Is the Organic House Church a Myth?


Over the course of the last six weeks, I’ve been working my way through Frank Viola’s series of books on organic church. I’ve completed Pagan Christianity, and I’m now reading Reimagining Church.

In those books, Viola does a stellar job of sharing stories about how near and dear to the New Testament these naturally formed and free-form, Spirit-led organic churches are. They supposedly embody all the positive characteristics I wrote about yesterday in “I Had a Dream.”

Having been around churches all my life, with a degree now called Spiritual Transformation (once Christian Education)  from the top Christian college, and a keen sense that something is definitely amiss with the way we do church, I am dying to see a church like the one Frank Viola describes in his books.

I wish it could prove to be more real, though.

My son came home from school last weekend totally enthralled with the musical The Music Man, which his music class at school had shown. That it’s my favorite musical—and I own the soundtrack, though not the Preston/Jones movie, sadly—made it all the more a father-son shared experience, since we played the heck out of the soundtrack last weekend, driving my wife bats with our mutual singing of the question of how can there be any sin in sincere.

That said, sometimes all the sincerity in the world can’t necessarily change reality.

I can’t shake the feeling that Frank Viola comes off a little like the infamous Professor Harold Hill of the musical’s fame. Just as Hill paints a marching band as the cure for every moral ill confronting the youth of River City, Iowa, so Viola lauds the organic church as the only viable answer for Christians who long for a more genuine experience of community in Christ than the “pagan-inspired” institutional church offers.

While I don’t think that Viola intends to skip town with anyone’s cash like Professor Hill did, the comparison is still apt, since both the marching band and the organic church seem more mythical than real.

House among the mistsI say this because the more I attempt to locate the type of organic/house church that Viola says has been blessing his life for the last few decades, the more it seems like the fabled destination of another famous musical, Brigadoon.

What my search for the organic church has yielded:

  • I emailed Viola’s organization for more info, which landed me on a mailing list to receive more stuff from Viola and his cohorts, yet none of it yet addresses the main question: Where can I find an organic church in my area?
  • I’ve visited the websites of numerous top house church and organic church organizations that tout access to church locations and resources. What I’ve found are moldy, old sites filled with broken links, out of date church info, dead and buried churches, and all the wrong kinds of impressions that such organizations want to make on someone looking to connect with them. In short, visiting organic and house church websites is akin to hanging out on MySpace or Friendster.
  • What does it say about the rosiness of organic church when you discover some of these churches no longer meet because the people who started them left to go back to paid, institutional church ministry?

I live just outside a metropolitan area of 2.2 million people that is heavily churched. When Christian pollsters and church resource magazines publish info about influential institutional churches, this area contains a disproportionately large number of them. Which is why I continue to scratch my head at the utter lack in such an area of anything resembling Viola’s ethereal organic church. Hasn’t anyone burned out of those institutional megachurches and fled to the supposed refuge of an organic church?

Reading the testimonials of organic church members included in Viola’s books makes my heart ache. But like so many tales one hears in the American Church today, it seems like those beautiful stories are happening in some hazy, distant place, almost like Narnia, except even harder to find.


If you are NOT a regular reader of Cerulean Sanctum, please do not use this blog as a means to carry out a long-running battle between advocates and critics of Frank Viola or any house church organizations affiliated with him. I don’t care if you are defending or attacking, NEITHER TYPE OF COMMENT BELONGS HERE. I am both saddened and appalled that this blog has been drawn into some ongoing feud between Christian brothers and sisters who are so ruthlessly concerned with getting the upperhand in that feud that they’ll hijack this blog to do it. Simply put, doing so is not Christ-like. Please take your feuds elsewhere and know that I’ll delete any comments that even remotely seem abusive.

Really, as a rebuke from a fellow Christian brother of some experience: Grow up.

This is not to say that people can’t comment about their positive or negative experiences in house churches. But please refrain from scandalous attacks on any named person. And please, no comments allowed from “hired guns,” truly hired or merely self-appointed.

Because, frankly, I’m tired of it.

123 thoughts on “Is the Organic House Church a Myth?

  1. I have had a somewhat similar experience but I also know of “organic” gatherings that are thriving. As for me, trying to find people who are actually serious about a more organic form of the church has been a struggle. A lot of people are fed up but it seems that inertia just keeps us going.

    I think the problem comes in when we try to replace one church model with another church model, without addressing the more important question of community. If we have a community of believers living their lives with one another, the church will happen fairly naturally. if we try to substitute a model of church, even one with lots of Biblical support, for community it is bound to fail.

    I know that “community” is an overused word to the point that it has lost most of its meaning. It still is the right word to use to describe what we see in the New Testament and what we should see in the church today. Defining it is one thing, seeing it lived out? Quite another.

    • Arthur,

      I have long written on this blog that the New testament demands a way of living that flies in the face of what we consider normal, societal living. Our entire lifestyle in America wars with Christianity. As a result, almost every model of church one tries is either going to be broken by that lifestyle or is going to make for some serious angst should one fight societal norms tooth and nail.

      Where it becomes hard is that change only comes if we commit to it and simultaneously address the problems of both church models and societal models. That so few smart Christians are taking on greater societal structures and talking about it publicly makes it hard for the little guy to make gains.

      • Aaron

        Funny, I stumbled onto your blog as I was looking for resources for a church leadership retreat, searching for ideas on vision/mission casting (typical business model stuff, right?). The problem that I see with the organic church model is not in theory but in practice. The first century church was just that – in the first century. While there are plenty of timeless truths found throughout scriptures, the 2000 year gap between now and then has created some difficulties to continue the same church model. I would love society to revert back to a community based model, where we have daily interaction with those around us – but it’s not going to happen.
        Again, I agree that he church has taken on too much of the secular society around it, but in our culture I believe that it is unrealistic to try to force an organic house church – because when you do it either becomes a “traditional” church, or it disintegrates, as you have found.
        So what’s the answer? I’m not sure, but it is probably a balance of forming community within church walls that can’t help but spread outside the church walls. (Does that make sense?) All while attempting to break down the superficial business model of the church. Church leaders who truly equip the saints to do the work of the ministry will have much greater success than trying to run the church like a CEO with an executive board.

      • Dan,

        I think you hit the nail on the head. What Viola writes creates a longing in the heart for a closeness to our Savior and a sharing of His love with each other. However we are hindered by more than organizational church structure.

        Satan has been working for centuries to guide the world to global collectivism. He needs to do this to be able to leverage his influence. As we approach his goal, we find ourselves like the rich young ruler, unable to let go of that which is dragging us down.

        Between corporations, schools, governments, and churches, a person is likely to find himself so tightly woven into societal fabric, such that even attendance at a house church will not allow him to form the relational connections for which he thirsts.

        Even when you have formed a house church, begun to home school, moved to a rural area, and started your own business, you find few others who have been able to free themselves.

        The promise of house church will remain an unachievable utopian dream until we are able to free ourselves from the societal grip Satan has so cleverly devised.

        • There are a few small gatherings where all are freed from “the societal grip” and other chains; a few more where some have been set free; and more still where freedom collectively evades them to date.
          Of those now free, which would say that we were “able to free ourselves”? None of whom I know. Only by His Grace.

          • tim


            Are you saying that a Christian has no responsibility to repudiate the flesh or the world and that his carnality can be resolved only by the unilateral intervention of God?

            • Tim, who would assume that the flesh can (or would) usurp itself?
              Consider how Jesus is first baptized by John in the Jordan River; the Spirit coming upon Him, and then He is into the wilderness to be tempted/tested. So also need every man receive first His Spirit, if he would succeed to deny himself and take up his cross. For it is God, by His Spirit, training us in disowning irreverence and the desires/feelings of this world system.
              [Galatians 3:3; Titus 2:11-12]
              Often what has tantalized English Bible readers to assume they might repudiate carnal with carnal is in the common style of Scripture translation (by those under influence of religious systems), where apologetic has been rendered as commands. This leaves the reader with a vision of Paul writing New Testament rules, thereby subtly negating much of the testimony to the work of Christ in men & women.
              When a man is granted repentance, such is the intervention of God.
              [II Timothy 2:25]

              • tim


                Paul rebukes carnal Christians in 1 Corinthians. The writer of Hebrews rebukes them. Peter says that they have forgotten that their sins have been forgiven. Paul rebukes the Galatians for turning to the flesh. Why are these Christians rebuked if there is no choice they have?

              • In writing Corinth, Paul identifies carnality; “even as babes in Christ.” Do we suppose that growing up can be accomplished by a choice of will? Paul informs them of the situation, and what it would be to be more mature. If anyone or anything is to grow & mature, we would ask of God.
                Tim, what you are taking as “rebuke” may actually/often be apologetic (from the koine Greek). Endeavor to confirm these things. If you have a specific reference where saints are being asked to make a choice of themselves, I’d be glad to take a look.

        • Eric

          What you have said is exactly what I have discovered. The home church cannot be realized unless people abandon Satan’s rule over their lives. The entanglement in this world with money, debt, ambition, careers, coolness, power, materialism, pride, arrogance, self, anger, sex, entertainment, pleasure, backbiting, gossip, slander, etc… Until these issues are dealt with in our hearts the home church is a dream that cannot be realized. Satan schemes are so strong. He entitles us to our lusts and these keep us busy, distracted and empty. Following Jesus to the cross is our only means to the love we seek. We must denounce Satan and his kingdom. We either follow Jesus or Satan. ct 26:18 to open their eyes, so that they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and a place among those who are sanctified by faith in me.’

  2. StevenS

    On the one hand…

    I *have* experienced the kind of church experience Viola describes twice in my 40+ years of following Jesus, and in each case it was every bit the blessed, edifying experience he and people like the Neil Cole describe. In those times in between I never lost my longing for finding such a community again.

    On the other hand…

    My experience finding such communities is identical to your own. They may well be out there; but there doesn’t seem to be a way to find them. The “directories” of house/organic churches are full of stale links. I guess that’s one advantage of denominational organization – better publicity.

    On the third hand…

    For all of my fondness of my two experiences with organic church, I have to admit they didn’t end well. In the first case, I moved out of the area but heard afterwards that the community tried to form a “traditional” church and collapsed. In the other case, the people who started it (who were already burned out after pastoring a traditional church when they switched to the organic model) dropped out and the community dissolved.

    BTW – You know about Bill Faris? He trying to introduce the organic church model into the Vineyard movement (see “Vineyard at Home”).

    • Thanks for writing, Steven, and sharing your experiences.

      I don’t know Bill Farris, but I guess the Vineyard is attempting to go back to its roots. My understand of its genesis is that it started as an organic church when Kenn Gulliksen was recruiting Jesus People back in the day. Keith Green, the musician, was one of those early attendees.

