House church Organic church Simple Church

What problems is the simple/organic movement facing?

Photo credit: Donna Grayson (Creative Commons)

Simple/organic church has become mainstream here in the United States. According to the statistics, although the rate of growth is slowing down, 3-5% of the adult population of this country now finds their primary form of fellowship within a home or similar context. While at most levels this is very encouraging, and God is doing some extraordinary things with very ordinary people, there are some definite pitfalls and disadvantages to becoming acceptable:

  • The terms, house church, simple church and organic church are popular. Groups of people are changing their names without changing their DNA. Home groups are becoming house churches with no discernible difference in lifestyle.
  • We've become a fashionable fad, the latest phenomenon in church statistics. People are hopping onto the bandwagon because they want to be part of the latest thing, not because God is leading them.
  • Many people meeting in homes are doing, "Honey I shrunk the church!" They've not yet begun the adventure of letting the Lord lead their times together.
  • Many churches meeting outside the four walls of traditional structures are comprised of people who have left their legacy church but have not yet found a missional emphasis. Until that happens, even though our numbers may increase by transfer growth, we'll be a movement without Kingdom momentum.
  • With some outstanding exceptions, we as a movement are still immature in terms of both finances and mission. Financially, we give generously to missions and benevolence, and most churches use less than 5% of their budget on internal needs, but we could have more strategic impact if we worked together on financial projects. In terms of missions, we have not yet fully understood what "simple/organic missions" will entail.

I believe God is working to fix these situations. There are more resources available than ever before; coaches are working across the spectrum to help produce healthy organic churches, and there is a greater understanding of what it means to be missional.

Do you see other problems too?


9 replies on “What problems is the simple/organic movement facing?”

It would certainly not be “mainstream” in Australia, though we have had house church movements since the days of Robert Banks in the 1970s.
“They’ve not yet begun the adventure of letting the Lord lead their times together.”
I’m sure this is true. But it isn’t as easy as it sounds, for many people at any rate. I have long been confused by the fact that some people see their prayers for healing regularly answered, many others rarely do. Some people seem confident they hear from God, and seem to get clear direction, many others have no such confidence and seem to get silence. In our group/house church, we have tried in many ways to allow the Spirit to lead, and I think it does happen to a degree and at times, but not to the extent that you envisage. I tentatively conclude that we need to to acknowledge our need of guidance and move forward with whatever we have, and accept whatever limitations we experience.
“people who have left their legacy church but have not yet found a missional emphasis”
I think missional emphasis is crucial, whether in traditional church or simple church. Again, it is difficult to maintain when people have busy lives, and if people are not all equally committed.
In Australia, in my limited experience, we are nowhere as far along the road as you guys are in the US.

Thoughts on “In terms of missions, we have not yet fully understood what ‘simple/organic missions’ will entail.” In the US the word “missions” usually implies the sending of missionaries or “mission teams” to other countries, and we are just beginning to learn that SHOULD NOT equal exporting Westernized Christianity. I believe our Father will continue to appoint and send western apostolic and prohetic workers, as well as evangelists, to help equip the church in other nations. When the opportunity comes to lend financial support to these workers, we should, and we MUST. But the word “missions” doesn’t need to be over-thought. Living Kingdom life together in community under His headship IS the mission. In our ministry, learning to live well together in Christ–with as many or as few as He sends for us to love and serve–IS the mission. As John Wesley claimed the world for his parish, so should we claim the world as our mission field. But we don’t have to take every inch of it…just love one person at a time to the fullest so that they in turn can take Christ to someone else.

I’ve been at this for ten years now. It’s come a long ways from when I first discovered it while working on my MBA; back then, it was “us v. them”, “traditional church is Babylon and we’re the only ones doing it right!” That mindset is shrinking, praise the Lord. BUT – a lot of groups are inwardly-focused, taking care of themselves. Which we need, but there’s a dying world out there that also needs Jesus, and needs Him expressed through His Body. And I still haven’t met a house church that really integrates the kids. Either the kids play around without ministry, sit down during the meetings and get bored, or are just not welcome there. This is personal to me, because I have a five-year-old, and the fellowship I’m a part of actually belongs to the third category. Still, I’d rather take the problems of house church than the lifeless drudgery and busyness of organized religion.

The kids/youth are my exact concern too. Our kids outnumber adults which I love, but we haven’t figured out how to balance their spiritual growth, and still attend to some of the adult’s issues which are often not for ‘little ears’. My oldest doesn’t want to attend anymore which is very difficult for us. Any suggestions?

UnkleE, it may not be mainstream now, but I’ll bet that somewhere along the line you’ll reach a tipping point. I was just chatting with a friend of mine in the UK. Up until very recently, the situation there was like the one you describe in Australia, but now, all of a sudden, there’s a burst of new life and people involved in organic church are finding each other. They are appearing everywhere from out of the woodwork. I’m more encouraged about the UK situation than I’ve been in many, many years.
Have you come across a little e-book I wrote on hearing God. There are several group activities I suggest in there that have made a huge difference to our home church in terms of listening to the Lord. (You can find it on the main page of–just scroll down). One of the most relevant ones was when we each went away individually and asked the Lord what he wanted to say to us as a group. Over 50% heard the same thing, expressed in different ways.

A couple of you have commented on the kids. The best example I am aware of is a network of churches that meets in a city about an hour from us that has a large range of kids. They include them in on anything possible. If a kid can read, then he can read the Scripture they are studying that day for everyone. All the kids lay hands on and pray for others with great maturity. They take active part in the worship including choosing the songs. Everything is geared towards them. But obviously at times things are over their heads. In that case they have someone take them out for more age-relevant activities.
The kids all grow up to be leaders.
I would ask the Lord how he wants you to include your kids. He knows each of them and can lead you clearly.

Leah, when I was referring to missions in this post, I meant it the way you assumed–a cross-cultural sending of people. I certainly agree with you that the last thing we want to do is export Western Christianity. That is a disaster!
However, I think that being missional at home is more than just living well together. It includes that, but I think experience shows that seldom leads to others finding the Lord on its own. We need to be active witnesses and ambassadors too.

If we want to missional in our DNA, why not right away pray for an unreached people group? Can we not teach how many people groups there are that still need to be reached and simply commit to pray for one. That’s minimal and not a lot to ask.

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