What is organic church?
The term has many different meanings today, depending on who you ask.
But this is a definition by T. Austin-Sparks that many believe is the best explanation of the biblical idea of the nature of the church (ekklesia), which is an organism — hence, “organic.”
God’s way and law of fullness is that of organic life. In the Divine order, life produces its own organism, whether it be a vegetable, animal, human or spiritual. This means that everything comes from the inside. Function, order and fruit issue from this law of life within. It was solely on this principle that what we have in the New Testament came into being. Organized Christianity has entirely reversed this order.
Quote taken from What is an organic church? a plea for clarity.
Is organic church a movement?
Some say that “organic church” is a movement. Others insist it’s not a movement because it’s not nearly large enough.
True organic churches are very hard to find these days. Interest in organic church was popular in North America from 1968-1977, then from 1994-1999, and then from 2008 to 2012.
Interest in organic church has waned since, but many believe a second wave will happen again among Millennials in the future.
Is organic church the same as “home church,” “house church,” and “simple church?”
Some use the term “organic church” to mean a group of Christians (a “church”) that has a simple structure and that gathers in a home.
The problem with this idea is that home groups that have a pastor over them and operate just like a traditional church or a Bible study are not organic.
For this reason, many distinguish organic churches from house churches, home churches, and simple churches.
For these people, organic churches have the following characteristics:
- There is no clergy or pastor over the church.
- Decisions are made by consensus by the whole body.
- The church may meet in homes or it may meet in other spaces like club houses, rented spaces, hotel rooms, etc. But there is no sacred space or religious building.
- The church will not be governed by rituals and religious traditions that contradict its organic nature. Therefore, a pure organic church in America will look very different from a pure organic church in Africa and a pure organic church in Japan. The test is whether or not the people in the native country feel at home or not. (By contrast, the way the institutional church gathers all over the world came from Britain and was derived from Germany with Luther and Switzerland with Calvin. It’s extremely non-organic, but artificial.)
- Every member in the church functions and seeks to do so under the leadership of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
- The church experiences close-knit community outside of its regular gatherings.
- The church is centered completely on Christ and nothing else.
- The church may receive help from extra local people who equip and encourage it as well as help it through difficult times (someone in a Paul-like role).
Many house churches, home churches, and simple churches (and even groups that use the term “organic church”) do not have these characteristics. So calling them “organic” is a misnomer.
Organic expressions of the church are NOT the same as a “house church” or “simple church.”
What are some good books to teach me about organic church?
You can find the following books on Amazon.com
God’s Spiritual House by Sparks
The Normal Christian Church Life by Nee
Jesus Is Family by Zens
Elusive Community by Zens
Pagan Christianity by Viola
Reimagining Church by Viola
Finding Organic Church by Viola
From Eternity to Here by Viola
The Community Life of God by Rodriguez
How do I find an organic church?
It’s very difficult to find a true organic church in our time. Most organic church “directories” on the Web are outdated and many groups listed on them have no features of a true organic church.
Therefore, many believe it’s best to begin an organic church where you live instead of trying to find one.
How can I start an organic church?
Various authors of organic church have different explanations for how an organic church begins. Some of the books listed above provide practical instructions on how to start one.
Besides the other articles on this site (see the menu on the right-hand side), we recommend these sites:
Rethinking Church – contains great articles and videos
House Church Resource – contains resources for organic churches, despite the name “house church”
The Radical Resurgence – the resurgence of the radical reformation
ExPastors.org – a resource site for those who have left the clergy system or are on their way out