  3. casey

    Let me know what you find. I’m having a hard time finding a church that suits me. . .and an even harder time finding the will to even look. I’m not tired of God, but definitely tired of church. On the other hand, Sunday mornings at home are kind of nice.

  4. There re-pristination movements are nothing new. But they all find out the truth and that is that there never were perfect churches in the beginning days of Christianity.

    St. Paul’s letters ought remind us of that.

    Sinful people gathered together to hear the Word and receive the Sacraments. In groups large or small. That’s the church.

    • Actually when they gathered, they gathered to break bread (i.e. share an actual meal, Acts 20:7), not to listen to a sermon or observe a religious ritual. The letters of Paul, who is not more or less a saint than any other Christian, tell us that quite clearly. We didn’t add the notion of sitting mutely to listen to a sermon and eating a wafer to replace the fellowship of a shared meal until much later.

      • Jesus is the one who broke the bread and raised the cup and said, “This IS my body…this IS my blood…do this…”

        And we know from Romans 1:16 that the power of God is in the gospel.

        That’s why we partake in the Supper and have sermons.

        • Steve, wasn’t Jesus partaking in an actual meal with His disciples? He wasn’t passing around a platter with little crackers on it and plastic cups of wine. They were enjoying a meal together. I don’t see that they saw anything mystical happening either during the Last Supper or in subsequent meals. There was an intentional nature to these meals for certain but no hint of a ritualistic passing of the plate after it was blessed by a cleric.

          Also, you assume that Romans 1:16 where Paul speaks of preaching the Gospel as equating to a sermon because we are culturally conditioned to read it that way, just as we are conditioned to read Acts 20: 7-12 as Paul giving a sermon when he was clearly talking with the church more than talking at the church. If we read the word “preach” and define it as “sermon”, it might make sense but that is not at all how the Bible uses it.

          We “partake of the Supper” as a ritual and have sermons because that is what Rome did and we have strayed very little from those practices in spite of the “Reformation”.

          • He held up the bread and the wine when He said, “This IS my body and blood”.

            We share meals together also. But since Christ commanded that we partake in the bread and wine and since He said that it was His body and blood, and since He said that whoever does not eat my body and drink my blood has no life in them…we do it.

            • Steve, wasn’t His literal Body and blood already at the table, in His body and blood? How do we transform the bread and wine at a meal now into the Body and Blood? Is that something only a cleric can do because there isn’t even a whiff of that in the Scriptures. Or perhaps what is more important, what the real point of the Supper comes down to, is the community witness of Christ’s people sharing a meal together remembering His death and proclaiming the Resurrection.

          • Arthur, I agree when you say that Paul was talking with the church more than talking at the church. In Acts 20: 7-12, the Greek word is not preach, but dialogue. In the same text is also the Greek word homileo, that is talk together and be together. I am from Norway. In old Norwegian bibles the word dialogue is in use. In modern Norwegian bibles the word preach is in use. They changed a correct translation. Then people misunderstand the text.

    • Steve,

      I read Acts and St. Paul’s letters and see a church that

      1. Met together daily, mostly in each other’s homes,
      2. Shared their possessions so that no one had a need,
      3. Had a more flattened hierarchy that tended to see everyone as equals,
      4. Did not use pastors as church leaders,
      5. Encouraged the use of charismatic gifts in each meeting,
      6. Shared the Lord’s Supper as a full meal,
      7. And generally did a whole lot of stuff that we either don’t do or do in a way that in no way resembles the early Church.

      For years I have struggled with the disconnect between practice in Scripture and practice in the contemporary American Church. More and more, I’m convinced that we’re just doing it wrong, especially when I see how churches function in those areas where the Gospel is blossoming.

      • Like you, Dan, I have been tearing my hair out when I compare what Acts describes with how American evangelical Xnty invariably operates, seemingly everywhere I have been. I guess the easy way out would be to go ahead and just drink the Kool-aid and dispensationalize everything…or in other words, just tell myself “that was then, this is now, so shut up and get with the program.

        Great article, Dan.

      • Sulan

        1. Met together daily, mostly in each other’s homes,
        2. Shared their possessions so that no one had a need,
        3. Had a more flattened hierarchy that tended to see everyone as equals,
        4. Did not use pastors as church leaders,
        5. Encouraged the use of charismatic gifts in each meeting,
        6. Shared the Lord’s Supper as a full meal,
        7. And generally did a whole lot of stuff that we either don’t do or do in a way that in no way resembles the early Church.*

        Yep, that’s what is missing …

  5. Diane R.

    The big problem with these types of groups is a lack of accountability, and many times, poor leadership. I’ve been in many small, independent churches and they all turned into cult groups.. There is a reason why these churches and groups no longer exist. Therefore, I have thrown my lot in with the organized church and believe me, where I live, the churches are all dumping the gospel and teaching worldly stuff. But what God has shown me is, we who understand these things need to pray and pray in earnest until God replaces the crazy leaders and true revival and correct organizational structure (the type you often write about here, Dan), returns to the American church.

        • Perhaps that has to do with our tendency to form around a human leader, which is often the case in churches big and small. How many people who go to Bethlehem Baptist if Piper wasn’t there or Saddleback if Warren wasn’t there or St Andrews if Sproul wasn’t there?

            • Dan, Oddly enough, Francis Chan turned up not long ago to preach one Sunday at the megachurch where I am currently stuck, up here in Land-In-Between. It seems to be the case that Chan is a personal friend of the senior pastor. They went hunting together during his stay. If I recollect correctly, they bagged an elk.

              As for his sermon, well to be honest about it, I have to say that my wife and I both agreed that it seemed to have been delivered extempore and was somewhat confusing. Perhaps he is a better writer than a preacher.

  6. “I say this because the more I attempt to locate the type of organic/house church that Viola says has been blessing his life for the last few decades, the more it seems like the fabled destination of another famous musical, Brigadoon.”

    Dan, I think there is a good reason for this. Churches grow or they die. Organic, home churches that typically start off as small groups either grow into the community church down the street (frought with all the usual trappings that comes with growth) or they die off. Trace every megachurch origin and you’re bound to get a similar story. Mark Driscoll’s stories about the first days of Mars Hill are consistent with this pattern, as is the last two churches I attended – both which started as a home group and then quickly grew into modest sized church. But yeah, I’m right there with you, I haven’t observed a home church that was deliberate and successful in its attempts to stay small.

  7. Interesting analogy. As I’ve stated numerous times eleswhere, what I describe as “authentic organic church” certainly exists, but it’s difficult to find in our day.

    For example, my coworkers and I presently work with almost a dozen groups. We aren’t trying to build a movement, and as I’ve explained in my dialogue with Neil Cole on my blog, the vision I’ve articulated in my books isn’t a matter of “add water and stir.” Paul of Tarsus planted less than 15 organic expressions of the church in his entire lifetime.

    So numbers don’t mean much to me. As Einstein once said, “everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.”

    That said, according to Barna there are 11 million adult Christians who gather as church exclusively in homes in the USA. (I’ve gone on record saying that “house church” and “organic church” are two very different things, in many cases at least.)

    In addition, Neil Cole, who also uses the term “organic church,” reports that there are *thousands* of organic churches he and his network have started.

    So you should ask Neil where you can find them. My experience has been that it’s rather easy to find a home group (“house church”), but it’s not so easy to find the kind of expression of church life that I’ve experienced and have described in my books. They certianly exist (going to be with one this weekend in facts), but what my coworkers and I are involved in at least isn’t a “movement” by any means. And I’ve never portryaed it to be such.

    Even so, most of my ministry isn’t dedicated to “church,” but to those Christians who have moved “beyond evangelical” . . . which is much broader. You can find an explanation of that on my blog. I’ve said what I want to say on the issue of church. My attention is now drawn to the deeper Christian life and the shifts that are happening in today’s evangelical world.

    No time for more, I’m afraid. But you can dialogue further with me on my blog if you want to talk further. It’s difficult for me to follow comments on all of these blogs. There are just too many. 🙂

    Thanks again for the shout-out on my two least important books. Hope you’ll move on to Jesus Manifesto, Revise Us Again, and From Eterity to Here. Those are much more significant.

    Yours in His grace,

    Christ is ALL,


    Psalm 115:1

    • Frank,

      Thank you for taking the time to respond. I appreciate also your willingness to contribute your thoughts on what I wrote. (BTW, I have read one of your other “more significant” books you mentioned. By request of Thomas Nelson, I reviewed Jesus Manifesto here previously.)

      A few thoughts of my own on what you’ve shared.

      While Paul may have started only 15 organic churches, he did so in a vacuum, since no Church of Jesus Christ existed unless someone took Christ to a region. That can’t be said of the United States today. One would think that vital expressions of the kind of church seen in the New Testament would be far more prevalent. Yet where are they?

      My own experience of searching for such a church yielded a number that had folded, were in a perpetual “almost ready to begin” mode (from info dated years ago), or had transitioned from an organic style to an institutional one.

      This failure rate seems too high, and it calls into question the overall viability of the kind of church you promote in this series of books. The looming questions: why the dearth and why promote something that seems so unlikely to take root and mature? I must also ask the question, if these churches are not in my (large) area, then where are they concentrated and why?

      You say “the numbers don’t mean much to me,” but if the spiritual mentality behind these organic churches isn’t spreading, why not? Is it possible to talk to Neil Cole about the “thousands” of organic churches out there? Will you send me his contact info?

      I write all this not as a critic but as someone who has been desperately seeking the kind of expression of church you have written about. That I can’t ever seem to find it poses many questions, a good number of them disheartening, something one would think would not be the case for people who follow the Lord of the Universe.

      • I want to believe, but I remain skeptical. I don’t find Viola’s response especially satisfying.

        Dan, I am most eagerly looking forward to your follow up story on whether you ever find anything in your local area, especially after contacting Neil Cole. I really do want to know what you find out.

        FV: “…authentic organic church certainly exists, but it’s difficult to find in our day”.

        I think we already know that, the part about “difficult” I mean. But I wonder if A.O.C. might be limited to being a mostly West/East Coastal phenomenon, tucked away somewhere, whereas in the vast hinderlands of Flyover Country, such as Ohio or Idaho, things remain locked into the strictly conventional paradigm. (Yeah, we have “small groups” were I am located, but they are pretty much just regimented adjuncts to the local megachurch and very much confined to adhering to pastor-dictated scripts.)

        FV: “…according to Barna there are 11 million adult Christians who gather as church exclusively in homes in the USA.”

        I am incredulous about that number. 11 Million? That seems pretty large to me. By what methodology did Barna arrive at such a statistic?

        FV: “I’ve gone on record saying that “house church” and “organic church” are two very different things…”

        Therefore, while hunting for the very rare Snark, we must take particular care not to confuse it with the more plentiful Boojums.

