organic church

November 8, 2006 | 7 Comments

We believe that church should happen wherever life happens. You shouldn’t have to leave life to go to church.

I had high hopes I would really dig what this book had to say. With statements like the one above in the early parts of the book (pg 24), I knew the heart of the book would match up with some things in my own heart. Yet, I find myself a little disappointed after finishing it.

Maybe it just didn’t match up to the high expectations I had, but somehow I wanted more out of it. There were certainly bright spots, some of which are captured in the snippets below, but I guess I wanted to see some of these ideas explored a bit more fully. At best, this book was an introduction to some ideas that can and should be explored much more fully.

pg 26 – “What want to lower the bar of how church is done and raise the bar of what it means to be a disciple.” — A simple idea, but one deserving lots of thought.

pg 53 – “In our organic movement we have come to understand church as this: the presence of Jesus among His people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet.”

pg 98 – “The way to see a true church multiplication movement is to multiply healthy disciples, then leaders, then churches, and finally movements — in that order. As passionate as I am about church planting, I found it perplexing that the Bible never instructs us to start churches.” — This is worth some thought. It is often disputed that the best way to do evangelism is to start new churches, so we typically start there in the process, but that leaves us with the need to both build down in this scale into individual disciples, and also build up to a multiplication movement. I wonder what can look like to be intentional about start at the smallest level and creating reproductive systems from there.

pg 131 – “We tell these fresh souls that they are helpless, needy and unable to fend for themselves. We also teach them that their nourishment, protection, and training must come from other Christians, so they never really learn to look to God for such things.”

pg 134 – “Leadership in an organic church multiplication movement never prescribes the work but instead describes it, allowing great diversity and multitudes of expression, all containing and contained by the original DNA.”

pg 154 – “There are two closely related sins we need to repent of in the Western church. We need to repent of underestimating what God can do through a new believer. Second, we need to repent of overestimating our own value in helping new converts grow and become strong believers.”

  • Re: fresh souls being helpless, needy and unable to fend for themselves.

    Wow, that’s never occurred to me, but looking back on my experience, I can see it. Do you think it’s just a subconscious attempt on the part of minsiters at building job security? “You need me! And you need the groups and programs I set up for you!”

    Looking back into my experience, I’m willing to bet these men probably did not have wrong motives, but this admonition to learn from those who have gone ahead did exist nonetheless.

    Interesting snippet to pull out of the book.

  • The title had me interested and willing to invest some reading hours into it. However, from the quotes you selected (and my very limited knowledge of this book) it seems like it is a postmodern bash on organized church and pastors. While I don’t think that The Church is right on with everything, I also feel pretty uncomfortable with the idea of letting people, especially new believers, fend for themselves with how to live a life the way God wants them to without the support of established believers. Granted that God is the source of every answer and the source of power, is it safe to undermine the role that we should have as a community of believers?

    I’m reminded of the verse in Mark 2:5 where Jesus heals the paralytic because of the faith of the guy’s friends. There is something to say about when people come together to unite as God’s Church.

  • I met Neil Cole in 94 and again when he came to Melbourne (AU) in about 98.

    He is an amazing guy who has learned some profound stuff along the way. What I respect most is that he’s had the courage to systematically rethink his most basic ecclesiological assumptions and get back to something so basic as what he now promotes.

    His mentor (and mine, once) Bob Logan says, “The simple is beyond the complex.” And I think we need to be careful not to dismiss this book because it might be considered too simple. Simple maybe… but not simplistic.

    I devoured this book in a couple of days, reading it carefully and underlining all over the place. It really fed my soul.

    But at the end of the day this book is only a book. I think we owe it to Neil to have a close look at the movement of spontaneously reproducing home churches which he now oversees (and a bunch which he doesn’t). That’s the real fruit of these principles and scriptural insights… not a book, but the movement of new churches representing new disciples from the harvest, in the harvest, for the harvest.

    Man! Bring it on!

    – Alister

  • Lon

    I’m reading this right now as well, good stuff! Thanks for the quotes!

  • Mike Roles

    I mention your typo in the “snippet” above taken from p. 154 in the book only because it confused me at first. Then I thought that can’t be what Neil said. Your statement “We need to repent from UNDERSTANDING what God can do…. UNDERSTANDING needs to be changed to UNDERESTIMATING. Thank you.

    This is the only book I have read on the subject. Also went to a one day seminar with Neil Cole. This has inspired me to the point I have decided to seek a “man of peace” (Luke 10:6) as I go about my day, even taking time to go places I don’t normally spend much time, like shopping malls, coffee houses, the street, anyplace. I know I need to pray and let the Spirit have the opportunity to lead. It’s Jesus who builds his church, and I want to see it. This makes sense to me.

  • As one who literally grew up from childhood in a “house church” which spun off a “college ministry” and then became a strictly internal looking, closed society, legalistic church movement I can only say that if the principles Neil Cole advocates had been followed, those of us in this “house church” could really have done some good. Instead I, and many others, left the “house church” we were in when our love for mercy more than judgment made us outcasts and we refused to worship the leader more than follow God and Christ.

    No book is perfect but Neil’s book was like a breath of fresh air in the spring to me. I am about two-thirds of the way through but like what I see. None of us will ever see eye to eye until perfection comes again so there are a few points I don’t quite understand. I live by the rule though now that just because I disagree doesn’t mean someone is wrong, therefore I set aside the sticking points for further pondering and use the stuff I immediately understand to be truth.

  • Just stumbled across this post when Googling “Organic Church”. Sorry for the late comment.

    I’m almost finished with this book. I think the thing I most took away from it was the DNA concept: D – Divine Truth, N – Nuturing Relationships, A – Apostolic Mission. According to Cole these are the three things a church needs in order to reproduce. Regardless of the type of church from my experience I must agree.

    We are presently working on starting a house church in our home and at a basic level this book has helped shape what that church will look like.