To transition or not to transition: that is the question

As the simple/organic movement becomes more mainstream, and the financial trends force more and more traditional churches to cut back economically, then many churches are asking the question: should we transition our legacy church into a network of simple/organic churches?

Church2
Photo credit: Dan4th (Creative Commons)

Every church needs to hear from the Lord about their specific situation, but the next few posts will look at some of the pros and cons of this step and some other potential alternatives.

Jesus described some principles that speak into this situation when he gave the parable about putting new wine into old wineskins.

And no one puts new wine into old wineskins. For the new wine would burst the wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. New wine must be stored in new wineskins. But no one who drinks the old wine seems to want the new wine. ‘The old is just fine,’ they say. (Luke 5:36-39)

Jesus cared about the wine, and therefore he had concern for the wineskins. Similarly he cares about the people in our churches, and therefore he cares about our structures. Jesus said that if people have tasted the old wine, they won’t want the new, and this is true when it comes to transitioning churches too. Many people are comfortable with the old and familiar ways of doing things, and asking them to change is going to rock their world so much they may leave. They didn’t sign up for simple/organic church and they aren’t going to change their minds quickly.

There are now many examples of churches that have successfully transitioned. We’ll examine the following topics over the next few posts.

  • Why might a church consider transitioning? Pros and cons
  • What lessons can we learn from those who have transitioned successfully?
  • Are there alternatives to transitioning that still accomplish the same goals?

I’d love to hear some of your examples.

 

 

 

When a new wineskin is not enough

Wineskin
Photo credit  KOREphotos (Creative Commons)

Jesus said that new wine needs new wineskins (Luke 5:36-40). A new wineskin is only needed if there is new wine. If simple/organic church is like a new wineskin, what is the new wine? Is there something about the life we have together in Christ that needs a new container, that would burst an old wineskin?

This is part of a series on how to start simple/organic/house churches.  Changing the structure of church gains nothing unless it is a response to something that Jesus is doing which wouldn't be easy to contain within the old structures. (If you read the story in Luke 5 carefully, it is obvious that Jesus cares about the old structures and the old wine too.) There's no point in doing church as we've always known it within the four walls of our homes rather than in a special building.

Many people take Matthew 18:18-20 as the basic building block of church.

Again I say to you that if two of you agree on earth concerning anything that they ask, it will be done for them by My Father in heaven.  For where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them (KJV).

Jesus "in the midst" is what church is all about. An individual has Jesus within. Corporately, we have Jesus among us. 

People often contact us: "We'd like to get to know you and learn from you."

We look forward to such times. But what sometimes happens is that they start talking to us as soon as they arrive and barely pause for breath the entire time they are here. They have not listened to us; they have not gotten to know us.

Church can be that way–even house church. We have our time together all planned out. We sing songs, pray, fellowship, learn from the Word. But there's no pause to listen to Jesus. The fact that Jesus is in the midst of us barely registers.

The Christian walk is all about relationship with Jesus. John 17:3 says,  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.

We know about personal intimacy with Christ, but there can be a corporate intimacy, too, when as a body of his disciples, we develop a deeper and more intimate relationship with Jesus.  When everything we do, including mission, including our times together, is a response to what Jesus says to us, that's the new wine.