Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Burning Questions

I found this while doing some web-surfing ("cowabunga"). The page has no dates and broken links. A friend of mine recently drew the same comparison of the use of "organic" with the food industry marketing strategy. "NOT to be confused with..." is all I can say.

The questions asked have been on my mind and in my heart for several years. At first I thought "Purpose-Driven" was the answer, but eventually realized it was merely a racing stripe on a Model T.

I love being stretched and then sharing the pain with others!
The UK is facing an organic revival! Check out (sorry!) tesco.com and you can get organic everything from the standard organic fruit and vegetables to organic baby food, organic wine and even organic pet food. So maybe it is time for the Church to go organic too, or maybe it was always meant to be an organic community movement of the followers of Jesus Christ anyway? Perhaps during the last two millennia the Church has been spoiled by a multitude of additives and preservatives and now we just can't tell the difference.

Once upon a time God spoke through a prophet saying "I hate, I despise your religious feasts; I cannot stand your assemblies. Even though you bring me burnt offerings, I will not accept them. Though you bring me choice fellowship offerings, I will have no regard for them. Away with the noise of your songs! I will not listen to the music of your harps. But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never failing stream!"

Rethinking "Church"
Do you ever get fed up with the religiousness of communion? When Jesus said "do this whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me" (1 Cor. 11.25) he was not instituting a religious ceremony but rather encouraging us to remember him every time we eat and drink together. As the church goes organic we will do a lot more eating and drinking with friends, neighbours and strangers because that is where real community is built.

Do you ever get fed up with meetings? How often do we hear it quoted from the Bible "do not give up meeting together" as the reason for attending the Sunday meeting every week or to coax you to join a small group or attend the latest series of special meetings? Biblical theology makes it very clear that it is impossible to 'go to church' - when anyone aligns their life with Jesus Christ they are initiated into his community: the church (1 Cor.12.13). As the church goes organic people will stop 'going to church' and start being the church 24 hours a day 7 days a week.

Do you ever get fed up with paying your church tax? Why should we be disempowered by centralised giving mechanisms? As the church goes organic it will empower individuals and households to do such things as: give to those in the community in hardship, save up and buy a set of text books for a local school, support facilitators of the Christian community or put aside money in case of a natural disaster.

Do you ever get fed up with singing the songs? Within the evangelical, charismatic and Pentecostal traditions of the church, which many of us have grown up in and love - worship has been reduced to the singing of hymns and songs. Our language of 'lets worship' gives us away - if we don't mean it, then lets not say it. As the church goes organic it will encounter God in the whole of life as we offer ourselves as living sacrifices to God (Rom.12.1).

Make it happen
Perhaps you, like me, feel like this but you dare not say anything because you know you might get branded as 'unsound'. As the Director General of the BBC, Greg Dyke says 'lets cut the crap and make it happen'! Everything you have called Church call it congregation and everyone you have called a Church leader call them a congregational leader. As an organic community of the followers of Jesus Christ we are all the church and leaders of it in every sector of society. Let's take the name church upon ourselves because we are the church - it does not exist outside of us. As a friend of mine says: 'whoever gets the name church, wins'.

Let's put a stop to our pre-occupation with meetings and lets rediscover organic community. Let's grow a faith that is meaningful for life, for our workplace, for our households and for our neighbourhoods. These are the places where we spend our time. These are the arenas where our faith needs to work rather than confining our faith to a few hours a week in a meeting. Let's encourage our congregational leaders to reinvent themselves to coach and facilitate an organic grassroots movement of the followers of Jesus Christ.

We must expect that like every new church movement in history this groundswell (which I do not want to name) will not be recognised as a valid form of church by the majority. However let's be different from every other new church movement in history and say this is just another way of being and doing church rather than 'the way' and thereby condemning everyone else.

Let's stop taking the additives and preservatives and let rot and die what is meant to rot and die and see something organic begin.

Matt Bird is Director of Joshua Generation a charity developing leaders to transform society, a strategic management consultant, author Christian Book of the Year 2002 'Manifesto for life' and Councillor for the London Borough of Merton.

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