Helpful Tidbits for Organic Church Life                                          August 11, 2008
Organic Churches and Networks
My Reflections

They Want More Jesus

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When our little clan first set out to start "organic" churches we did so with a "network" of churches in mind. In an effort to maintain the network, we did three things. First, the recognized "elders" of One Thing Logoeach church met together monthly. Second, a certain percentage of each church's giving went to sustaining the network (website, banking, and so forth). Third, we created a monthly "celebration" gathering (a sort of modified "church" service).

Although I've seen a multiplicity of ways to do organic church networks, in our case cutting all the apron strings was the way to go. In this week's book excerpt Robert Banks sheds a little light on the topic.

THIS WEEK'S QUESTION/TOPIC: To network or not to network?
Organic Churches and Networks 
Excerpt from Paul's Idea of Community by Robert Banks
Banks_3Paul both initiated and encouraged fellowship between [local churches] in a variety of ways. But he sought to build up enduring relationships of an organic, or only loosely organized, rather than institutional, character. This took place through the exchange of letters from their apostle (Col 4:16), the visits of individuals from one group to another (e.g., Rom 16:1), the sending of financial aid during time of need (e.g., 2 Cor 8:11-13), the burden of prayer on each other's behalf (e.g., 2 Cor 14), and the passing on of greetings and news through intermediaries. These scattered Christian groups expressed their unity not by fashioning a corporate organization through which they could be federated with one another, but rather in a range of organized personal contacts between people who regarded themselves as members of the same Christian family. This is so even with respect to the foundation church in Jerusalem. Paul is eager to gain its recognition of his missionary endeavors so as to avoid any division in the Christian movement between its Jewish and Gentile wings (Gal 2:1-10), for a denominationalism of this kind would be totally abhorrent to him. He is also concerned to gain the involvement of his Gentile churches in the collection for the poor in the church at Jerusalem (Rom 15:25-27), so as to mark their acknowledgement that the gospel stemmed from them. Yet there is no sense in which his churches are subservient to the original Christian community or organizationally controlled by it (1994:42).
My Reflections
Let me start by saying that I'm not against anything. At the same time, I am for things that are natural, biological, organic. Oftentimes, when I'm trying to discern if something is from the Lord or not I simply ask myself: Is the yoke easy? Is the burden light?

Not long into our corporate plunge into organic church life, we recognized that some habits die hard. In our case it was our need to feel mechanically connected. No, wanting to be connected is a good thing, even a God-thing, but forcing it didn't feel right either. The yoke wasn't easy. The burden wasn't light. So, we did what Jesus would want us to do; we scraped the monthly gatherings and let the churches function autonomously. Now, if the larger corporate gatherings happen, they happen naturally, joyously!

In my case, I can remember the experience of letting go being rather painful. Why? Frankly, I think it was because I had control issues. Perhaps I felt something akin to the parent who tries to hold on too long to one of their children. At some point, it's simply healthy for a child to grow up...and leave.

Now, does leaving mean severing all ties? Certainly not! When my sons, Keith and Keagan, come of age they will leave, but God help them if they they think "Dad time" is over! Even if they tried, they couldn't keep me (and their mother) away! But notice the tie that binds: unbridled love. Natural. Biological. Magnetic. Do you think the Apostle Paul felt "obligated" or "chained down" by the churches he (God) planted? Perplexed at times, yes. But burdened, no.

Now, some families are a little more formal; gatherings are scheduled. For other families it's a "whatever works" approach. Although I don't advocate one over the other, I do advocate organic because light burdens and easy yokes are my cup of tea.
Hope this was of some benefit to you.

Traver Dougherty
The Banqueting Table