Having just experienced Threshold 2011 here in Orlando, I have come to the realization that what we have been doing in our local body is not really Organic Church - yet. Having been meeting together for the past 9 months now, what we have been doing is building community within the body - relationships, trust, fellowship and all that entails - including some ministry. We are a long ways from achieving what we need to become still, however.
When God first called me on this journey, I had little idea what all He was actually calling me to - after this weekend that has all changed. Having spent time with existing, rooted bodies I see what we have missed - God's Eternal Purpose. Last night (Saturday) Alan Levine spoke on Saul's Damascus road experience with Jesus. As many times as I have read this, been taught this and even taught this to others, never before has God allowed me to see myself as Saul. Allow me to explain.
I, like Saul, grew up in a "religious" family. We went to church ALL the time, we all had our own bibles, were well versed in how to use those bibles (We beat the high school kids in bible drill when we were in junior high). I knew the bible stories forward and backwards, have served as a youth minister, music minister, worship leader, deacon, elder, am a licensed minister, sang in the choir, served on numerous committees, been on mission trips to three separate continents outside the US - in short I was a "religious leader" with a set of references that would impress any of my grade school Sunday school teachers. At about this time last year, God made it clear to me that I was supposed to step out of the religious culture I had been a part of for the past 44 years and step into this great unknown which is not simple to explain. My religious peers at that time, I am certain thought I had stepped off of the deep end and some even tried to talk me out of it (obviously unsuccessfully). For the past year we have meet, in our home, having bible studies, having "meetings" where we were supposed to be talking about God, although sometimes never quite got around to Him. Many in our group still look to me as their leader, in spite of how often I tell them I am not. With this background and these present circumstances, it is hard keeping your feet on the ground.
I had taken up the banner for the demise of the institutional church, wanting to see all the captives set free and had begun a campaign (in our small group) to discredit the institution. I came to Threshold 2011 even with some thought in the back of my mind, that I might "learn" how to more effectively liberate those trapped in the institution.
But, that's not what happened...
On Saturday nite, this small, unassuming man of Jewish decent gets up to speak. He begins to share the story of Saul of Tarsus in a first person narrative. He listed his own pedigree, much as I have done in the previous paragraphs, and then described his own rage as a young man named Stephen stood up to the religious leaders of the day opposing their teachings and naming the Nazarene named Jesus as the Messiah. He told of his rage as he had Stephen hauled outside the city walls and had him stoned to death and then how he sought out permission to do the same in Damascus. On his way there he told of how this "second sun" appeared in the sky and literally knocked him off of his horse. He then told how Jesus appeared to him and called him be His witness and apostle and burned his pedigree with the same blinding flash that took his eyesight temporarily.
All of a sudden - BAM! I found myself thrown from my high horse and knocked to the ground by the Son. All I thought that I knew, even those things I have learned in the past two years became shadows in this blinding light before me. Jesus spoke to me (not audibly, but rather through His Spirit) and told me that He has not called me for the destruction of earthly institutions, but rather for the building up of a spiritual house/body/bride. I am Saul. God HAS called me to His work. Not to be a leader, but a servant and possibly a guide. Yet, how can I guide others to where I have not been myself? I can't.
I have and am requesting prayers from my brothers and peers whom I have aligned myself with this weekend - some who have been on this journey for years and others who are, like myself, just starting out. We all must step back and gain a clear vision of the call of God on our lives and see clearly God's Eternal Purpose for His church. If we miss this, we might as well quit now, because in reality - nothing else matters.
In Paul's own words in Philippians 3: "But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish so that I may gain Christ, and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, that I may know Him and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead. Not that I have already obtained it or have already become perfect, but I press on so that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus. Brethren, I do not regard myself as having laid hold of it yet; but one thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus."
Having said all that, I know now what we are doing in our local body is not "organic" church, but rather an organic church start. We are on our way to becoming organic even though we have not laid hold of it yet. I know now that pulling ourselves out of the institutional church and meeting in a home does not make us "organic". This distinction will be made in our hearts - not in our name. My heart is, now more than ever, to experience organic church life as God intended it be. Having talked with many who have and are experiencing this life just encourages me all the more. For Janine and I, there is no other option acceptable any longer.
May God knock all who read this off of their horse in such a way that YOU will pursue God to discover how you fit into His Eternal Purpose!