My recent book readings — Finding Organic Church by Frank Viola.
This book has really revolutionized my thinking of what church really is, and how we are to begin and continue living out the organic church that we are called to live in and through. Here is one thought came to me just a few moments ago riding home from my local Tim Hortons (its not a coffee shop, friends. It’s a donut shop with coffee — therefore, bad coffee, but the only place I’ve got in this city of Cross Lanes).
I’ve been told several times from local churches leadership something really interesting.
I asked them why the church is not ministering directly to the poor in our area, and why they continue to start programs that just are working within the walls of one building, and within the walls of the people that enter the door.
Then they told me, “Not everyone is “called” to work with the poor. People have different gifts, and we are to live out those different gifts.”
I have always been really upset by that idea, and didn’t have anything really so say back at the time, or I did, and they wouldn’t listen.
I’ve also been told, “That is why we have deacons. Because when the early church was running, Paul appointed 7 people to work with the poor. You know, when Paul was approached and asked, “There are these widows that need help. Why are you not helping them?” And he said, appoint 7 people to work with them.” Therefore, call them deacons, and they will minister to the poor. Nope.
Paul wasn’t saying, “Seven people should minister to the poor directly, not the whole body of Christ.” But he was saying, “My job is here, being an apostle and encouraging the body of Christ to be and live what God has called them to be. Appoint 7 people (not just men, women as well) to help these SPECIFIC widows.” He was putting 7 people in direct connection with these widows, to work with them, have relationship with them, and love them unconditionally, providing them with anything they’d need physically, and giving them the love of Christ and guiding them to healing and to a new life of peace and servanthood to others. 7 specific people. But he wasn’t saying just these 7 to all the poor in that area.
It is a very misunderstood thing, ministry to the poor. When people think of working with the poor, they think of starting a homeless shelter, or picking a random homeless dude up, and letting him live in your house, or other things… I mean, you can very well do these things, and it’s amazing. But thats not ministry to the poor completely.
Here is what ministry to the poor is…
“For I was hungry, and you have me something to eat. I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink. I was a stranger and you invited me in. I need clothes and you clothed me. I was sick and you looked after me. I was in prison and you came to visit me.”
What was said before that –
“Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world.”
– Matthew 25:34-36
First, when someone needs anything, give it to them. And it isn’t just physical needs. It is spiritual as well. It’s both. I mean, Jesus spoke metaphorically most of the time he was telling people of himself and what they are to do. So when he said, “I give you food. Or I give you water that will take your thirst away for eternity.” He was talking of spiritual needs. But that doesn’t exclude the intentional giving of physical needs. Because one of the biggest things that matters when loving and giving to the poor is starting with physical needs they may have, and then as a result of the love you show them physically and through intentional relationships, they want to know why, and you will give them the spiritual food that lasts forever. And thats the beauty of it.
Most of the time, people haven’t experienced true love, especially in our culture and time. Love that is unconditional, and has nothing to do with the person who is giving love, but everything to do with the person receiving it. And when they experience true love through physical means, then they will understand the love of Christ, because you have shown it to them through what you could give them physically and through relationship.
So, don’t just go out and tell people, “Jesus loves you. You need him. Love him back, and invite him in your heart. Say this prayer with me. If you don’t, you won’t be with him forever :(.” Ridiculous.
But instead, love with actions first, then, when they need it most, show them love through words, words of encouragement, wisdom, love, etc… And then they will ask you, why are you here, and why do you love me so much? And you will say with such grace, gentleness, passion, and possibly with tears in your eyes, “Because God showed me love that has changed my life. And I just want to show you the same love.”
That other part, to finish this all up, where Christ said, ”Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world”… He was saying this before he said the other things that we are supposed to do. I mean, think about it, “take your INHERITANCE the KINGDOM prepared for YOU since the CREATION OF THE WORLD.
Inheritance– Just like Abraham has his inheritance, which was the people of Israel, we have an inheritance with those that we love and direct to Love (Christ).
Kingdom-- why would he say this if it didn’t have EVERYTHING to do with what you do for those in need and the love you show to the world.
Before Creation– This was (and IS) our CALLING before time began, to minister to the poor and love the world unconditionally and show them the way.
Get this– Since before time, we were called to live out the Kingdom — by feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, giving water to those who are thirsty, and visiting those who are in prison, or, as James 1:27 says, “Visiting the orphans and the widows.“
Come on, get it now? It’s so real, and true, and BEAUTIFUL. God help us.
So, that was all that went through my mind in literally less than a minute in the car, all written out for you to read :)
So tonight I started a new book, a book that inspires me down to the core bone of my being. These kinds of books I crave, and I don’t know how. The kind that inspires you and encourages you to be the person God has called you to be. I love to read books with a lot of controversy, especially books controversial within the Christian Community… I don’t believe this one will be, it is just a book full of truths about what the Church should look like, a Church that is from the New Testament, but “organic”, raw, back to the original.
Here is what Frank Viola means by “Organic Church” as it is explained in the book:
By organic church, I mean a church that is born out of spiritual life instead of being constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grassroots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (as opposed to pastor-to-pew services), nonhierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functioning Leader and Head of the gathering.
As he continues, he states:
By contrast, whenever we sin-scarred mortals try to create a church the same way we would start a business, we are defying the organic nature of church life. An organic church is one that is naturally produced when a group of people has encountered Jesus Christ in reality (external ecclesiastical props being unnecessary) and the DNA of the church is free to work without hindrance. It’s the difference between standing in front of a fan and standing outdoors on a windy day.
To summarize, an organic church is not a theater with a script. It’s a lifestyle – an authentic journey with the Lord Jesus and His disciples.
The different between organic churches and nonorganic churches is the difference between General Motors and a vegetable garden. One is founded by humans, the other is birthed by God. One is artificial, the other is living.
For this reason, church planters are like farmers and midwives.
I am so exited to read the rest of the book. By what I have already read, I recommend highly to read this book, contemplate the words written, and ask God to enlighten you further. I will discuss my thoughts more on this later, when I read more. I’ll let you know what I agree with and what I don’t, and I hope you will respond and let me know what you think.