A love that abounds for the church
If you have read my previous articles, you might have gathered that I am a proponent of a style of church different from most people's practice. It has many names, Organic Church, House Church, Simple Church, even Primitive Church. This style of church expresses what I believe to be a biblical ecclesiology that encourages profound growth within me and others. But, I have not always been a part of this ancient ecclesiastical tradition.
In fact, my first 27 years of life were devoted to traditional church expression. And I have no regrets in that regard. If it weren't for the traditional church, I would have never heard about my Savior, I would have been deprived of the opportunity to hear what God is doing among the nations, and I wouldn't know the beautiful stories found throughout the scriptures. The traditional church gave me a solid foundation, and even though it is not my worship style of choice today, it is my heritage, and I still love it.
In my past two posts, "What if they don't come back to church," and "Is the church as we know it preventing the church as God wants it," I received some "interesting responses." Everything from wholehearted agreement to impassioned dissent. (There was even an apostolic succession argument thrown in there for good measure)
But today, I wanted to shift my focus to the traditional church that we know so well. As people gather to meet this Sunday, some extraordinarily beautiful things happen as people flock to their weekly gathering place. Let's talk about why we love the traditional church.
Here are some of the things that people LOVE about the traditional church:
We love regularly worshiping with people from different stages of life. Young couples love seeing the elderly grandma with the sweetest spirit and the kindest smile. Seniors who spend most of their week alone at home also love to see the young people who are enthusiastically pursuing their faith. We humans usually socially surround ourselves with other people who are like us; the traditional church allows us to step outside of that comfort zone and appreciate believers in another stage of life.
We treasure our Bible study group that teaches us to go deeper into God's word and find treasures that help us know how to live the Christian life. Hearing the perspective of a wonderful teacher and having the opportunity to discuss our thoughts about life and godliness is a foundational opportunity for growth that most traditional churches provide.
We are fascinated with our Missions program, which teaches us about new cultures and how they express the gospel in their context. We love giving generously to help people have clean water to drink, clothes on their backs, and food to eat. We devote ourselves to sending missionaries to these faraway lands and eagerly anticipate hearing what they have learned and what God has done while they were away. They are, after all, an extension of the ministry of our local church.
We cherish our times of congregational singing. There is nothing like hearing hundreds or even thousands of men, women, and children sing praises to Jesus as one voice. Our hair stands on end, and we get goosebumps when we hear everyone sing with full hearts and voices about Blessed Assurance and Amazing Grace. We love seeing gifted musicians lead us before His throne to worship our Savior.
We look forward to a weekly message from our pastor, who studies and spends hours each week in order to take us deeper into the scriptures and help us to understand how to apply these truths into our daily lives. His education and ability to understand God's word in the original languages are enlightening and allow us to understand obscure passages and concepts.
We love our fellowship time and pot luck dinners, where we gather together as brothers and sisters to have a meal and bless each other with food and fellowship. From ice cream socials to chili cook-offs and fish fry's, we eagerly anticipate these delicious diversions from our church gatherings' more formal expressions.
The organic church is not in opposition to these principles; in fact, we desire to intensify these beautiful aspects that we know so well.
Taking it to the next level
We, too, love the diversity of the church. We love it so much that our gatherings are always multi-generational and usually multi-ethnic. We rely on each others' varied experiences to guide our meetings with both seasoned wisdom and youthful enthusiasm. But these relationships go beyond the weekly greeting and a cute Christmas card during the holidays to a deeper friendship. These deep-rooted relationships are enabled by an open meeting style that allows us to get to know each other on a much more profound level.
We study scripture in a very similar was to the traditional Bible study groups, but without the restriction of a schedule and with a focus on everyone participating and having something to contribute, we can go to another level. It also compels us to study in our own time, not just when we are together.
Organic churches don't have missions programs or any programs for that matter. We prefer to think of international gospel ministry and meeting local needs in our community as a natural overflow of who we are as a church. So, we esteem the same concepts but just from a different perspective. We prefer personal interactions and involvement.
When we gather together for our regular meetings, we may have 10-30 people in the gathering. So, it will never meet the power of 1,000 people singing. But we write our own songs and follow the direction of the Holy Spirit as he directs our speech and our songs. The power of congregational singing in the organic church is found not in the intensity but the intimacy.
The responsibility of teaching in the organic church is shared. So, each individual has a duty to be personally studying and searching the scriptures for something that might be encouraging to the body of believers. This necessarily encourages a corporate love of God's word. It also allows us to have a more natural learning process directed by our personal study and the things that we are going through at any given moment. We love growing in knowledge, but knowledge that doesn't result in obedience is impotent.
As a Baptist, fellowship, and food are an essential part of my worship expression (wink). I have many great memories of fellowshipping with church members over a plate piled high with everyone's best dishes. Maybe that is why I eventually found myself within the organic church expression. Because in our churches we eat together at least once a week. We take the Lord's supper in the context of Full meal, and we love to bless those in our midst who are less fortunate with a weekly feast.
All of this to say, though the Traditional and Organic churches have vastly different meeting styles, we also have a lot in common.
My departure from the traditional church was not based on a fundamental disagreement with the church's foundational precepts (though I do disagree with some current practices). Instead, it was motivated by a desire to know more of Christ and His church, go deeper, and let the expression of my faith extend far beyond the walls of the church building.
To my friends and readers who are still in the Traditional church, I love you, and I know you love Jesus. That is not in question, but if you want to go to the next level, you might want to give these ideas a chance. In the organic expression of His church you might find a bottomless well of spiritual growth from which to draw. You are always welcome here. But if you decide to stay where you are, we still love you, and we rely on you to express Christ in his fullness where you are.
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