The Organic Church Model

Last week I shared with you some of my thoughts following a 4-day conference I attended discussing organic churches. Many of you had questions regarding the actual model and structure of an organic church.

I thought I’d try my best to address those questions. Firstly, let me state that while I tend to use the terms “house church” and “organic church” interchangeably, many who take part in organic church do not. The distinction they draw is that house churches are usually just shrunken, smaller versions of a Sunday morning service. Organic churches, on the other hand, are something all together different.

For starters organic churches do not have a pastor. That’s right. There is no one guy and no one leader. Sound weird? Well, it is.

I thought so. When my husband and I read about not having an actual leader of any kind, it took us by surprise, but then…we got excited. “Of course,” we thought. This makes sense to us. Yes, leaders will naturally evolve in any group. Leadership is a spiritual gift after all, but the practical reasoning behind not assigning a leader is a huge one.

If there is no one person “in charge,” then many important things can happen, but here are 2 that I find essential:

1. If there’s no leader, then the church can operate essentially the same each time they gather. In other words, the health and vitality of the group is not dependent on a sole individual, as is the case for most traditional Sunday churches. People show up to see the pastor preach, not to meet the guy next to them in the pew.

This also means that individuals spiritual gifts can function naturally and freely. The hand can be a hand. They eye can be an eye.

2. Secondly, and more importantly, if there is no head pastor or leader, then Jesus Christ can truly operate as the Head and not a man who preaches or leads worship on Sundays. This alone makes organic churches vastly different and unique. Although I should mention that this model was not “unique” in the early church. This model was the early church.

As Frank Viola, someone who many in organic church look to for practical wisdom, church is for Him not for us. A church meeting should thus be glorifying to Jesus our Lord, not an event meant to “feed us.”

So for those uber-practical types, like myself, here is sorta-kinda what a typical church meeting might look like based on my own organic church:

We gather together in a home (my home actually). Although, as Frank Viola has stated, there is nothing spiritual about a living room. Some organic churches meet in schools, other church buildings,, etc.

We eat food. Always. We start with a meal because we think food is an integral part of a healthy family.

We then round up the children int another area of the house. Usually one of the adult rotates in with the kids. We have a “kid kit” complete with lessons, crafts, activities and DVDs.

The adults gather and pretty much use 1Corinthians 14:26 as our guide. When you come together, each of you has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. Everything must be done so that the church may be built up.

This means everyone participates. Everyone comes prepared to add to the time. Everyone is made to feel and eventually believe that they are a necessary and valuable part of the body.

Sometimes we worship. Sometimes we don’t. Sometimes we pray as a group, sometimes as individuals, sometimes just the woman pray together and the men pray together.  There is no “one guy”, no head pastor. We each express our spiritual gifts freely because the organic church model makes it so easy to do so.

There is a shepherd in our group (my husband). He shepherds, which is not the same as preaching from a pulpit on Sunday morning. We have a prophet in our group, as well as an evangelist, a teacher, a leader, and a few exhorters. We desperately need an administrator though.

We are also working on spending time as a church family outside of our Sunday meeting. Church life is shared life, which means, if you are only meeting once a week, then you are not experiencing organic church life.

We are still figuring out how you practically and spiritually we make Christ the Head, instead of a man. Churches are often good at making Christ their Lord, but not necessarily their Head. It is a new concept for me personally to be practicing, not just discussing in theory.

God has much to show us, but He has already been so faithful to us as we pursue this new and adventurous way of being the Body. I know He will provide us with all we need to pursue Him in this new way.

So what do you think? Does this model appeal to you, why or why not? Would you ever consider participating in an organic church? What does your current church do well that you appreciate?

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Nicole Cottrell
Nicole Cottrell is trained in the fine art of button-pushing. She uses her skills daily on Modern Reject where she writes about the intersection of faith and culture as well as the unpopular stuff no one else likes to talk about. Nicole is a speaker, writer, discipler, and coffee fanatic. She and her husband planted the Foundation, a network of house churches in Arizona. Nicole lives in Scottsdale with her husband and two little munchkins, three of the coolest and funniest people she knows.