Organic Church Leadership (Part 1)

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.

The wonderful, multifaceted Body of Christ

The wonderful, multifaceted Body of Christ

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.

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God is Good!

toddler_walking

The Body of Christ – Toddler Stage

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!

~ Jim

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Some Good Reads…

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.

~ Jim

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The Delusion of Organic Church Intensity

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.

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Ekklesia: Diverse or Cookie-Cutter?

be_healthyAs 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.

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Discipleship

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.

Slaying Giants

giant-slayerOn Christmas eve, Marianne and I spent time with about thirty brothers in the jail. During our time of fellowship, one of the men read the poem below. Here’s the story behind the poem, then the poem….

Earlier in December, I had shared with those men how our journey in the Lord is like Israel’s journey from slavery in Egypt, through the desert, and then into the promise land.

God takes us out of the bondage of Egypt, but then uses the wilderness to burn Egypt out of us.

In the wilderness, God prepares us to take possession of the promise land – that place where we are able to own and responsibly manage the things He has created us to both be and do.

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The Cultural Implications of the Great Commission

The Cultural Implications of the Great Commission

Rob Moley, in his blog Restore the Word, wrote yesterday on “The Great Commission: Discipling Individuals or Nations?”.

In it, he says this about the Great Commission:

Rather than being a command to influence nations with the principles and truths of God’s kingdom, the logic of the command in Matt. 28:19-20 is to make disciples from every nation. Then, as ambassadors of God’s kingdom, these disciples are able to influence all aspects of society, and God willing, even disciple whole nations.

His point is that the Great Commission is about transforming individuals into disciples who obey all that Christ commands, who in turn transform the world around them.

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Election Postmortem

Election Postmortem

Leading up to Tuesday’s elections here in the United States, I often used this blog and Facebook to urge Christians to vote. (See Does Jesus Want You to Vote?)

When I did, I always got heated push back – mainly from other Christians who oppose Biblical civic engagement.

Generally, they think God is only interested our personal relationships with Him, or that He is solely focused on the Church.

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Thanksgiving

thanksgiving-picture

 

Marianne and I have a plaque in our home which says:
“One who practices hospitality entertains God Himself.”

This week, look around and make an effort to see those who have no family or are going through hard times – then ask if they’d like to share Thanksgiving with you and your family at your home later this month.

This is love.


If you live outside the United States and don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, then use some other time of celebration. You will bless, and be blessed!

Generations

Life reproduces life. That’s true in nature and it’s true spiritually. Where there is vibrant mature life, there is reproduction.

Life Reproduces Life!

Last week, we saw that truth confirmed yet again as a third-generation fellowship emerged among what some consider a “disreputable” segment of our county.

This new community of believers is in a subculture where Christians and other churches previously lacked the courage to go. Until now, they had been written off as beyond hope.

These new believers found life in Jesus because some cared enough to go where most feared to tread.

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Organic Church Dead Ends

I’ve been thinking a lot about why significant segments of the organic church community in the Western hemisphere have failed to achieve Biblical viability – becoming instead anemic, self-focused and insular.

Even a casual observer must acknowledge that “organic” or “simple” churches in the West (unlike other parts of the world) seldom exhibit dynamic spiritual power; consistent reproduction, growth and maturity; or tangible, transforming impact.

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I Believe…

I believe in the future, and in God’s sovereign ability to redeem history, nations and cultures.

I believe, because right now there is a fellow believer…

In the hospital quietly holding the hand of a friend recovering from life-saving surgery.

In grad school, heeding God’s call to basic research which will lead to new therapies that save countless lives.

Trudging through the woods, visiting tents, and checking on the well being of homeless women who “fell through the cracks”.

Standing outside an abortion clinic, ministering love and hope to a woman who knows neither.

Experiencing the first blush of lace and the joy of total intimacy on his wedding night, undefiled by the world.

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Going and Owning – And Knowing the Difference

One of my strongest beliefs is that God calls us for a purpose – and gives us individual grace and gifts to match.

As Christ in us is expressed through us, we expand His Kingdom for the blessing of all – wherever He calls us.

Different Grace, Different Gifts, Different Callings

Where He bids us go, and what He bids us do, is different for each – and I have also learned that it often changes with the seasons of our lives.

For some, at this time in their life, it is to go and raise Godly families. For others, it is in the business realm as they create resources and opportunities. For some, it is going out to the fringes of their communities and ministering to those in need.

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I Want More Religion (Part 2)

I’ve heard privately from some who were offended with my use of “lazy-assed” in my blog, I Want More Religion (Part 1).

In my own defense, I was going to say “stinkin’ white-washed sepulchres” and use a whip to toss some tables, but I thought I’d tone it down and used “lazy-assed” instead. 😉

Seriously, if we don’t get out of this post-modern, introspective, insular, Jesus-is-all-about-affirming-my-own-sensibilities funk, then there is no hope of redemption and wholeness – for ourselves, for those He calls us to tangibly love and bless with real deeds, or for our culture.

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Ekklesia: A Modest Manifesto

Ekklesia: A Modest Manifesto

Wherever he went, the Apostle Paul always sparked either revival or riot.

Does our age, and our culture, deserve any less?

Let’s boldly smash our boxes of insular spirituality and cultural lethargy by confidently proclaiming that Jesus is Lord of all.

