A couple of lives ago, I would sometimes wonder about individuals who looked comatose during assemblies, and I would try my best to be an energizing force as a public leader. At the outset on a given Sunday, my hopes and efforts might have been expressed in “Again the Lord of Life and Light Awakes the Kindling Ray” or “We Shall Assemble on the Mountain” or “This is the Day,” or in prayer words or public readings—and the intentional, typically selective choice of others to lead with me. It might have been specifically chosen words of welcome, or songs designed to “get you going” or to speak to one another, or a reading (scripture or otherwise) purposed to center the congregation in deep worship before a hymn such as “Lord of All Being” or “Jesus, the Very Thought of Thee.” Most of what I planned and did had the aim getting everyone to feel engaged and energized and purposeful during our corporate time.
I’ve known for decades that the way my particular group (in Wilmington or Rochester or Greeley or wherever) “did church” wasn’t obligatory; furthermore, I’ve known down deep for at least one decade that it wasn’t working well for me and probably for others. I can’t know exactly why John or Sally looked disinterested and didn’t seem to participate, but I do know now that “doing church” can dull the senses and stupefy the soul. It doesn’t have to, but it can.
These days, most assemblies at regular, established churches leave me discouraged and robbed of most of the energy I’d had when I walked in. I have become one who appears lifeless most of the time during a gathering. And so I long for something else, something to quicken the spirit. . . .
There is another way. I read about it and think about it often, but I’ve only experienced it in short bursts so far. In this post, I’m sharing a collection of others’ thoughts on simple/organic church. Whether you are a “done” or are edging toward “almost done,” or well sensitized to those tho fit those labels, you and other thoughtful people can find rejuvenated purpose here. I led this piece with reflections on assemblies in a relatively traditional pattern, but not all these ideas are related to gatherings. They describe realities and dynamics that are more or less distinct from established church patterns, focusing more attention on discipleship. As Roger Thoman says in one essay, it is about “no longer thinking of the church as an event or place to go, but realizing that we, his people, really are the church everywhere and every place that we go.” This is no great revelation; most with any degree of biblically based upbringing will find that last sentence eminently palatable. For my part, I continue to think Christian gatherings are of great importance, but how they appear in my life is shifting. However they appear in all our lives, the challenge is to promote the “be the church” ideal to the higher level.
Here are some words of someone who once didn’t get why anyone would want to keep meeting with a house church “when larger churches with exciting youth programs, riveting preachers and spectacular worship music” are available:
This post deals with the intended reality that every person is a minister/servant. It’s not just a Monday-through-Saturday concept; it works at Sunday gatherings, too!
Here’s a piece by Thom Schultz of Group Publishing, in which he refers to author Doug Pollock encouraging us to be comfortable asking “wondering” questions (and not depending on the “sage on the stage” or “master fisherman” on Sundays):
“The Church as Industrial Complex is a resource-driven form of church that has a gravitational pull that unintentionally turns spirituality into a product, church growth into a race, leadership into a business and attendees into consumers.” – JR Woodward and Dan White, Jr.
- Love God. Love People. Make Disciples
- Disciples Make Disciples Who Make Disciples
- Embody the Gospel Where You Live
- Church Isn’t a Destination, It’s People
“It is interesting to note that simple is reproducible. Simple is able to be passed along. Simple can become viral. Keeping things simple can reduce the temptation toward creating religious structures and church institutions by encouraging a simple, basic listening/surrendering relationship to Jesus whom we love and follow.” – Roger Thoman
This quotation puts the emphasis on daily discipleship:
“For me, the paradigm of simple/house/organic church is not about a way to do church but a calling to continue to find Jesus in the stuff of life, follow Him, and pursue His adventurous calling while refusing to get boxed in by anything that wants to pull me back into the lazy boxes of yesteryear.” – Roger Thoman
“It is a vision of no longer thinking of the church as an event or place to go, but realizing that we, his people, really are the church everywhere and every place that we go.” – Roger Thoman
“[I dream of a] church, which does not need huge amounts of money, or rhetoric, control and manipulation . . .” Wolfgang Simson