        FV: “…Neil Cole…reports that there are *thousands* of organic churches he and his network have started.”

        Thousands? Was there any indication of what facts were used to proved this assertion of his? Hunch? Survey? Mailing Lists? Rolodex?

      • Dan, I’ll do my best to respond. If you have further questions, I’d be happy to talk off line.

        I don’t believe nor expect that organic church life would be more prevalent today in America than it was in the first century. When one understands the profound cost involved, it’s not easily digestible for most Americans.

        It was even difficult for people in the first-century. Most of the epistles, for instance, are letters written by apostles to churches in crisis. That narrative makes up most of our New Testament, interestingly enough.

        The traditional form of church is much easier and much safer. And it fits into our American lifestyles.

        I evaluate Paul’s ministry of church planting and its relationship to planting organic churches today based on my 20+ years of experience in the trenches in the book, “Finding Organic Church.” In it, I contextualize the ministry of the apostles for today and draw lessons I’ve learned from observing and experiencing organic church life throughout the years. Right or wrong, it articulates how things look from my perspective based on the New Testament saga and what I’ve learned from the organic churches I’ve been a part of or have related to over the years.

        Neil Cole is a good friend. Keep in mind that our views on organic church aren’t exactly the same. I believe his website is You can find it in a search. He and I discussed our similiarities and differences in a public discussion on my blog awhile back. If interested, you can find our discussion on the right-hand sidebar of my blog.

        Many of the people I know have relocated to be part of organic church life, because it’s not on every street corner (again, we’re talking about “organic church” the way I’ve depicted it. Today, the term has become a “clay word.”) In fact, this weekend I’ll be visiting one such group that my coworkers and I planted after being away from them for a little over a year (they were left completely on their own without a pastor or any “leaders”). About 1/2 of them have relocated to be part of the fellowship. This isn’t uncommon.

        As for Barna’s stats, you will have to ask him. I have no idea how he gets his numbers. Ed Stetzer did a similar study a few years back and came up with the same conclusion. What I’ve concluded, however, is that *many* of “house church” people aren’t online. They are, in a sense, off the radar. Tony and Felicity Dale, house church practitioners and dear friends of mine, have come to the same conclusion. We often joke with each other saying, “where are the 11 million?” Keep in mind again that house church and organic church aren’t the same thing. Not to me, anyway.

        Anyways . . . let me again stress that my passion and heart is much broader than organic church. I’m finding great encouragement in what I call “beyond evangelicals” who exist in every form of church. My blog is dedicated to the people in this “stream.” Many of them are finding community in the particular churches they are part of . . . even some traditional churches. I am encouraged by that.

        Perhaps Neil can find something near you. If he does, I’d be curious to hear about it myself.

        In short, I can identify with your ache for community as it’s what drove me as a young man to take this journey myself. I’m convinced that this ache is from the Lord, and He will be faithful to direct us based upon it, though it may cost us something in the end. The wilderness is God’s sifting ground, so I’ve discovered. And many of God’s people are in it. But He is faithful.

        I’ll leave it there as I’m out of time. But if you or anyone else wants to talk more, feel free to shoot me a message off-line. I don’t usually post on other people’s blogs as I have trouble keeping up. So this will have to do. My blog is the easiest way to reach me; I’m very accessible there.

        Thanks again for your encouraging and kind words.



        Psalm 115:1

  8. I believe the reason many of the “organic/house churches” die, is more relative to their reason of existence. Off shoots of other churches that brought members with them to start up something.

    Then they insulate, and stagnate. There is no outreach, and evangelism is sorely lacking.

    Churches are born out of attempts to disciple, and heed Christs command to MAKE DISCIPLES. They aren’t born because they are “planted”.

    • James,

      Thanks for writing.

      Have you been part of an organic church? If not, how do you have experience knowing that evangelism is the weak link?

      I ask that not to “bust your chops,” but as someone who is looking for something to back up that assertion. If it is true, then it is a massive condemnation of the concept.

  9. take heart, brother Dan. The beautiful rarity of Christ’s body in the world may seem a stretch or strain. Nevertheless, His is alive and sure (despite a western-cultured religious system soaking in immaturity).
    Many small gatherings today are transitional; a place where a few people will pass through to learn more deeply about what Christ is not. All these experiences aide many to choose the Way that leads to life, or into some other path. There are also personality cliques, and networks of “unnamed denomination” institutional break-a-ways which may appear as “organic”, while on the inside are rancid with industrial-manufactured stuff.
    our possession & objective is Christ, and not to the finding of a pristine gathering. He will have us see nothing above Him.
    Being in Him, thanks be to God we are enabled & activated to love wherever we may go. Help the weak; strengthen the feeble everywhere.
    sorry about such a preponderance of dated HC index information on-line. As Father may direct you, write me for contact information of gatherings near to you.

    • Marshall,

      While you have good things to say, the New Testament in no way points to a “transitory” church. You can’t establish a lampstand (or remove it) from something as transitory (or transitional) as what you imply, which is something of the point in Revelation 2-3. There needs to be rootedness, a launching point, and a place to come back to when needed.

      • agreed, Dan. And, there is such a place(s).
        I/we mark the “transitional” and other sectarian as comparative to the ekklesia at Sardis (Revelation 3): dead, about to die; a few among who have not soiled their garments.
        Are we become so self-focused as to loathe “Sardis”? Most hearts would prefer a Philadelphia-styled gathering? The Lamb addressed all 7 ekklesia in hope. Do we?
        Is it good to fault for a distressed Bride? When/where the ekklesia is heavily persecuted, there often is no “place to come back to when needed.” Evermore we depend only in Christ, rather than for a succession of local gatherings. We always long to come together in Him, yet only as He provides in the hour by His Spirit.
        Today, Her distress has taken form in centuries of pandemic spiritual counterfeiting, syncretism, apostasy & facade. The task to re-evangelize, monumental. Not by “movement”, but by abiding in the Vine.

        • Marshall,

          “Evermore we depend only in Christ, rather than for a succession of local gatherings. We always long to come together in Him, yet only as He provides in the hour by His Spirit.”

          While that sounds very spiritual when said, I can’t see the Bible advocating such a style of “church.” It wasn’t like that in Acts. People took care of each other. They met practical needs. A nebulous, transitory church can’t pull that off. No responsibility to others truly exists since no identifiable community exists. Makes it hard to take care of the “Hellenist widows” when no one is truly responsible for them. Historians note that the Roman church grew because of their highly organized care for the abandoned in Roman society. You can’t have that kind of organization without some kind of permanent base or touchpoint for people.

          Also, we’re not under heavy persecution today, so why the avoidance of a (semi-) permanent location(s)? I can see being more cloak and dagger when the times demand it, but why be so loose now?

          • why be so loose now?
            Acts 2-29 reveals ekklesia that is moveable, dynamic, responsive to a Spirit “go” or, “wait”. But to your point, Dan, all followers of the Way can/are enabled to track with local ekklesia. We’re together re-learning in love from God how to effect this (after centuries of leaving it to the clerics).
            I can see being more cloak and dagger when the times demand it.
            Some of the hiding is a childish reflex of foolishness or in fear of men. However, a cautious discernment does come with the times. For every 7 disciples coming in, there also seems to arrive a Hymenaeus, 2 Diotrephes, and an Alexander! Besides these, certain Baptist, Mennonite and Quaker sects are known to send supported people into small gatherings, undercover to effect (what amounts to) a redirected scattering into their institutional organizations. While gate-keeping and pre-screening are largely ineffective and unsupported by the Gospel of Christ, we will remain alert and engaged as soldiers together on round-the-clock active duty.
            People took care of each other. They met practical needs. A nebulous, transitory church can’t pull that off. No responsibility to others truly exists since no identifiable community exists. Makes it hard to take care of the “Hellenist widows” when no one is truly responsible for them.
            Watch a fruit-bearing plant grow, adjust, bear good fruit…
            It would be a mistake to translate our feeding of widows as assuming that responsibility out of God’s hands. All our care remains His responsibility, and all our heart remains to cooperate with what He is bringing. Community in Christ exists as a result, not as a cause or intent. [observe: Acts 2] Part for us of His paradigm shift (as cited by Jim Wright).
            Historians can be wrong about how things actually function. I am reminded for remarks made be people visiting, about “leadership” and function in ekklesia, that tend to attribute organization or structure where there is/was in fact little or none! Looking at things outwardly?

  10. Thank you for a thought full blog.

    It’s kind of hard to respond to your experience, given that you could not find a local fellowship which you would call “organic” – so you’re arguing from the absence of evidence. All I can do is testify to the fact that it seems to be working here in my area, but it took a lot of transition, IC detox and paradigm shift before we could start to form real community and have vibrant expressions of participatory fellowship.

    Most of the growth of the “church” in the world today is from so-called organic and typically home-based and smaller (and thus more relational and participatory) fellowships. But in the U.S., it is very very difficult for this to happen because we are more religious and rooted in traditions that have engrained into us a number of false expectations on what “church” is and how “church” should look and act.

    Outside the U.S. and the West, new Christians easily become plugged into organic and participatory churches – as we see in the NT – because there is no tradition to cloud what otherwise should be a natural outgrowth of our spiritual DNA. In fact, most of our growth here in Virginia has been among the unchurched – for the same reasons.

    Regarding the various “lists” or directories of OC fellowships that the blog mentions: Generally, we do not participate in those lists, because they only encourage hawkers and gawkers – whose wanting to come to our meetings to hawk their pet issues because they wrongly think OC fellowship is a free for all, or those who want to observe us like we are specimens in a petri dish.

    I hear the same from other “organic” fellowships. We grow from sharing Christ, and not from promotion. Thus, I would not base any conclusions on such lists. The healthier fellowships tend to avoid them.

    • Jim,

      With all due respect, purposefully “hiding” these fellowships has no NT precedent. If anything, it’s keeping one’s lamp under a bushel. It bothers me that so much hemming and hawing goes on about organic churches, almost as if one needs to know some secret password so as not to let the Nazis know your whereabouts.

      In short, I really want to attend one of these fellowships on the eastern side of Greater Cincinnati. I have nothing to shill and worthwhile skills and gifts to provide. Please point me to one or at least offer some contact info. Thank you!

      • Dan, I apologize that I created the wrong impression. We are not hiding and we are not secret. We are about the most outwardly focused network of organic fellowships I know. It’s just that those internet lists tend to be counterproductive, we’ve found, so we don’t bother with them.

        We have fellowships not only in people’s homes, but have indigenous churches in the jail and in homeless communities and other improbable places. We are very, very outward focused! To the extent some prior comments have criticized “organic” or “house” churches of generally tending to be introspective, there is some truth to that. But we have not fallen into that trap.

