If you happen to be one of the few who follow my blog you might be wondering, “where in the world is this cat coming from?” One day I’m writing about anarcho-communism and radicial unionism, the next I’m putting down my thoughts about Jesus Christ and Christianity. Well, if you’re wondering whether there is a connection between these two subjects check out my article, “The Anarchy of Christianity” http://seekingcommunity.wordpress.com/2013/01/16/the-anarchy-of-christianity/ . However, on a personal note I come from a Christian background. I’ve had experience in Christianity since the age of 15 and about 5 years ago I found myself moving into, “the organic church” stream.
I had become disillusioned with organized religion and the glaring chasm between its practice and the teachings of Jesus. Personally, I found that I could not live up to the standards that others, and myself, put on me. Spiritually, I could no longer ignore the contradiction between what was preached and what was practiced. I realized that Jesus was “outside of the camp” and I was willing to follow him outside of it. I have always been fond of Jesus of Nazareth. Even to this day I would say that he has influenced me more than any other person. So, into the organic church movement I went. My experience in it was similar to my experience in organized Christianity. It was a mix of good and bad (as all things will be to one degree or another). But at the end of the day it did not satisfy the deep longing in my heart for prefigurative, relevant community.
In this article I will quickly share a few critiques of the “organic church” movement that might be of some value to those who are still in it. I think the biggest hole in the organic church movement is on the political level. What do I mean by this? Well, in the book of Revelation there are two Beasts who stand in opposition to the Messianic Community. The first beast comes out of the sea and represents “the State”. The second beast comes out of the land and represents “the Religious System.” The organic church movement made bold strides in rejecting the second beast, the beast of organized religion. But I soon found that the first beast,the worship of the state, was either ignored or openly accepted. Let me explain.
It was a badge of pride to say, “I hate organized Christianity. I have thrown off the yoke of religion.” Yet, many in the organic church movement still hold on fiercely to patriotism, militarism, and state sanctioned murder in the form of capital punishment. That ancient boldness and clarity of vision that caused multitudes of believers to reject the worship of Caesar and Rome has not been recovered in the modern organic church movement. Some openly support patriotism, while many others simply ignore the issue. There is a common mantra that says, “Jesus is all that matters.” Well, obviously there has to be something deeper than mere allegiance to such a statement. Many in organized churches would subscribe to that statement, but obviously those in the organic church are looking for something other than what can be found in the denominations. If the organic church movement uses such a statement to remain blind to the destructive presence of the first beast they are more than welcome to. But the movement will remain in obscurity and irrelevance. Or, worse it will just be another impotent, popular movement of Christendom.
Secondly, the organic church movement has not rejected the economic system of Babylon. Many speak of the religious aspect of Babylon as recorded in Revelation 17- the Great Harlot. But she has a political and economic aspect recorded in Revelation 18. She buys and sells and becomes rich through the buying and selling of “human beings”. It is an exploitative market economy. This aspect is closely tied to the first Beast. It is no suprise that those who refuse to reject the first Beast, the revered state, also refuse to reject its economic system of human exploitation. But if the organic church movement is going to regain the pristine power of the first century church they speak so much of, then they must reject the First Beast and the Babylonian system of economics. The Book of Acts and the writings of Paul clearly contrast the economics of the Kingdom with the economics of Babylon. In the first Church the believers had “all things in common.” For those who point out that no other churches practiced that, then let me suggest Paul’s economics, “you should supply their lack, so that when you are in lack they may supply you with their abundance. As it is written, he that gathered little lacked nothing, and he that gathered much had nothing left over.”
In essence, Christian Community is not simply a few meetings a week consisting of those disgruntled with organized religion. Nor is it a few meetings a week where believers simply speak high sounding messages to one another about Jesus and who they are in Christ. Christian Community is a geniune community of people sharing their lives together- United by the Spirit and Message of Jesus Christ. It should produce all the components of a community- spiritual, economic, political, and social. When I say political I do not mean entrenchment in a political party or system. I mean being able to interpret and speak to political issues under the influence of the Spirit of Christ. To be relevant to the struggles and issues of the outside community.
My final critique of the organic church movement has to do with the leadership. Personally, most cats I’ve come in contact with are cool. But for the most part they have not wrought deliverance in the earth. They have brought forth wind. Many of them tried, and started out on the right path. But, hell, who doesn’t want to make a nice living and be recognized for their gifts? Notwithstanding, those who feel themselves to be leaders in the Messianic Community should be the greatest of servants.
I have found one man (and i’m sure there are more) who is a genuine apostle. He would probably laugh if he were in the room right now and tell me to delete that statement. No, I don’t see everything as he does theologically. But in practice he gives his time, heart, and energy to the churches and to the members who compose it. He travels hundreds of miles a week in a small car to visit local gatherings of believers. He puts as much stock in sitting around a dinner table as he does in delivering a message. He is a true worker. But you don’t know who he is. He hasn’t written a book and he doesn’t speak at exciting conferences on the beach.
He doesn’t ask for money or demand a certain amount for his visit. He doesn’t sweep in for a two day conference to present a “glorious vision of Jesus” only to leave. He will sleep on a blow up mattress and sip coffee with you into the late hours. The Organic Church movement needs leaders such as this if they want to be relevant and build genuine healthy groups of believers. But leaders alone cannot be blamed. The people themselves must desire this community. They all must be willing to be leaders in the Ecclesia. They must long for a life together that transcends one or two weekly meetings, patriotism, and the idol of “the nuclear family.”
Let me hit on the nuclear family quickly. America has nurtured the ideology of independence and the sacredness of “the nuclear family.” Now, let me be clear. Families should have boundaries and people should care for their families. Don’t misunderstand me. But the nuclear family should be the training ground for loving others as brothers and sisters. It should be the source of a spring that gushes out to others in our community. It should not be a shut up well that is available only to those who make up or “nuclear family”. The Christian Community should be our family. The next phase, or training ground, of practicing love. And that, in turn, should spill out to the greater community until we are able to truly recognize all people as brothers and sisters and are able to recongize Jesus in the very least in our society.
I will stop there. My time in the organic church movement ended about a year and a half ago. It was a good time and opened me up to new ideas and dreams. But ultimately it turned out to be a lot of talk and very little practice. And no wonder. We are busy people who are entrenched in a system highly incompatible and hostile to genuine Christian Community. But, the need for this community remains. Perhaps those who talk will be daring enough to practice. Willing to trust one another instead of some leader above them. Willing to take the chance of treating one another as family. And daring enough to take the next step. Maybe this community is bigger and different than we first considered. I’ll leave that up to you to decide.