Haven’t the repeated failures by the existential fringe of the “organic” church movement – with authors like Felicity Dale, Frank Viola, Milt Rodriguez, Jon Zens, Keith Giles and their buddies – made it abundantly clear?
Without the plenary authority of Scripture, simple participatory churches don’t succeed.
These fringe authors dismiss the plenary authority and discipline of Scripture – and in some cases even deny that the Bible is His written word – to peddle a Jesus of their own perception.
Their false Christ – who is little more than a projection of their own “deeper life” angst, post-modern sensibilities and trans-Biblical agendas – inevitably leads to dysfunctional, insular and anemic “communities”.
As each of their sporadic local “communities” then become more and more cultish, eventually all but a handful of their most ardent “true believers” fade away – disillusioned and ashamed.
They, however, move on to some unsuspecting new group in some new town or forum to find new devotees through their books and blogs in order to do it all again – over and over.
They have done more to derail the promise and potential of simple organic churches than anyone else.
The pattern is clear:
Over the last ten years, their elevation of a false Christ and existential agenda over the plenary authority and discipline of Scripture has been a disaster.
They have laid a foundation of shifting sand for many sincere but unsuspecting people, with many wrecked lives and wrecked churches.
Their deceptions also have led to a history of infidelity, sexual predation, abuse and cover up among them – with ongoing threats against those who dare confront them.
Simply put, their private lives and actual histories are at odds with their carefully cultivated, but fake, public personas and grandiose claims
Insanity is doing “church” their way over and over and expecting different results.
Don’t be insane.
If you seek simple church, forget all the cookie-cutter books, blogs, courses and conferences by the existential fringe.
They represent a self-serving cottage industry selling “how to” on things they themselves “don’t do” – because what they’re peddling hasn’t actually worked over time in their own lives, home towns or anywhere else.
Instead, learn from those with nothing to peddle or “ministry” to promote, but have an ongoing history of humbly living it in their own lives and home towns:
Chill out …
Forget all your own agendas …
Get back to simple faith and simple virtue …
Embrace and practice simple hospitality …
Then see what God does as people become comfortable expressing their wonderfully diverse, vibrant relationships with the Living Word to one another and to a waiting world, in simple submission to the authority and discipline of His written word.
There can be no other sure foundation.
It’s really not that complicated!
~ Jim Wright
I know very little of the politics and history of those you mention..4000 miles away…and cannot give an opinion…but I do heartily endorse what you have written after ‘chill out’ This is simply so right and cannot possibly be wrong! Just to observe the Life of Jesus and His ‘MO’….just as you describe…
Can you provide concrete examples of what you are talking about? Are you speaking from personal experience?
Yes. Unfortunately, there are lots of stories of organic/simple church failures by the Existential Fringe. Here’s something I wrote back in 2012 about what happened in our area when these folks came to town to peddle their stuff:
Organic Dead Ends
Just a few weeks ago, Frank Viola publicly admitted that he himself has not been part of any church for many years like he promotes in his books, and that he and his existential organic church buddies essentially have failed big time. Although he tries to explain it away as being due to the shortcomings of everyone else, and accepts no personal responsibility, it is a very telling admission.
Can you give a reference for this admission? I’d appreciate it.
Sure. Here’s Frank Viola’s blog admitting, for the first time earlier this year, what others had been saying for years but he kept obscuring through vague generalities – mainly, that he’s not been involved in any local church for many years like he continues to sell and promote through his ongoing “organic church” book sales.
What he doesn’t go into in that blog is how he has repeatedly failed at being part of, starting or sustaining any such local churches – and in fact fled one church in Brandon, Florida, when they confronted him about his pattern of abuse and sexual predation among them. It was shortly after he fled that church – rather than repent and deal with their publicly documented concerns – that his wife correspondingly divorcing him in part for his infidelity. Nonetheless, he then started writing and publishing his various “organic” church books as he tried to promote himself as an expert on what he had utterly failed to make work in his own life. .
It would be interesting to read an update on this article 5 years later. Your words still sound clear and fresh, but I wonder if you have had any other comments since then. I experienced what you wrote first hand and I believe that exactly this existentialism minus Scripture has caused this great debacle as you said.
I think time has only confirmed the points made in this blog. I have yet to see a viable, sustainable fellowship emerge from the existential fringe. Everything that Viola, Dale, Rodriguez, Zens and their buddies touch, dies. I’ve seen no exception to that.
Fortunately, they are becoming less and less influential, and seem increasingly to be sinking into obscurity where they are unable to harm others to the degree they did previously.
I take comfort in having played a minor role in helping to bring that about with my public warnings in blogs like this.
I just wish more had told their stories of abuse and harm by those people, but I understand why that didn’t happen. Fortunately, I never got sucked into their cult-like webs. But without exception, everyone I met who came under their influence and then eventually left, was traumatized and deeply embarrassed that they fell for their deceptions. In addition, they were subject to vicious attacks by these folks, who went to extremes to trash anyone who dared question them. So people just remained silent – at least publicly.
I saw it up close and personal. For a while, they were even threatening and stalking my wife to try to pressure me into taking down my warnings about them. Little did they know that this only strengthened our resolve to protect others by exposing them for who, and what, they really were about.
Fortunately, truth eventually prevails and people start seeing who’s authentic and who’s not. But the road to get there can be rough at times.
This journey was no exception, but looking back, it was worth it and I am grateful for God’s grace and protection along the way.
~ Jim Wright