        Sorry I can’t help you regarding any fellowships in your area, however. Maybe your blog will prompt someone to connect with you.

        • Jim,

          As one who lives in your area and has asked you several times to visit your organic fellowship in part to see what you are doing and in part to confirm the presence of other people you claim to represent, I’m going to have to contradict your representation here. You clearly are a “secret society”. The only person who speaks and is ever named in the extensive research I’ve done on you, is you. You claim organizations, elders and a network of fellowships and I’ll I’ve been able to find is about 8 – 10 people who alternate between your home and another.


          Bart Breen

          {Dan notes: Some of the original comment was removed as I don’t want this blog to serve as an intermediary for third parties to engage in correcting each other, because I do not have the time/resources to verify their grievances and the veracity of individual grievances. If anyone wants to pursue further Mr. Breen’s statements on Mr. Wright, please contact him through}

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        It bothers me that so much hemming and hawing goes on about organic churches, almost as if one needs to know some secret password so as not to let the Nazis know your whereabouts.

        Persecution Paranoia? When you’re an isolated independent group, it’s easy to drift off onto an “Us vs Them” tangent without realizing it.

  11. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I thought Viola didn’t exactly endorse the idea of “house church.” His model for organic church, if I understand it, can take place anywhere, including perhaps as a section of a larger church that is more sold out to institutional methods.

    Personally, I have begun to see something like the organic church Viola seems to be describing, at least elements of it. The only thing is, it’s not limited to a church. It’s more of an “area” thing. The city I live in has a wide variety of believers who attend different services, but who express a city-wide community in Christ that I have found to be admirable. While people are part of different churches, there are mutual meetings and prayer gatherings that reflect the mission of the unity of the body in Christ, and energize people for Christ-work. It’s inspiring. The assumption across the church spectrum seems to be that Jesus’ people are one, and that Gospel unites and energizes far beyond what a “church identity” can do. There aren’t as many “fuzzy bunny” type programs where churches get on some treadmill of feel-good improvement projects or theological hobby-horses. There seems to be a great suspicion of hype, and something closer to the ethic of “Jesus Manifesto” than I’ve seen in the average evangelical setting. Not saying it’s a group of Christians that has “arrived” by any means. But I do think there’s hope, based on what I’ve seen.

    • Nate,

      You’re not wrong. But Viola seems to lean toward a house-based model, even if he doesn’t come out and say that exclusively. His examples almost always go back to that.

      Thanks for sharing your experience. It gives me hope that we can move beyond “postevangelical” and into an expression of the Body of Christ that hews closer to the Book.

  12. Jeanne

    This is my first visit to this blog but was drawn to this topic. May I suggest that going about “finding” a church like this is the wrong approach?

    If God has planted a seed of desire in your heart for this community fellowship, then start sharing it with other Believers that you already know and love–people you have real relationships with. When you discover that someone is likeminded, then invite that person to dinner–break bread with him–and then talk some more. Start exploring what the Bible says about New Testament gatherings…basically you are doing a Bible Study but you are doing it together as you seek to learn what God has designed specifically for the two of you so it’s incredibly relevant to your lives as you figure out what to do next. Wait a minute…in sharing what the two of you are doing suddenly a third person who longs for the same thing becomes a part of the conversation, and your little Organic Church grows a tiny bit.

    (What I will call for the sake of this discussion) “My Organic Church” grew just like this–organically. People who love Jesus, love each other and are longing for a different way to worship, fellowship, and grow. So we came together and just “do it.” We don’t advertise, we don’t invite anyone to come, it’s just people who love Jesus and love each other trying to be “iron sharpening iron” and live out our walks together. We are deeply involved in each other’s lives in what I would call a New Testament fashion.

    It may surprise you to know that we all still attend “church” on Sundays and not even the same one, necessarily. But to me, “church” is really what this little group of Believers do together during the week in our own homes and what we do on Sunday mornings is more like Paul speaking at the Temple. It is a place to share Jesus with some Believers and some Un-Believers, to encourage the greater Body of Christ, etc. But “church” is what happens in our own homes as we break bread together in this tiny fellowship.

    You don’t “find” a church like this and start attending. You let the Holy Spirit lead you to others who are searching for the same thing and then you let HIM grow it into a unique little gathering. Each little organic church will be different, led by HIM to be what it is meant to be to those Believers who join together to participate.

    I think key to this is that you look amidst the relationships you already have. The people God has already drawn into your life for just such a purpose.

    Just my 2 cents…

  13. Jennifer

    Dan, I wish you lived in Southern California! We have been gathering in an organic way for about 3 years now. Where do you live? Last summer Frank, Milt and Allen hosted a conference in Florida and we met people from all over the United States and beyond that are gathering with the Lords people under the sole headship of Christ:) Although, some of them reported that they had to drive hours to find such a community near them or they moved to permanently be part of one, so I understand the frustration in finding these organic churches. I think the plan right now is to hold regional conferences for people just like you who would like to know and live in the reality of the new testament churches. Hope you find this helpful, stay in contact if you’d like:) blessings to you brother.

  14. Anything truly of God cannot be a myth. I experienced real fellowship in my home, with other Christians, we shared food, the Word, prayer and praise time, met weekly, were willing to be vulnerable and exposed to one another.

    It was a powerful time of church and spiritual growth. That was years ago in my home. Fast forward to last year and after reading Simple Church I stumbled upon an Organic Church via MeetUp.

    I joined them for the spring and they are still meeting as far as I know.

    My prayer since my home fellowship which ended when I lost that home has been that God send me a couple of prayer warriors again. I would rather host or create a group than find one.

    Do you have a Christian best friend? Can you have some Christians over for dinner as families? Can you host a prayer meeting or a Bible study?

    That might be all the space the Holy Spirit needs to explode in your existence in relation to other people and reveal what holy fellowship or what we call organic church is supposed to be.

  15. WarrenHelen Peterson

    We have enjoyed many variations of “organic” church since the 1960s. Right now we meet regularly with folks who also home school, so there are lots of kids every time we gather. We ALWAYS share a meal, sometimes breakfast, sometimes lunch. During good weather you can find us in a park. Facilitating the meeting rotates through the group. The Word is read and we look for ways to apply to our daily walk. One of the goals we personally have is to see everyone participating. That means hearing from all. Music is provided by guitars, piano, or we can sing accapella. Prayer needs are shared. Praises are shared. Answers to prayers related. There is no set way to meet. God’s creation gives us terrific examples in flowers and birds. What variety! Jeanne’s description is perfect. And, quoting John Wimber, “go do the stuff.” Jesus will always be with you. How do we know? He said He would.

  16. I’m in an organic house church in Norway. We have no leader. We eat dinner together, pray together, study the Bible together and laugh together. We do not gather in only one home, but we circulate and use five homes.

    It is true that such groups are not easy to find today, because they are usually not on the Internet and they do not use ads.

    Later, hopefully, when there are many such groups, you will personally know about an aunt, a nephew or a colleague who belongs to such a group, then it easy to join in.

    Our group started when I phoned a person and asked if we could have a dinner together and talk about starting a group. Two years earlier, I would never have done such a thing, because at that time I thought that one must be a (modern) pastor that leads the group each week with a sermon, and give the group visions, goals and budget. But after studying the New Testament very carefully, I found that I could relax and just be together.

    The “each other” values/appeals in NT is important.

    To ask where you can find a list of organic churches is almost like asking where you can find a list of friends you have not yet met. To become friends, you have to meet someone or invite someone first. To find and join an organic church, you must meet someone, be invited to a home, or you must invite someone to your own home.

  17. Dan,

    Though I do understand where you are coming from (since I was in a similar situation 2 years ago), I have to state on the record that the OC expression that Viola describes in his books does, in fact, exist. How do I know? Because I’m part of one in Gainesville, FL that was planted by he and some other men. I’ve also visited a couple of the others that he and his colleagues have planted…namely Milt Rodriguez.

    I was originally in Dallas, TX when I began my search for OC. I visited a few groups that flew the OC banner–they were a far-cry from what I was looking for. Eventually I simply had to move to where there was one. That adventure took me half way across the country.

    Now, I’m a young guy (23) with no family, children, or non-transient job, so it was easy for me to move. I’m aware that for those that have kids and a house and wife and all that, it is much more difficult. I’m not saying that anyone should ever move, but if an individual feels as though the Lord is beckoning him/her to find an OC, then they should visit one (I would recommend the ones that Frank and Milt have planted), then move.

    So, all that to say that they do exist. I talk extensively on all that I’ve seen and learned of Christ in the past 2 years that I’ve been here on my blog:

    Blessings, brother. And I hope you receive many rich blessings in your pursuit of Christ and His church.


  18. Although not in your neck of the woods, but in your state, would Xenos Christian Fellowship qualify? Or maybe a church plant which, by necessity, is more intimate, like the Vineyard church plant in Cinnci? i like Xenos’s approach that “It is a home group-based church that also has large meetings.”
    God is good

  19. Pam Frazier

    I have had the same experience. Very frustrating. For two years, since we left the IC we have been searching for such a gathering. There are house churches, as off-shoots of a mother-church, galore. But a true ekklesia with Christ as sole head, not any in my state that I have found. I live in S.W. Michigan where it is very dry! People don’t even know what you are talking about when you try to mention this type of gathering. Michael, I know heart for Christ and I think you know mine, but we simply are not able to move. We have a house under-water that we can’t sell, been trying for 4 yrs. You are blessed that you were in a position to do that, however not everyone is. I so long for this type of gathering. I won’t ever give up but as for actively trying, I think I’m done with that. Christ will bring it to me if that is where He wishes me to be. In the mean time it is rather lonely. I attend a house church, but not the “church” from whence it comes. It is not satisfactory. There is not close relationship, I do not see these people outside of the meeting and it tends to be very quiet inside the meeting. This after being “taught” by a man (pastor) for years and they have nothing to contribute to an expression of Christ! Don’t think I’ll be here long. My question is the same as everyone else’s Where are these organic gatherings???

    • Pam (and others), there are thousands of ekklesia (ref: small “organic gatherings”) around the world. Much of the “I can’t find it” resolve is actually being generated by way of lingering personal expectations and/or fears.
      * Why are you looking for more of what you already are, if truly you are in Christ?
      * Are you seeking or evaluating for sake of your own interests, or for those interests of Christ?
      When personal expectations are blended to our motivation, it should not surprise that the Spirit of God will veil that person from a better connection. I get to see Him at work everyday… I can send the same contact information for the same region to 3 different families, then to watch 2 out of 3 bungle their options; miss every good opportunity; stumble over the trivial. But that family whose heart is prepared, would be nothing that our Father in heaven withholds from them.