Let’s reject narcissist Christianity by allowing Jesus in me to be more than about me – and my sensibilities.

Let’s stop foisting our own grace, gifts, callings and motivations on God’s people as normative for all.

Let’s embrace the diversity of His grace, gifts, callings and motivations in the context of true ekklesia – local authentic community where Jesus in us is expressed through us as His multifaceted and participatory Body.

Let’s stop saying everything is about my relationship with Jesus while discounting his Kingship – including His commands and His precepts.

Let’s stop saying I only do what I hear Jesus subjectively tell me, while denying the power and authority of what He also says in His written Word.

Let’s stop proclaiming “Christ is all” while minimizing all that Christ has given for knowing more of Him – including not only His presence in us, but also the plenary authority of Scripture to guide us in sound doctrine, balanced community that affirms objective standards, holy lives that please Him, engaging our culture, and wise counsel from mature believers who model His precepts.

Let’s reject gnostic tendencies that seek to separate the spiritual and the material world of our everyday existence by denying the authority and relevance of Christ – and His body – regarding all of creation.

Let’s stop discounting those who went before us, and their creeds and experiences, by humbly learning what they have to teach us despite the reality that we all have flaws.

Let’s affirm God’s continual sovereign advance through history and reject the spirit of our age and its myopic, isolationist pessimism.

Let’s be discerning about self-proclaimed apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers or other itinerant ministries – and their writings – when they are not themselves presently rooted in, accountable to, coming from, or even able to demonstrate a history of integration into actual, functional, local ekklesia.

Let’s reject the voices of those who try to separate the centrality of Christ from the Great Commission, mission and discipleship.

Let’s unleash God’s people to be fruitful at all stages of their growth, as Christ enables, and stop burdening them with the bondage of our preconceived preconditions of “root before fruit”.

Let’s start embracing balance and maturity – as together we become His disciples through functional, participatory ekklesia that reflects the life of Christ but is also rooted in the authority of His written Word.

Let’s be mighty men and women of God, who once again spark revival or riot as we proclaim the fulness of Christ as merciful Savior, gracious Lord, sovereign King and ultimate Judge to a desperate world.

As such, may we be life-transforming, culture-changing ekklesia once again – the visible Body of Christ which doesn’t merely say come, but goes forth into all the world.


I wrote and posted this on the morning of my birthday, when I officially became a “senior citizen”. It summarizes a lifetime of experience serving the King of Kings. May it be both a present and a challenge to my passion: the wonderful, multifaceted, participatory Body of Christ.

Directed versus Participatory Church: A Dialog

A friend of my mom who is a very dear, older sister in the Lord:

“How are you doing, Jim?”

Me:

“Good. I just got back from being in the jail this morning. I was with about fifty men from one of the housing units.” (She knows I often “minister” in the jail.)

Her:

“Oh, did you teach?” (Years ago, I had a very successful traditional teaching ministry in one of the larger churches in the county, and she was always one of my most eager and engaged students.)

Me:

“No. These days, I mainly let them teach and minister to each other. Sometimes I may say something, but not always and I keep it really short so they can take the lead among themselves.

So NOT church!

“Today various men shared verses, testimonies, songs, teachings and we even had some great, improvised Christian rap by two of the brothers.

“One man shared, with tears of joy, about how the Lord had given him peace over the uncertainty of his upcoming trial, and I asked if he would pray for other men facing the same anxiety. He did a beautiful job as a half dozen men gathering around him in a circle, arms round each other’s shoulders, and he imparted to those struggling with the same issue some of the grace God had given him. He had never done that kind of thing before. I didn’t pray for them, but stayed in my seat, because that other brother who was an inmate had the grace needed and I didn’t.

“That’s how it works. We’ve gotten away from directed meetings were a worship team ‘does’ worship for everyone and a pastor ‘does’ a monologue teaching and everyone passively sits there – other than following along with the music and maybe an ‘amen’ or two. We just don’t see how that matches up with what the New Testament says about being the church: the multi-member Body of Christ where every part contributes.

“Instead, I have learned to sit back so they can learn to express what the Lord is doing in them and it always seems to meet the needs of those present. Sometimes I have something to share, usually along the lines of helping to create a framework for them to come forth. This morning, however, like most of the times I join with them, I said a few words as just one of the guys then sat down as they ministered to each other for an hour and half. Like usual, they also ministered to me.”

Her:

Silence, then, “Oh, so you are there to make sure they don’t get off track?”

Me:

“No, they’ve learned to do a really good job of that themselves. I just go to enjoy their fellowship every now and then and be an encouragement to them or maybe add some foundational input.”

Her:

Silence, then “Oh. ”

More silence, then, “So they get together every week or so when you go in?”

Me:

“No, actually, they are their own church. They meet as smaller churches every day after their evening meal. I may see them only every week or two, but they do fine on their own and don’t much need me. We encourage them to be the church, rather than trying to ‘do’ church for them or importing church. That way, they learn to minister to each other and grow up in the Lord.”

Her:

A very, very long silence, then finally, “Nice weather we’re having, huh Jim?”

Me:

Sigh. It’s just about impossible for people to break out of their traditional concept of “church” and to get their mind – and spirit – around the New Testament idea of participatory fellowship rather than directed meetings.

Some day, some day. In the meantime, I just continue to sow seeds as the Lord directs …

~ Jim Wright

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