Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian CommunitiesFrank ViolaDavid C Cook / 2009 / Trade Paperback$13.49 Retail:5 Stars Out Of 5 5 Reviews
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NeilSafford, AZAge: 55-65Gender: Male5 Stars Out Of 5A much more practical introduction to community churches that are not institutionalJuly 21, 2019NeilSafford, AZAge: 55-65Gender: MaleQuality: 1Value: 2Meets Expectations: 4Frank Viola's "Finding Organic Church" is different than the typical house-churching book. Viola's "organic church" is basically a house-church but not strictly. Viola is most interested in escaping the religion-mill (my term) institutional church and reaching back to the kind of church that made up New Testament Christianity. Well. All the churches of the New Testament were house churches. He calls that kind of church "organic." What he means has to do with what happens when the Christians in a town meet. There is no "order of worship" and there is not a pastor or leader who is in charge of what comes up next.
This pursuit of organic church has a lot in common with modern churches of Christ. Churches of Christ rarely have an "order of worship;" but larger congregations definitely use such "orders." More typically, the song leader is in charge of the order of worship. He is not a presiding pastor; but he is nevertheless in charge of the order. Viola's organic church does not promote a single song leader. His description of church singing reminds me of the 1970's teen devotionals that I remember. If you wanted to sing a song, you started it and everybody joined in. The next song will be started by someone else. Incidentally, Viola strongly promotes acappella singing. He says that if a church insists on adding instruments, they should get comfortable with their song repertoire for a year or so before adding instruments. Furthermore, he strongly suggests, the singing should lead the instruments... not the other way around.
He takes issue with the restoration approach that sees the New Testament church as a blueprint of how to do church. He does not believe that the New Testament church should be followed in a mechanical way but rather in an organic way. He believes the community features should be embraced but the mechanics should not attract focus.
Viola is not interested in deliberately keeping the size of the organic churches small. He believes a church can thrive even if its numbers get a bit on the high side. This aspect of Viola's organic church marks the most obvious difference he has with the usual house-church concept I have seen in the house-church books so far. Viola is against the "rapid multiplication" motive that many authors promote. He does not believe churches should get in a hurry to start new churches. Instead, churches should focus on developing a family culture that can last. Churches should establish a very strong foundation of Christ.
What I have seen in the more popular motives for house-churching is a strong growth interest. They really are interested in rapid spin-off congregations. The churches are not encouraged to develop a durable family culture built upon Christ. Instead, in mainstream house-churching, develop leaders that can lead new churches within a year. Viola, on the other hand, believes in the apostolic model in which itinerate preachers help a church start of on the right footing, get the basics in place and then move on to the next mission opportunity. To put it in direct terms, a mission-minded apostle comes to town and helps a church get started and then moves on, leaving the new church to fend for itself... and grow into a congregation that properly expresses the combined personalities of every member.
I have seen several promotions of something called the "Five Fold Ministry." It is a movement that seeks out people who have been gifted with something in the list at Ephesians 4:11-13. Those five ministries are pastor, prophet, apostle, teacher and evangelist (Wolfgang Simson, "The HouseChurch Book," Barna, 2009, 61-70). The idea is to hurry up and find people with these gifts and to help them to grow their giftings so they can lead a new spin-off church. Viola is critical of this approach. Rapid multiplication is not a good motive for a church, he says (p. 141).
I think I am starting to understand why the house church movement is attracting former leaders of the mega-church movement. The goal of a mega-church is to attract already existing Christians to your church. The goal of taking Christ to the world is way down the list of priorities of a mega-church. On the other hand, the house-church movements in China and India are indeed taking Christ to their neighbors in massive numbers. I think the ex-mega-church leaders are wanting to import the house-church successes of China and India into the United States. They really have difficulty seeing past numbers to see real Christian discipleship. They want to hurry-up and multiply.
Viola observes that the churches that received New Testament letters from Paul, James, Peter and John were really small by modern standards. They were all house churches with respective memberships of fewer than twenty. This observation really shakes my view of those churches. For example, the usual way I have read 1 Corinthians 14 is in a setting of an average auditorium full of pews with an isle up the middle and a pulpit in the front. Nope. It was actually in the context of somebody's house. It makes my brain hurt!
There is a subtle difference between the mainstream house-church model and Viola's organic church. The mainstream model starts with one or two people who start a church in some context, like a neighborhood, a coffee shop or a restaurant. The basis is something that everybody has in common. It may be made up of the employees in a department in a business. In Viola's organic church, the assumption seems to be that the church is made up of Christians who have come out of institutional church. That may be the reason for his book. A group of Christians who have recently come out of institutional church have a lot to un-learn. There is no use in setting an aggressive timetable.
My harshest criticism for this book is that it is poorly made. The pages began to fall out immediately. It will not stand up to a second read.
ChuckMacomb, ILAge: 55-65Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Very unique approach in doing churchJuly 20, 2012ChuckMacomb, ILAge: 55-65Gender: maleQuality: 5Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5Great Book! I love the non-traditional approach!! I think the core values of inter-personal growth is desperately needed in the American church. We have definitely produced a spectator-performer model of doing church. Sad
JamesAge: 25-34Gender: male5 Stars Out Of 5Thought provoking and informativeMay 16, 2011JamesAge: 25-34Gender: maleQuality: 3Value: 5Meets Expectations: 5A family member had a copy of Viola's "Pagan Christianity" kicking around his library. The title caught my eye so I borrowed it and read it. I was so intrigued that I wanted to read more, so I purchased "Finding Organic Church."
"Finding Organic Church" first lays out a biblical case for why organic churches are the best way to meet as a church, and explains what exactly an "organic" church is. A good deal of the book is focused on the role of a church planter, what queues we can get for that job from the New Testament, and how that role ought to look today. Finally, the book covers many practical details about life in a new organic church.
Viola's case is well thought out, backed up soundly by Scripture, and humbly stated. This is not the book of some charismatic leader peddling a latest-greatest fad to naive Christians. The book is challenging because it asks Christians to give up much of what they know as "church," but it offers a tested and Biblical place to land for those willing to take the leap.
Anthony Verderame5 Stars Out Of 5August 21, 2010Anthony VerderameThis is simply fantastic. If a person has longed for living in the community of the saints but have yet to experience it, then this is a MUST.
Ann Thomas5 Stars Out Of 5September 11, 2009Ann ThomasI predict that this book will be for our time and future what Roland Allen's Missionary Methods was for his time and future. The first two parts are a very thorough presentation of how church planting was done in the early church focusing on four key models. It's extremely detailed and packs together not only biblical principles and references but the backing of scholars and practitioners. Every church planter and leader would value this part. The last two parts are for every person who wants to get involved in a more organic form of church. Questions like how do you find others who have the same desire for church in your city, what are the best ways to get started, what are the differences between house church and organic church, the difference between restoration and revolution, how does a new church reach out, and the endless list of nagging questions like what do you do with the children, what about finances and giving, what about having a creed, how do the gifts operate, how do organic churches develop, what are the illnesses they are prone to contracting and the treatments, what are the seasons they will pass through, and many more on the ground questions. There's also a great section for pastors who want to make the switch from institional to organic with practical advice and another for people who feel a call to planting churches.This is a great follow to all of Viola's other books on church. It answers the why, when, and how questions. I also appreciated how the author didn't sound like a know it all, but someone who by trial, error, mistakes, and successes looks back on many years of experience and draws out conclusions, advice, and suggestions.
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