      • Marshall,

        I find your statement strange that Christ would veil legitimate interpersonal fellowship from anyone who genuinely seeks it. The Bible does not support that contention, in fact, quite the opposite.

        No way exists to separate our motivations into pure and impure in that regard. A need is a need. The woman with the issue of blood went everywhere she could to get healed. Impure motives? Probably, yet Christ met her need. If someone is in Him, how would He ever say no to such a simple request for a decent, biblical church gathering?

        • Dan, Christ has the right and place (in His great love) to first/foremost reserve and pursue an ideal relationship with each one. Again, the matter in us is to motivation; whether he/she “genuinely seeks”. God knows the hearts, and His providence is born in wisdom as our Father. Men observe the appeals of other men, and wonder.
          There are needs, and there are also perceived/presumed needs. Many things I prior thought as need, were with time revealed to have been of no true need great or small. How much may we comprehend for need, (I have lived previously in California, then 23 years) if living in Southern California to our mind demands a 6-figure annual expense? Why are we still beholding to outward appearances? Nevertheless, “organic” gatherings do indeed thrive outside the CA/FL caricature.
          If you’re in the desert of spiritual things (though I know not if you are), there then is your opportunity to draw close to Christ.

          • Marshall,

            Anyone would be “in the desert of spiritual things” if not allowed to practice their gifts in faith in a community of fellow believers, which is the case for far too many people.

            • I used to think so, Dan. Later coming to understand that the Landowner knows what He’s doing. It was His Spirit that led His Son into a wilderness, starving, to be tempted by the Adversary.
              The practice of our gifts is neither a right nor right of passage. These graces we receive are primarily intended for the building up of one another to the glory of God. When/as we’re enable to function in accord; stripped of mortal pride & expectations, the graces can then be poured by Him from us to His glory and our mutual edification.
              You or I will not perish without ekklesia, though we would surely be dead without Christ.

              • Marshall,

                I have to disagree respectfully. We WILL perish without ekklesia, because that is what we are in Christ. You can’t separate that from us any more than you can remove the heart from a person and expect him to live. The Book of Acts screams this. Christ’s prayer that we be one shouts this.

              • Dan, while we cannot be separated in spirit (this is true), may we not forget so many (even today) in a dark prison cell, alone, some without any permitted to visit them; without letter or word for years or decades. Cannot the Lord sustain both us and them? I tell you He is able to make His servant stand.

              • No doubt, Marshall, but one cannot make prison the standard for the Church! At no time is the Church entirely, to a person, in solitary confinement in jail. That is the exception rather than the rule. God can certainly sustain someone so cut off, but that is not the normal Christian life, by any means. The Bible clearly places regular fellowship and the sustaining benefits of it in the context of a properly functioning ekklesia. We are not to be Lone Rangers. We not only need connection to the Head but also to the Body. Without it, we become less than what Christ intends for us.

            • Suffering is bona fide for the Church. We’ve all found ourselves alone with God (as did Elijah), and do not so much imagine these things occur by any neglect of His.
              Actual “myth” to acknowledge & discard consists with copious religious nonsense in the world today re: Christianity.
              To be sure, there is more to assembly than ekklesia [Church]…

              • Marshall

                A suffering church does not mean all the members are in solitude (i.e., imprisoned). That MAY be the case in rare times, but those are the exceptions. Again, the condition of disconnection is not the primary state of the Church. The Scriptures tell us not to ignore assembling together, which is the state of those who are doing church the wrong way. It also makes it clear that the assembly of the church reflects the completeness of the Body of Christ and promotes the full functioning of the gifts for the edification of the individuals and the assembly. Anything else is a diminishment, as even Paul acknowledges in his own life, when solitude and disconnection from the Body were forced upon him.

    • Pam,

      Thanks for sharing.

      It seems to me that when you start probing, “all” these organic churches appear to be concentrated in Southern California or Florida. Having lived in California, I can say without reservation that you MUST have a six-figure income to live there. The cost of living and taxes are insane, especially in those regions where one might find an organic church.

      In what is considered a “Christian country,” where evangelicals are a dime a dozen, how come no one seems to be able to make such a church work outside those two states? It seems…well, weird.

      • Dan: “It seems to me that when you start probing, “all” these organic churches appear to be concentrated in Southern California or Florida.”

        I think I said earlier that I suspected A.O.C. is mostly a East/West Coastal phenomenon so far. If I recollect, and someone correct me if I am wrong, Frank Viola lives in Florida (or somewhere nearby).

        Dan: “The cost of living and taxes are insane, especially in those regions where one might find an organic church.”

        Yes, the cost of living in California were spiraling out of control when I migrated out of state back in the 1990s. Back then just finding a decent, affordable rental was getting difficult. And expenses are much worse the nearer to the coast you are. Even if I wanted to go back, there’s probably no affordable way for me to do it now. I imagine things are far worse after all these years. Just getting car insurance is a huge expense. And the state government is run by complete lunaticks. Don’t be surprised if California turns up in the news as the “next Greece” financially speaking.

        Dan: “how come no one seems to be able to make such a church work outside those two states? It seems…well, weird.”

        That is a very good question and deserves a lot of pondering. My guess is that one factor would be that xtians in Flyover Country are less inclined to try anything outside the conventional paradigm. But I think there are other factors, and this question is worth exploring.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy

        I’m stuck in SoCal. Remember, Dan, SoCal is also the current Weird Religion Capital of America, similar to the Burned-Over District of Upstate New York in the 19th Century. When it comes to the “Spiritual (TM)”, literally anything goes out here.

  20. George

    Here’s how I describe Viola’s ideas – UTOPIA! No society that has ever survived; no civilization that has ever survived, has done so without a structure. Viola’s utopic idea of “organic church” is flawed by default ot many counts. Here’s some really obvious ones: based on what logic do we determine if a chuch is “ogranic” depending on it’s structure? So gathering in someone’s home somehow magically cleanses them from their rejections, deceptions, internal dysfunctions, family issues, addictions, etc.? Why are churches non-ogranic? Because they meet in a particular kind of a building, or because the message being preached in these buildings is a false, humanistic “gospel”, the people who preach it are compromisers (many times) and the people are not serious about their faith?

    Changing the format is somehow supposed to change the substance? This is a naive proposition, which can only be embraced by naive minds.

    The “organic” church in society: does Frank Viola think about anything else outside of small group, home or whatever you want to call them meetings? Does he understand the complex nature of society and the fact that the Church as an “ekklesia” – a governmental body, can only intervene and successfully influence the way society is organized and structured.

    Not only his formless, idealistic “church” would not be able to impact a city and a nation, but it wil in fact add to the marginatlization of Christianity further, until it will no longer be recognized as any kind of influence.

    I could say more but alas, time is of the essence!

    • George, you have written an excellent example in a widespread misunderstanding for what the ekklesia is; how His functions.
      Many people do imagine the church as part & control of society; much as a social-civic religious machine to help manage or oversee social norms. What Jesus Christ established was founded by Him to operate “not of this world” as His kingdom. The perfect mismatch!
      To religious leaders and social engineers, Viola’s herald is simply absurd.
      Reality check… How can it be that Acts 2 and forward is missed by so many readers? These people were said to turn the world upside down, and this happened all by the power of God (less structure).
      Surely God in Christ knew, civilization yesterday or today is not to be patched up good.
      Does the power of Christ influence nations & cultures? As an effect, yes. As a cause, never. He did not bleed and die to save the civilized order or your comfort zone.
      We must conclude that what is regarded “Christianity” in the world today will continue to be marginalized in failure, and rightly so, after 1700+ years of rogue fraud and illegitimate mission.

      • George

        Marshall, when Jesus used the word “ekklesia” in Matthew 16, he deliberate borrows a non-religious, militaristic, governmental term which was in use in the ancient Greece for centuries. The same with the word “apostolos” for apostles.

        Your post-modern mind may be struggling with these concepts but they are nevertheless true. Jesus didn’t come to die for the establishment of some hippie-like commune. He has very intentional message of “taking over”. Yes, I’m sickened by how Roman Cathlocisim and other branches of institutional Christianity have missed it BIG TIME and have sabotaged the very thing Christ came to establish in the earth. That is not the reason for us to give way to reactionist thinking.

        If Jesus came here today and now, he would have probably said: “On this rock I will build my Congress…” The elimination of the governemental dimenssion of what the Church was supposed to be – ruling and reigning with Christ on the earth in the power of the new creation, is the greatest mistake of contemporary Western theological tradition.

        Which is why liberalism is running rampant, hijacking the societal and civilizational order we knew as Christendom. Who’s getting ready to take over? Islamists!

        One day when you or your children start waking up to the sound of a mullah at 5 am and you won’t be able to do anything about it, you may even come to grips with the depth of deception you were sold. However it will be too late! The turban folks haven’t read the books on organic church. They simply force everyone to convert, just to be on the safe side! Organics included!

        • George,

          Everyone is permitted to speak here. I appreciate that you are willing to contribute to the conversation, and you are welcome to do so.

          That said, you are not a regular contributer from what I can tell, and you may not realize that this is a congenial place where people aren’t accusatory and don’t sling conversation-halting words and phrases to show how much wiser they are than everyone else.

          To your point, the church by its very nature is the exact opposite of what everyone assumes it should be because Jesus was not what everyone expected either. The messiah was supposed to be a military leader who would oust the Romans and usher in a “Zionistic” kingdom. Funny thing is, that’s exactly what Jesus did not do. His Kingdom is subversive in its very lack of those traits. It moves forward on the blood of the martyrs, who died in a battle that did not include swords and knives. It is not a “kill ’em all and let God sort ’em out” kingdom at all, quite the opposite. It is built on love and caring for the castoffs and the weak. It has one head, Jesus, and not a parliament of people jockeying for positions of power. That IS Rome, but it is not the Church Jesus founded.

          Here’s the thing: We are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. Islamists can’t wipe out the real Church because our deaths will never be in vain, according to the Scriptures. Stephen didn’t pick up the rocks thrown at him and try to stone those who were stoning him. The Church doesn’t and never can work that way.

          I would highly recommend reading this previous post of mine:

          • George

            Dan, I apologize if I sounded “accusatory”! It was never my intention. I do get passionate about these matters. However, it’s not my intent to in any way come across as someone who knows it all. Somehow I believe having convictions shouldn’t be labeled as such.

            In regards to the whole concept of what “church” is really about. My conviction is that processing Jesus’ teaching through the prism of 2,000 years of church history is a mistake. I would like to know what the original intent was and to get there, we all – like it or not, need to accept some axiomatic parameters, if you will. One such is that all revelation, i.e. Scripture, has to be interpreted within and through a Hebraic, covenantal framework. The Western grid of processing knowledge – both academic and theological, is much more if not completely based in Greek tradition. Jesus obviously appeared on the historic scene at the crossroads of not only culture and civilizations, but also of time and transition. This also has to be taken into consideration. He uses images and languages common to the Greek psyche, knowing that while he was sent to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, his coming, death and teaching was and is global and concerns all people. So even though we need to pay attention to the language he uses, it’s even more important to pay attention to the Hebracic framework of thinking within which he operates.

