I've been on a journey of discovering what many call Organic Church for several months now. I have attended different home fellowships and 'church' gatherings all while reading Frank Viola's newest book, 'Finding Organic Church'. After coming out of legalism, I have been very skeptical of any 'church'. I have come to a very different perspective on what church really is and means. The true 'church' is really called Ekklesia, which actually means 'assembly' in English. After many years of watching organized religion I don't feel comfortable with what the world views as 'the church'. After reading Frank's book and keeping up with his blog, 'Reimagining Church', I can see that he feels the same way. I personally prefer to say Ekklesia (on the largest scale) or Assembly, at times possibly Congregation, for those who are meeting locally.
In 'Finding Organic Church', I learned that there are things to look for when seeking an organic expression of the local Ekklesia. Frank shares his insight, from personal experience over 21 years on what he has seen, what he feels is uplifting, and what he has seen that has not been. While reading this book I did not feel as though he was being negative at all, just informative on what positive things to look for, while at the same time sharing what could potentially be destructive. He shares what he has discerned over the years and I have seen a lot of that, already, in the last few months.
As a book reviewer I want to let you know that I read this book while being on this very journey. Some reviewers might be reading and reviewing this book while remaining in the organized religion of man and find it either refreshing or offensive. I share my feelings about this book as one who is optimistic and on this same road. After coming out of organized religion, coupled with a strict form of legalism, I have more good, than objectionable, to say about 'Finding Organic Church'. My review is candid and honest.
Frank presents his experience in four parts consisting of 24 different sections. Parts one and two are very refreshing to my soul. He guides you through what seemed to be the original expression of the local assemblies and how to look for those same characteristics in this modern world of religion. I echo him in saying, from my own words inspired from his writing, that when Christ lives in you and you are in him, he will manifest naturally in your life and in the local assembly. This Organic Church is a place where you should not see fake Christianity or any form of churchianity. However, no assembly is perfect. But Frank gives a clear representation of what it should look like. Even though he shares what characteristics to look for, always rely upon God's Holy Spirit to give you the discernment you need in finding a local assembly to gather with for worship, prayer, study, and fellowship.
I want to be honest with you about section three. Frank shares practical helps in keeping your assembly organized and since I recently came out of an organized legalistic church I cringed through the entire section. The effects of the organized religion I was in has left me still feeling rather battered. His ideas in this section seem to be coming from a heart that intends to share and give tips, but I personally feel that your local assembly needs to decide whether or not you want to apply them. I would imagine Frank would say the same thing, hopefully he'll read this and clarify that part. I believe that as the assembly grows up together in Christ, that they will naturally follow the Lord's leading in coming together with ideas for singing, child care, etc. So I think Frank is simply sharing tips based on what he has seen work and not work. (Frank, please forgive me for not being able to say much more about this section.)
The last section shares valuable information that I personally feel is vital that everyone, who seeks Organic Church, must read. I think it's essential to guard yourselves and others from wolves and cult like leaders. After coming out of a cult I would never want to become involved in another one. I feel section four is of the utmost importance to read. I saw some pitfalls in that section that I have been guilty of when I first came out of organized religion. OUCH! (Frank, I received the correction) ;O)
Anyone who thinks they can get an organic church started without being in another established organic assembly for quiet some time first, must have a hole in their head. When you are looking for an assembly, be cautious! Don't allow yourselves to get caught up in a situation where there is a 'master of the meeting' who calls all the shots. Humility and meekness should be an obvious and consistent characteristic of a healthy local Ekklesia.
I highly recommend Frank's new book 'Finding Organic Church', even though he tells me 'From Eternity to Here' is his best yet. (It's on my wish list, by the way) I enjoy Frank's books and his blog, but I'm sure he would agree with me that it's not about the man, but the messages of keeping Christ in the center, that matters.
Other Links About Frank:
Frank on Twitter @FrankViola
Reimagining Church (Blog)
Sisterlisa is a homeschooling mom of four children and married to a ministry leader of a Rescue mission. She is the owner of Growing in Grace Magazine and Pix-O-Sphere.