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The journey from legacy church to simple/organic/house church

Death Valley

Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps (Creative Commons)

When existing Christians get involved in simple/organic church life they have to go through a process that our friend Wolfgang Simson calls "Death Valley."

It's as though someone on the mountain top of legacy church can see the mountain top of simple/organic church in the distance, and they assume that they can go straight from one mountain top to the other. What they don't realize is that is a valley between the two–Death Valley. In order to experience what simple church represents, people who have been Christians for any length of time have to die to some of the very good things that legacy church represents:

  • Professionally led worship–in simple church you are lucky to have an out-of-tune guitar.
  • Well prepared talks–there's no pastor who can spend hours preparing a stimulating sermon. Everyone takes part in an interactive discussion.
  • Children and teens ministry–you can't just drop your kids off at Sunday School to have an hour free from distractions.
  • Someone else to make all the decisions–in simple/organic church, everyone is involved.
Dying to these things is not quick. It's a process… a painful process.
Some people get part way through the process and find it too hard. They feel guilty on Sunday mornings when they don't have to get up for church. They miss the exuberant worship and praise.
They go back to their legacy church.
But for those who press through to simple/organic, it is worth it for
  • The sense of community–people are very involved in each other's lives
  • Everyone can participate–not just a few in  leadership. 
  • The Holy Spirit is in charge of the times together (unless you are doing "Honey, I shrunk the church!"
  • Freedom from religious expectations and traditions
  • It's easier to involve not-yet-believers
Where are you on this journey?

15 replies on “The journey from legacy church to simple/organic/house church”

First thanks for all you are doing to encourage others on this journey. It is comforting to know there are others God is leading in similar paths… even though distance separates us. I recently read Small is Big and was shocked by how much I agreed with what you had to say (I don’t find many people I agree with lately. :). The big difference is that you guys are living it, I’ve just been learning it all theoretically so far… but trust God is moving us soon.
I’m still somewhere on the cliffs of the legacy mountain. I have died to most of the stuff on your list. The professional worship, preaching and programs no longer have the same pull for me. But I am still hanging on to the relationships I have with others in the legacy church. My desire is to find the mutual edification of simple relational church. My fear is that the death valley for us may involve the death of some relationships that get burned as people in legacy church don’t understand our shift in commitment to programs and supporting the old structures. But I’m not sure what God has planned for us in terms of our future in the legacy church. So far we are seeking to see Christ’s church within the old church and beyond. I seek to build kingdom relationships and work toward greater involvement in the task of disciple-making. If I can start there, then I trust I can let God worry about building His church.

From a recent email I sent out about NOT?
Are you left a little confused by Y NOT?
I mean, after all, all you thought about the church, and how you were led to believe it functions is being radically challenged, and overhauled at Y NOT?
Building large church buildings – gone.
The same pastor in the pulpit week after week, year after year, decade after decade – gone.
Communion with a sip of juice and a piece of cracker – gone.
The same Sunday school teacher ad nausea – gone.
Tithing under dead tithing laws with the false promise you’ll be blessed – gone.
Sitting as a dormant spectator, and mindless drone in a row of noses looking into the back of someone’s head – gone.
Listening to a three point outlined lecture you’ll forget before you get home – gone.
Turning it over to a “professional” minister to let him do it, and therefore building spiritual co-dependency – gone.
That’s a radical list of changes. By the way, the word radical means to get to the root of something. In that vein, yes, Y NOT? is radical.
Here’s what Y NOT? isn’t.
It’s not a dream beckoning you to strive for and own a big house, fancy cars, or go on luxurious and exotic vacations. Those things in and of themselves are not bad things. It’s just that isn’t the dream at Y NOT?
The dream at Y NOT? is to grow in Christ, and help others do the same. This comes by releasing your rights to God, and totally surrendering to Him.
The dream at Y NOT? is not to accumulate all you can for yourself, but be willing to live a modest lifestyle, and sacrificially give to others.
The product at Y NOT? is not so much what is offered off the web site as it is the freedom and life of Christ pouring in, through, and out of our lives.
Hope that helps to clear up any confusion you may have held about Y NOT?

I don’t think we were as ready to give up those 4 features of legacy church. That’s why after 2 years people had had enough.
Love the phrase “Honey I shrunk the church” – so many groups are run as mini Sunday morning services!

The sense of community during my Church’s worship is amazing. We not only consider those who are close to us to be in a covenant, familial relationship with ourselves, but the entire body of Christ, both on earth and in Heaven.
Everyone participates, it’s really lovely. We all pray together, we hear the Scriptures together, we pray for one another.
The Holy Spirit is a vital part of our worship.
I don’t understand the ‘freedom from religious expectations’ – I have an expectation that every time I go to Church I will be a part of something quite religious and not secular. The expectation is that God will be glorified and that His people will be made more like Him.
I do not belong to an ‘organic’ or ‘simple’ Church, however. I’m Catholic.

Josh, It’s great that you are so fulfilled in your church. I would never advocate that anyone who is satisfied with what they are involved in would try and change. God is at work in all kinds of churches–mega-, legacy, denominational. And it’s certainly not about the building.
By religious expectations, I mean the pressure to behave a certain way. Maybe you don’t have it within your Catholic heritage, but I certainly did. I was expected to be at all the meetings, to do or not do certain things. An example might be our daughter who the Lord led to work in a bar downtown. Now most churches would frown on such behavior, but the Lord used her willingness to do this to lead several people to become Christians.

Jon, I hope you don’t lose those relationships. A great example is a guy called Dan Hubbell is Winsboro, Tx. The Lord led him to leave the legacy church some years ago, and although initially relationships were broken, he persevered in just loving people, and now all the churches in the city work together in a way that I’ve not come across elsewhere. All the churches get together to send him out on mission trips etc and they all share each other’s pulpits.
God delights to answer our prayers for unity (John 17)

It is hard. Two days ago someone I had invited to home church at our house stole from me. THAT never happened at my old ‘normal’ church. With God’s grace we will keep going…but it certainly is not my flesh’s will this morning.

Trying, that’s painful. Is there a way you can contact the person and tell them you freely give them whatever it is they stole and ask if there’s anything else they need? I suspect that’s what Jesus would do. It would be interesting to see their response.

Such wise advice….so painful to my flesh, but I’ll try it. I will also make sure next home church any “tempting” items are outta sight. I’m learning 🙂

Good things happening on the ‘home church theft front” ;D one of the girls involved told her foster mother she now believes, I took her to lunch last week and the other two girls who were involved ‘happened’ (the Lord….) to walk by our cafe, so we invited them to join us too. I’m excited to see what God is up to.

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