            Having said that, the Hebraic framework of thought is dominion. Another important part of this framework is the cosmic warfare Scripture reveals, also intimately connected to the concept of dominion. This is evident from Genesis to Revelation. Dominion in the most comprehensive, holistic fashion – integrating spirit, soul, body, the visible and invisible worlds, etc. Col. 1:16-20 is an excellent illustration of the Hebraic integrated worldview, which encompasses all things – visible and invisible. This includes all thrones and ‘kingdoms’ – political, academic, entertainment, etc.

            It’s unfortunate the Church lost the original pattern Jesus came to give us. In fact, the removal of the Hebraic roots of our faith was the greatest tragedy to happen in the early Church. And by this I don’t mean wearing a kippa and trying to be Jewish, when you’re in fact not. I think there are ridiculous excesses in this regard and people get religious about it just like with anything. I love Israel and Jewish people and if you will, I don’t see anything wrong with Zionism.

            I believe it’s more important we see a restoration of the Hebraic, and if you will Abrahamic worldview, dominion being the central theme of it. The choice of whether the Kingdom of God concerns the realm of societal organization, authority, state, etc. or is only ‘spiritual’ realm concept, is a false one. It is I believe both. And the ‘ekklesia’ was always called to bring the Kingdom Of God first to the hearts of mankind, then into every other area of life.

            Thanks for the exchange, I appreciate yours and everyone else’s input!

            • Dan, your outline [via link you provided above] a helpful reminder.
              George, we should each ascertain & confirm Christ as truly King, and His dominion as sure. In any time we begin to think that somehow He has lost control (as Peter walking upon the sea), our eyes would turn away and toward the present distress.
              Rather than hanging ourselves upon “axiomatic parameters”, we together ask the King for what He would have. The “original pattern” may seem lost, while the Messiah is not lost to us; even as He sends His spirit.
              His ekklesia interfaces authority of Christ well beyond scope of human authorities; setting forward or backward principalities, various powers; for life, and to death. As children of God, we remain fully concurrent with His plan & purpose — the mystery of iniquity, ungodliness; the mystery of the gospel. He has determined destruction for the nations [ref: Daniel 2]. Do you accept His will in these things today, or possibly are you pressing to keep afloat?
              “The gate is narrow/cramped that leads to life, and few there be that find it.” By the authority of Christ, we are assured to continue in seeing an expanding remnant of His, and the soon destruction of many on the earth.

            • George,

              I took issue primarily with calling people who disagree “postmodernists,” using it as some kind of pejorative and as a straw man.

              As for dominion, I agree that dominion is still in play. I’ve written to that point elsewhere. However, we differ on how it is expressed. I don’t see that it works through mimicking human governmental authorities. More hierarchy is not the solution for the Church. The business/governmental leadership style has been tried and found to be devastatingly destructive to everything God intends the Church to be. In fact, most people have moved on from that style, even its once staunchest supporters.

              • George

                I honestly think we’re speaking different languages 🙂 but hey that’s not the first time amongst Christians, is it? 🙂

                Dan, I don’t believe the dominion mandate can and should be carried through an organized church. Neither am I talking about the way a Christian community is set up governmentally, although I doubt any community or a movement that defies the familial pattern (Eph. 3:15) will ever last too long or achieve much.

                I believe dominion is God’s mandate for mankind, not for religious structures only.

                Here’s an example: the Holy Spirit sweeps through a nation and specific cities, especially. As a result, many become Christians. Churches, regardless of type and size begin to grow. In a way, it’s like a stock market rally – all stocks represent the same asset class, even if the underlying companies are from different industries and size. When the market crashes, all stocks, being the same asset class, crash. The same is with God’s Kingdom ‘economy’ – when a true revival sweeps through a city or a nation, everyone benefits. I’m not speaking from theory – I was both saved and my ministry was born in such setting. However, as I’ve ministered around the world – in some 36 nations, to be exact, I’ve seen it’s a pattern. Many Christians get saved but because the churches dont get and don’t teach the dominion mandate, believers dont get engaged with the culture, don’t run for offices, don’t start companies, etc.

                While most folks are content to conceptualize and look for better ways of doing church, I’m looking for better ways of shifting whole cities and nations under the headship of Christ. The western world has processed this through the grid of the ‘gospel of salvation’ for too long. With the main focus on individual discipleship and personal piety. This has marginalized Christianity and has pushed people out of churches, looking for ways to do church in a more meaningful way. Unfortunately, that’s the same as operating in a reactionary mode. What we need are God’s Kingdom patterns for both the ekklesia and society, not trying to fit Scripture into our recycled patterns, be they labeled one way or another. If Frank is rejecting the idea there are patterns, that’s fine – he can do so. It doesn’t mean it’s right. God’s primary pattern for mankind is familial, patriarchical in nature (Eph. 3:15) The question is how we restore this back to the church on a relational basis vs. the institutional forms.

                Blessings to all!

              • George, Acts 2-28 records transformation of people. What has been later termed “revival” is a (extra-Biblical) reformation phenomena, often associated with reports of thousands getting “saved”. The fruit of revival events/movements (less historical hyperbole) has reliably demonstrated as weak and unsustainable. Only as the Spirit brings transformation via death & rebirth, is salvation and complete change established in men & women. All else amounts to window-dressing or “Spring cleaning”.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy

      Not only his formless, idealistic “church” would not be able to impact a city and a nation, but it wil in fact add to the marginatlization of Christianity further, until it will no longer be recognized as any kind of influence.

      Too easy to drift into “Ten Guys in Socks Chanting in Somebody’s Living Room” Cults. Or approach the theoretical end state of Protestantism — millions of One True Churches, each with only one member, each denouncing all the others as Heretics and Apostates, all constantly at each others’ throats.

  21. A quick note that I’m unable to keep up with the dialogue on the blogsophere. Yet I am very accessible. Therefore, those who have questions or concerns or even disagreements about my work are welcome to dialogue with me *directly* if they wish.

    Unfortunately, misrepresentations abound with any author’s work when people don’t talk to the authors directly. (Those who have read my work carefully are aware that I don’t believe in any perfect model of church and I affirm all models of church that enthrone Jesus, even Anglican and Catholic expressions.) Anyways, people can reach me at should they have questions or concerns. While I’ve posted twice here, some who have commented haven’t read the comments by others (or myself).

    Again, for those interested in organic church, I recommend the work of my friends Tony and Felicity Dale, Jon Zens, Milt Rodriguez, Robert Fitts, Neil Cole, Dan Hubbell, and Wolfgang Simpson. They’ve done a better job on this topic than I have, and they are still writing on the subject. By contrast, I haven’t written on “church” issues in several years having moved on to explore other subjects that I’m passionate about. Namely, Jesus in all the Scriptures and helping the poor.

    Thanks again Dan for exploring this subject and for the all-too kind words on my books.

    Blessings to all,


    Psalm 115:1

    • George

      Hi Frank, if that’s you indeed and not paid staff!

      I’ve read one of your books and haven’t found a good reason to explore the rest.

      My question to you is: do you think the fancy “organic” model you push, has any meaning at all in the context of societies such as those in Africa, India and other places? I’ve been in such places and frankly, overlaying some of your ideas against the reality of what God is doing in these nations, is the greatest proof to me that your ideas are not much more than recycled church concepts of a post-modern mind, who has lost any sense of what’s happening out there.

      • George, please read my previous note. I’m assessible via email personally. The fact that you’ve only read one book of mine that’s not a stand-alone book, but is part of a series, explains why you misunderstand my positions. If you are serious about understanding what I believe and don’t believe, I will look forward to your email. I’d be happy to answer your questions there.

        Must run.

        blessings in Christ who is our ALL,


        Psalm 115:1

  22. Mr. Poet

    An out-of-town preacher came to my house church tonight. He visits house churches around the country. One of our congregation asked him about the state of house churches he visits. The most salient point he made was that we can fellowship without working together. One house church leader pushes on all who attend kosher laws. Another, who calls himself an apostle, is a certifiable cult leader. And another exercises too much control over his group.

    Every house church sounded small. This preacher’s own, in his hometown, has twelve come when everyone shows up. Normally, eight or so come. One house church with which he worked fell apart after the hosting couple fell into ill health, and their house was repossessed.

    Over all, he said, house churches seem to be declining. The old leaders have died or are dying off, and no one is taking their places. But he also said church history is replete with rises and falls, and we should be due for another rise!

  23. Headless Unicorn Guy

    What prevents these Organic House Churches — tiny, completely-independent, accountable to nobody outside their own — from drifting off on a tangent and ending up as Cults(TM)?

    Christian Monist has a few horror stories of house churches that got very weird very fast. Wiccan covens are similar in being small, completely-independent “congregations”, and the reason they are traditionally limited to 13 members is more than that and they always schism in a power struggle — the “Ten Guys in socks chanting in somebody’s living room Syndrome.” (The Christian version of the latter is called “A.W.Pink Syndrome” or “Us Four, No More (and I’m not sure of the other three), Amen.”)

    • Headless,
      Where the Spirit of Christ directs, He prevents the drift off & crash.
      A Spirit-led group will find it impossible to settle for being sectarian or “independent”; will shrink away from a central organization, and will communicate rather than isolate.
      Those who drop into isolation (by fear or rebellion) become examples in caveat to the rest. God is watching you, and His children too!

  24. Dan,

    I am visiting some brothers/sisters in the Southern Ohio /Northern Kentucky region this coming weekend. We are flying into Cincy on Thursday. I would like to invite you (and your wife, if you are married) to come down to the Portsmouth / Piketon area and join us for the weekend, if you can come. I will be happy to pay for your gas, provide lodging and feed you while you are with us.

    The reason for my invitation is due to picking up on your heart regarding this issue. You are a seeker, I can tell. There are answers to your questions and, while we do not know all the answers, we do know some things according to the grace of Christ that works through us. Over the last 12 years, we have experienced the birthing and establishment of multiple “kingdom communities” throughout North Texas and across the U.S. that are thriving. If you come to the gathering in Ohio, you will be able to meet brothers from Missouri, North Carolina, Virginia and Tennessee, as well as the Ohio/Kentucky brothers/sisters, who are experiencing life in the kingdom.

    I have found out over the years, that it is best suited to discuss matters such as these in person and in relationship. We do not have an organization, my wife and I work for a living and we are not recruiting people for anything. So, if you are free and would like to come down for the weekend, please let me know. You can email me @

    I will be happy to answer any questions you may have via email and provide details regarding the meeting.

