.
If you do this, you will be amazed what at happens as good seed finds fertile ground and brings forth even more good fruit.
Any other “revelation” of Christ is just deception.
~ Jim Wright
- Finding Organic Church Health (crossroadjunction.com)
- Organic Church Idols (crossroadjunction.com)
- An Existential Cliff (crossroadjunction.com)
Great article. It is so common to see people who want anything but Jesus Himself. A man, a form, a cause, or a reaction to traditional church. “Let God be true and every man a liar”. Psalm 116:11
Having been in settings where the latest book, the latest conference, the latest teaching series, and the latest itinerant guest speaker drove the fellowship, it is a relief to move to less intense settings where the focus is on relationship with each other and God.
Jim, it seems to me that you what you’re dealing with are those who are claiming apostlship, whether directly or under some other label, falsely and using the claims as a means of promoting themselves, their own ideas, and building their own Kingdoms. Within the organic or ‘non ic’ers’ section of.christendom I’m familiar with Frank Viola and many associated with him. Is it his group you’re referencing or are there others? I’ve done quite a bit of research but have never come across him or his group directly claiming apostlship, though it seems they do so indirectly. Do you know of any amongst the organics who are claiming the calling? Do you see this as the means by which they’re gaining access to different areas?
Among the Frank Viola crowd and his fellow “apostles”, they use the terms “apostle”, “church planter” and “worker” essentially as synonyms. In his Gene Edwards days, it was “apostle”. It slowly evolved into “church planter”. Their term du jour now is “worker”.
They teach that unless a church is started and relating to an “apostle”, it has no legitimacy. (Back in his Gene Edward days, Frank accepted the public claims by Gene that he and Frank were among only about five legitimate apostles in the whole world).
Do they have their testimonies posted anywhere? Have they actually come face to face with Him, or have a testimony of miracles and such to demonstrate that they’ve actually been commissioned to the calling? I’ve read much from the group, and they do have some truth, but their are also red flags, too.
Jim, I enjoyed your comparison to anemic health “experts”. (I have often jokingly said the same about those who work behind the counters in health shops.) I think it parallels the issue that you are raising very well. At the same time, I know that you would esteem much of what some of those that you mentioned have taught and stood for, and it’s their crazy stuff and its effects that you are pointing to.
After discovering any wackiness in someone’s life I might be inclined to simply dismiss them and their teaching altogether. At least in my heart I might. My own challenge is to remember that the errors and outcome of a man’s ways don’t totally disqualify all that he has said and stood for. If that were the case then I would have to stop reading what Solomon, Luther …and, dare I say, I have written.
Taking the analogy a little bit further, one shouldn’t avoid the anemic assistant in the health shop altogether, nor scare others away from him completely, as he might have good advice despite his extremism.
As for Frank Viola and Gene Edwards and all the problems that may or may not be associated with them, I know that I have been blessed through their teaching. For example, I was given an audio series by Frank Viola that raised important issues that my wife and I chewed on over time in the light of God’s word. We didn’t embrace all the views, but it was nevertheless very helpful. Then, Gene Edwards had an article, “THE ORGANIC CHURCH Versus THE “NEW TESTAMENT CHURCH”, that I found insightful too.
Thanks for the insights and warning in this post.
Pingback: Organic Leadership « Crossroad Junction
Pingback: Organic Leadership (Part 2) « Crossroad Junction
Pingback: A Cautionary Warning « Crossroad Junction