    Keep your peace!

    Bryon Wiebold
    McKinney, Texas

  25. Luis R. Mendoza

    I have been searching for “organic church” experience for almost 3 years .. specially after reading Frank Viola’s books “Pagan Christianity?” and “Remaining Church”.. but it has been like chasing a myth with no results … the web sites given were helpful at first but later yielded no results all of the church sites were outdated and most times I never received any responses except for one … but the brother who replied lived over 200 miles from me.. right now I am to the point where I can’t take another week of the institutional church and it would be very helpful (I think) to have a place nearby where i can meet up with believers like me to share Christ in a community of believers. I would like to leave the institution knowing that I have a gathering place rather than leaving not knowing when or where I may ever meet again with a body of believers, it is very depressing and scary, feeling alone and forsaken .. I want to believe that there is such a thing as an organic kind of church 1st century style but right now I would settle for a coffee house meet up. Maybe I’m wrong about this organical myth ? but the Lord is prompting me to search… and search we shall…… blessings.. luis

    • Luis,

      My experience has been identical to yours. I live near one of the top 25 metropolitan areas in the U.S., one that has always had a dynamic Christian community, and yet even leaders in the organic church have written to tell me that development of such churches in my area is still in its infancy. Really? I’ve been hearing that for a long time now, and it gives me no confidence that anything of lasting value is taking off here. That’s sad, but that’s where it stands.

      • Dan & Luis,
        It is curious for how one city-region may receive more in the life-grace of Christ than does another. to example, reports from Cincinnati continue bleak, while Columbus (OH) area having better fruit in the present.
        Arriving in Phoenix this month, and as it soon became obvious the Spirit had removed a number of “dead branches” and giving some over to the plans of men, yet with the few precious in the Lord’s sight here abiding in the Vine. His is a rare and precious pearl.
        to note: What the “leaders in the organic church” may say need be discounted, if only since we have One Leader — Christ.
        I no longer fret waiting in God’s time, with Love as my motivation. This year already carrying a good report from visiting Bakersfield, California; going thru the cities of the Los Angeles basin, not knowing if there anything good would be remaining, while coming upon a spark at Northridge, some promise in Orange county, and many opportunities yet for the Grace of God to prevail over men. Even in the Palm Springs/Coachella-Yucca valleys, expecting to find nothing and still God has kept an open door among them there.
        Sitting in the bleachers to be scowling about the game is not ideal for us. Better to be taking the Word & Spirit of Christ with you into every place He so leads; ready at each opportunity for the Christ to be living (words & acts) thru you.

        • Marshall,

          I’ve spent a good portion of my life hearing miraculous reports about how God is breaking out by His Spirit in all those places I am not. Maybe one day this side of heaven it will all align.

  26. I, too, read through Viola’a book series some three years ago, recommended to me by a friend Jamal Jivangee ( In March of 2011 I received an invitation to attend a national conference in which Frank Viola, Milt Rodrigues and Alan Levine would be speaking on “organic” church. My wife and I attended this conference in Orlando Florida along with about 200 other ‘seekers’ who were, in many respects, in the same place that I understand you to be according to this particular blog. There I met Frank, Milt, Alan and many others who were involved in an organic style church. It was not a ‘how-to do organic church’ conference, by any means, but rather an encouragement to seek Christ deeper on a personal and community level. We were given information on where organic churches were already established and thriving and encouraged to visit them. I also met people in relatively close proximity to myself (I live just outside of Dallas to the east) as well as referred to others in the Dallas area who were seeking this same type of church. Coming home from the conference I found myself meeting with 10 other seekers who have since enlisted the aid of Milt Rodriguez in the actual ‘planting’ of the church in Dallas. Last year (2012) we visited with a group of saints in Oklahoma City where Milt was in the process of planting the church – we were amazed at the spirit and love we found there. We asked Milt to come and help us then. After leaving OKC, Milt was already committed to planting a church in Australia, but when he arrived back in the US in February, 2013, he came to Dallas where he is presently in the process of planting the church here. We now have close to 30 saints from Dallas, Arlington, Ft. Worth, Richardson, Garland, Rockwall, Wylie, McKinney, Cedar Hill, Midlothian and Terrell meeting organically. Not just Sunday meetings, but coming together during the week, as well, to fellowship and build community. Milt will be with us for about another month and then he will leave us to plant a church in Mississippi. I understand your frustration in not being able to find an “organic” church, but believe me, we are out here experiencing church life in the same manner Frank talks about in his book series. I would also recommend Milt’s books to read (‘The Butterfly in You’ and ‘The Community Life of God’). The “organic expression” of the church is alive and growing in Gainesville, FL, Gainesville, GA, Oklahoma City, OK, Nashville, TN, Perth, Australia, Dallas, TX and many other places around the world – and they can be found if you come to that place in your life, as I have, that there are NO other options. Had there not been a church planted in Dallas I would have moved my family to a place where there was one already established or currently being planted. Having served in the “institutional expression” of the church for 30 years with various titles (Youth Minister, Worship Leader, Deacon and Elder – not to mention the dozens of committees) I can confess to you and all that I can never go back to that type of expression of the church knowing the suppression and oppression of body life that exists by nature in any hierarchical form of church government. Yes, I have tasted and seen this glorious Christ in His house and cannot and will not go back.

  27. Michael Young

    Organic church isn’t something you just slap together. You can’t simply build a building, hire a staff and pastor, and then go on to the next one. The church must be left to make their own decisions, though the ministry of Frank and others is always available for crisis or issues.

    So, you probably won’t find what Viola speaks of (doubtless you’ll find ‘organic churches’ that look nothing like the NT) because it’s up to the PEOPLE, not the church planter.

    I have been part of a church that he planted in Gainesville, FL for 3 years now. It isn’t something that just “happens”, it’s a glorious struggle to dying to self, learning to follow Christ with OTHER CHRISTIANS, and a passion to see Christ revealed through His church.

    Those are my thoughts about that. Most of us here moved to be part of this, myself included. I’m glad I did, but it’s tougher than IC b/c relationships are key and MUST be authentic.

    Right now there are established churches here (Gville, FL), Oklahoma City, Nashville, South Dakota (don’t remember the city), and some other younger ones that are still in the forming stages and not really ready for visitors…at least w/ a younger church, you won’t see everything. In fact, with more mature churches, it’s the same. You can visit all you want, but to partake is a whole other thing. That’s where the work comes in on your part. You can’t experience OC without being part of one, no matter what you read, hear, or even see in a visit.

    Hope this helps. Love in Christ.

    • Yes, Jospeh, we are aware that a number of denominations have been endeavoring to encompass or formulate a network of small groups. Implicit with organic and simple would be the absence of a preferred denominational/sect affiliation; the ekklesia being “happy” with/in Christ alone.

  28. we do so much need be joining Christ, rather than a church. His is not a “shotgun wedding”… actually, His is not like any traditional wedding I’ve yet seen.

    by now, it’s clear to say that church by the book-author would be unwise. Truly needs be Christ calling us into our death, His Life, and then to fellowship with Him & His — a fellowship miserable or terrifying for any who have not yet reckoned their selves dead. Today is the day of Salvation; not too late to die to Live, no matter what everyone else is selling or doing.

  29. Sara

    Have you seen ? Another name for organic church is simple church. I’ve recently been able to connect through that website with other people in my area interested in starting an organic church. You might consider setting up a profile on there to connect with others in your area.

  30. To the author:
    thank you for this website brother!!

    To all brother and sisters scattered across this fractured nation:

    We all desire the “perfection” of the ideal church life. It is work.. as another believer told me.. “David, true fellowship is bloody.”

    Any of you who desire some type of fellowship with believers who are seeking His fullness and just want more of.. Him: My wife and I have opened our home up to a home organic fellowship here in NY (zip code 10541). There are about 12 of us. Every week is different. It is NOT perfect. but for the past 18 months we have grown more and more toward our heart’s desire, which is to see Him among us, In us, through us etc…
    If you are a born again believer (if Jesus is your Redeemer)… you are welcome.

    God bless you all in our mutual search for His kingdom moving among and through his body. This nation needs us. Anyway..sorry if I wax poetic, but its my burning passion to bring some unity to the church in America and put away “childish things”.

    I would be honored if any of you would stop by my website. I pray it blesses someone. i write as the Lord lays on my heart what to share a couple times a month. its a wordpress blog

    We all need what God has placed in us. We all need each other. There is one head and one body. if anyone would like to talk you can email me through the website and we can open up dialogue and talk on phone.

    Shalom all 🙂
    David NY

  31. Victoria Lynn Evans, Connecticut

    I’ve had the same experience of finding the vast majority of house church links, directories, etc to be dead and not have functioning existing groups. I’ve wondered why no one else saw through the B.S. around this. Amazing how long a run the writers of these books have had talking about something and claiming statistics with no evidence of the existence of what they claim. Christians, unfortunately, often don’t have the critical thinking abilities to ask the obvious questions such as “Where is the actual evidence for this? Where do all these thousands of ‘Awakening Chapels’ and ‘Organic Churches’ actually meet? What towns? What addresses? Where are all these multiplying networks?” Viola, Barna, and Cole can thorw out claims and statistics, but where is the evidence for these claims? I believe quite frankly, the statistics touting thousands of house churches and organic churches to be outright prevarications. Can God bless misrepresentations? Some of the ideas are interesting but the proof is in the pudding. The only network I saw that was actually folks who were practitioners of the ideas and not just talkers and writers about it was Eternal Grace based in Hollywood, started by a group of artists, actors, musicians, and filmmakers, with meetings in various locations. The rest of the “organic churches” that were lauded in the websites and books have dried up and don’t exist. Eternal Grace was the only one of over thirty I contacted, that actually had viable meetings and gave me information. Now granted, I’m sure there are more out there, and I recognize starting churches is a hard thing to do and sustain and it doesn’t magically multiply like the books say, so I don’t mean to sound judgmental. I’m just glad on this blog to find honest discussion of the Brigadoon nature of organic church because like I said only one group shared helpful information when I inquired. I know in church circles I run the risk of being blackballed for speaking so strongly as a woman, its just that I am a relatively new Christian and most of my life I have to speak up when my B.S. detector goes off. If any of you find any others that really exist, please let me know by posting it on this thread. I like what I experienced through Eternal Grace and I am thinking of starting a similar organic church myself, probably following their guide on their website.

    • Andrea

      We found an organic church near Denver, CO, but they are pushing Word of Faith doctrine so we have to leave. We also had zero organization or direction. Current seeking the Lord and ooking at just starting in our home.

      I continue to have the exact experience as everyone here when looking for house churches: old, broken links and the Potters House! Maybe there are groups that are just not listing themselves on the web? I don’t know that we will list ours when we start. We will trust the Lord to bring in people around us. Maybe that’s why we’re not finding house churches?

  32. I was curious if you ever thought of changing the page layout of your
    site? Its very well written; I love what youve got to say.
    But maybe you could a little more in the way of content so people could connect with it better.
    Youve got an awful lot of text for only having one or 2 images.
    Maybe you could space it out better?

  33. Miranda Flynn

    Hello to all my precious brothers and sisters in Christ.

    I have read many of the above comments that have been posted over the years. As a Christian woman for 49 years now, at age 70, I have come to see what it really means to be a “follower of Jesus Christ”. I do prefer to use this term, as opposed to the term later attached to these followers or disciples of Jesus.

    I have experienced many of the aspects of the journey toward oneness with God, our Father, and Jesus our Savior. I have been through legalistic theological schooling, been involved in the direct “ministry” aspect of leading a church with my husband, and have discovered that through all of those years of “learning ABOUT God”, that I had never yet had the experience of actually KNOWING HIM personally, deep within my sould.

    Studying theology, serving people in a church, knowing a lot about the Bible, all these things did for me is keep me in an “old covenant” frame of mind for 25 years. God finally removed us from the legalistic church with which we were associated. He also used a simple woman in that church ( international church of over 150,000 at the time) to finally reach my heart with a message I had never heard in all the first 25 years of my “Christian” life.

    When my husband and I were “laid off” from the ministry of this church, this woman came to me and encouraged me to seek deeply to understand John 17:3–‘this is eternal life, that they might know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom you have sent”. This was the beginning of my heart being transformed from a “head” relationship (servant-mindset) to a heart relationship with my Father and Jesus, my Savior.

    The moment this woman told me to focus on the deep meaning of John 17:3, my life started to take the transforming turn that was needed for me to “grow up” in Him in all things. What started to take place in my life, I cannot truly explain in detail here. I can only tell you that I started praying to God in a different way, a more “childlike” way. I told Him that I felt very impacted by the message to seek to “know Him” more intimately. The Greek word “know” in the Bible always equated to the word “experience”. It is the same word used to convey the intimacy in the physical marital relationship. Although the world, through Satan, has managed to completely distort God’s true meaning and intent of marriage, it still means that this is God’s desire for us above all else in life.

    Has anyone ever thought of the fact that John 17:3, and the seeking to fulfill this desire from God is actually the true answer to how to follow Him in our new life as “disciples”? What is the New Testament commandment? It is “to love the Lord your God with all your heart and soul, and mind” FIRST! This is the key to our life now as followers of Him. We are pursuing the outward desires of OUR hearts in church organization, house or institutional, etc. We are seeking an “experience” for ourselves to make us feel “good” about where we are and what we are experiencing. But here is the problem.

    We lack the love of God in our hearts and lives to know how and what is important in our calling. The reason we lack this love is because we are seeking “outward” things to “fulfill” our perceived needs, and we should be seeking Him within our hearts, in a spiritual way, connected to His Spirit with His Spirit that has been placed in our hearts now. We are not praying to Him in the “spiritual” sense, in our hearts and minds, and we do not possess His love to a great degree. We are still “of the world” and its system of “logical” thinking as a means to get what we want. But spiritually speaking, a person cannot reach God in this way. God’s Spirit is like a magnet in us. The more we seek to put Him first in all things, the more He draws closer to us, revealing more and more of His Holiness and love to us, and the more we become filled with His love in our hearts.

    Their are only two kinds of “love” in life. One is the “agape” love that God must put into us as we seek to rid ourselves of the idols we love in this world, and the other is “self-love” which is not really love at all. It is merely a desire to get what we want for ourselves. Even a mother’s love can be selfish if not first measured with the love of God in her heart.

    I Corinthians 13 is the central chapter in Paul’s letter to the Corinthian church. By the way, this letter was written to “all the churches”, and is the only one Paul wrote to be read to all the churches in existence. Why? Because the five topics he discusses are subjects that are common to all the churches, not just the Corinthian church.

    What is the central theme of this church? They focused on the wrong things, outward things, to satisfy their self-love. They lacked a deep, abiding, Godly love for one another. Paul called them “immature”, meaning they were still like little babies that could only receive the “milk” of the word, and not strong meat yet. Why? It all gets back to John 17:3. Paul focused on the 5 problems that are common in all churches, but in the center of all of His messages, he inserts the chapter on love. This is not a mistake. Middle Easter writers always had their most important messages located in the center of a subject, not in a logical order as we do in the Western cultural way of communicating. He was telling them that they wanted to use all these “gifts”, etc. but without the true love of God first in their hearts, there was the danger of abusing these gifts, which they did do. Also, his message was that they should be seeking the “highest gift”, which is the correct translation of this term. They were seeking the “lowest” gifts, which Paul then states will all pass away one day- tongues, knowledge, prophecy. These are all going to pass one day, but Love is never going to pass, and we should all focus on how much of God’s love is in my heart and how much of the world do I still love? We are told to “love not the world, nor the things of the world”. If we love this world and its system more than we love God, we will not be filled with His love. Without this filling of His love in us, we cannot fulfill our true calling–to be true lights to the world, and salt of the earth. Immature Christians are easily deceived, and God knew that. That is why He places so much emphasis on “seeking to know Him” above all things. The more you know Him, the less you want to be part of this world, and the less influence it will have on you.

    With this love then filling our hearts, which is a process, and will require some painful removal of worldly idols, we can then view our fellowship with our brothers and sisters in a totally new light.

    I also have read Frank Viola’s books. And yes, there are problems with his message. The biggest problem is there is very little, if any, emphasis on this subject of God’s love maturing in our hearts. Because of this, an organic church can be just as carnally filled as any institutional church can be. I have seen it. I knew then that what is lacking, not only in any such “organic” church setting, but in any institutional setting as well, is the love of God which has to be matured in our hearts as we seek to know Him intimately as John 17:3 tells us.

    With the deep, mature love of God in our hearts, we can be placed in any church setting and still function as His children even to our immature brothers and sisters. We are to be lights even in the church today, which has been filled with darkness and deception. We must be lights to the church in the Western world. Satan has managed to allow the evils of the world to crush this love of God. Remember the Scripture in Matt. 24:12 “because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.” We must ask ourselves if our love, if we have even ever had any true, selfless love, as Jesus and the Father have, has been in our hearts.

    Or does everything we think, pursue, desire, plan, and spend our time doing stem from the self-love that is in this world, and seeking to take over our lives as well? When we read the descriptions of the various church characteristics in Rev. 2,3 we must conclude that no matter where Jesus’ followers meet, no matter what configuration they decide to meet in, if there is not the love of God dominating their fellowship, there will be problems. Problems that can only be solved by seeking the “highest gift:-the love of God in our hearts.

    Put Him first, or never experience your true calling in this life. It simply does not matter where you fellowship, if you are free to know in your heart the truths of God which require us to simply let His love flow out to our own brothers and sisters in Christ, and to the world. But the moment we are told by any other “Christian” that we cannot believe what we know is true it is time to move on and seek fellowship where God wants us to show this love. There will be many “sermons”, teachings, etc. that are simply in error today. I see it everywhere. But if I do not have love first before trying to approach another about this lack of truth they have, I will not accomplish God’s will for them, and they will not be healed of their deception. If I have not love I am nothing, and my works without love will sound like a clanging symbol to the world;

    The love of God filling my heart is the only answer to have to live one’s life on this earth. I encourage all my brothers and sisters to read the incredible testimonies of faith of our family in Christ in the persecuted Church around the world. will change your hearts, if it is not too late.

  34. A lot of intricate comments on this blog. I would like to contribute with a few simple statements. But I want to preface them first. I am not saying I am “somebody” because I am not. But I have lived real organic church life since the 1980’s and I still am. I will also say that every group I’ve been in has had its strengths and weaknesses, as I do too.

    The beginning and foundation of any healthy group must come from the life of Christ.
    The quality of any group is only to the degree that the individuals know and experience the life of Christ.
    The longevity and continuation of a group hinges on the individual members continuing in the life of Christ.

    Traditional church meetings are usually propped up and fed by things other than the life of Christ which keeps them going. Organic gatherings do not have these trappings, so they tend to die out (because of the lack of the life of Christ).

    What is the life of Christ? That’s part of the problem – we don’t know. It’s often only an elusive and “spiritual” idea to many. To state it plainly, the life of Christ is knowing Him in a real and experiential way that transforms you inwardly on an daily and hourly basis. This is a simple thing, but over the last 30 years, most people I’ve met prefer to fill themselves with anything BUT this. There are so many lofty and philosophical Christians who have big ideas, but have very little life, little love and little power – but they are quick to tell you everything and anything about all things Christian and Bible, with little experience of the life of Christ in themselves. So, this is why you see the condition of the church today in the state she is in.

    -Terry Stanley

    • Ray Zakary

      Hi Terry. Thanks for sharing! Would you comment more on what you’ve experienced? Specifically, in what ways were groups who you felt were experiencing the ‘life of Christ’ different from normal church groups? What were their characteristics, and did they incorporate different things into their daily lives from people who you felt were just ‘going to church’?

  35. Interesting thread here. I would say that I have experienced organic simple church in a Muslim country of North Africa among Christians who were former Muslims. In Muslim countries, it is impossible to do the institutional church with indigenous people, only foreigners. However, the Christians from Muslim backgrounds know what it means to experience suffering and to risk their lives and livelihoods for each other. We have been back in the states now for some 25 years. My wife and I are currently developing deep relationships in a home church setting.
    However, we have also experienced organic church in many small groups from American institutional churches (Bible churches, Plymouth Brethren Churches) where my wife and I have gravitated to other believers who are committed to reaching others for Christ and challenging each other to greater love and good works . The common bond of suffering here is nothing compared to what we saw the church experiencing overseas. However, week by week, we share stories with each other of how Christ is using us and discuss ways to help one another and pray for one another. Although I currently am enjoying a home church, if it ended, I know I could go back to the institutional church and find partnership and relationships there as well.
    In America we are so ingrained in the institutional church model, that it is hard to find other committed believers without enduring the box of being a spectator for at least part of the time on a Sunday morning. In those circumstances, church starts for me before the regular service, then pauses until the service is done and continues afterward as we meet with individuals, couples, and small groups. For my wife and me, church is when there is dialogue and mutual encouragement and admonishment to press on in knowing Christ and making him known. I’d prefer not to have to “waste” the hour and 15 minutes listening to a sermon or singing songs where prayer is just a way to transition from one activity to the next instead of really praying for God’s will to be done, but the real fellowship and relationships I find before and after this spectator time make it worth it.

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