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Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities Paperback – September 1, 2009
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"Enlightenment Now: The Case for Reason, Science, Humanism, and Progress"
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The author of "Pagan Christianity?" (with George Barna), "Reimagining Church," and the bestselling "From Eternity to Here" has written a detailed manual on how to start and sustain an organic church. Everything from what to do with the children, to the developmental stages of church growth, to the diseases of an organic church and their cures are all covered in this comprehensive volume. Church planting principles for organic styled churches are packed together with the author's practical experience of living in and starting such churches. Each chapter is full of advice, outlining the unique problems that such churches will face and their solutions. Church planters of all types will benefit from this book as well as those wishing to explore an alternative way of church gathering. Christian Book Reviews, 2009 --Christian Book Reviews
A Book Long Overdue
In my opinion, this book has been long overdue. For many years we have needed a book that draws both from the New Testament and current practical experience in the areas of church planting and sustaining. Some very helpful books from the last century were Watchman Nee's "The Church and the Work" and Roland Allen's "Missionary Practices: St. Paul's or Ours'?" which are both quoted in Viola's new work. However, what has been needed is a fresh look with current real-life experience in this arena. We have needed someone to give modern day language within the context of what God is doing today. Frank Viola does just that in "Finding Organic Church." He skillfully draws from both the New Testament and over twenty-one years of experience planting and working with New Testament style churches. This piece of work will be invaluable to anyone who seeks to be involved in such churches and especially those who feel called by God to plant them. The book is divided into four main parts:
* Planting the Seed - Biblical Principles for Church Planting
* Tilling the Ground - Answers to Questions
* Cultivating the Soil - Practical Steps for Beginning
* Pulling the Weeds - Health and Development
In all of these parts, Viola takes the biological (organic) view of the church, as given in the New Testament, and weaves that theme into all of his points. Then he dives into each one of those areas that include: The need for itinerant church planters, God's way of planting churches, objections and questions, practical help for meetings and community life, the stages of an organic church, the seasons of an organic church, the diseases of an organic church, and how a worker cares for an organic church. This book thoroughly covers the topics of finding, planting, and sustaining organic expressions of the church. I cannot recommend this book highly enough. It is truly a treasure that is chock full of resources and helpful to anyone involved in or interested in God's way of planting and developing His church on the earth today. - Rebuilders, 2009 --Rebuilders, 2009
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It has been interesting and educational to read through these primary volumes of Viola and to see the traditional ecclesiology (study of the church) not just challenged and deconstructed but an alternative lain down that provides first a Biblically derived and defended perspective and then a culmination in this book of how to practically begin to build an Organic Church.
Appropriately enough, Viola outlines the growth of an Organic Church through the metaphor of a growing plant and divides his approach into four sections.
1. Planting the Seed.
2. Tilling the Ground.
3. Cultivating the Soil.
4. Pulling the Weeds.
Common criticisms of Viola that I've observed in the past usually focus upon the theme that he tears down without building; or that he advocates the "easy path" of walking away from the institutional church rather than the difficult work of reclaiming and restoring. Anyone who reads this book with a degree of objectivity will have to conclude that the path being advocated here is far from easy. The dropping of the walls that preclude sincere fellowship brings about a path that is bittersweet and Viola is not shy in relating from his experience and observation the multitude of pitfalls, difficulties and risk that a path like this invites.
As would be expected from Viola's past works, the writing is strong. Biblical references are plentiful and great pains are taken to place them into context. References to other writers as well abound with care taken to quote them at length and in context as well. Anecdotal stories from Viola's 20 plus years observing, participating and assisting organic churches to grow take things from a purely theoretical perspective and provide credibility to the statements made.
Make no mistake about it. This is a dangerous book. It flies in the face of much of what churches and clergy have assumed to be true about the body of Christ. It flies in the face of traditional hierarchical power structures. It is no easy path. There is little middle ground and as such, as is the case of much of Viola's prior works I expect it will generate no small amount of reaction, both positive and negative.
In terms though, of providing a biblical and hopeful path for the growing segment of Christendom that is observing the mess of institutions built upon the traditions of men, this offers hope that there is more than the occasional breeze of revival and reform to those either trapped within or unwilling to enter rote religion. There is life. There is a return, not to culture and traditions of old, but to the life of pure and undefiled relationship with Christ that can course again in a living organism of relationship, sacrificial love and a willingness to take a risk upon God and one's brothers and sisters in Christ.
This book is life-changing and worth reading again and again.
Because of this, I almost didn't bother to read the rest of the book. That would have been a mistake, because Frank does give some great tips toward the last third of the book. (I'm going to read the middle of the book soon--I promise.) These tips are for doing what he calls "laying the groundwork" for an organic church. Our group has been reading through these last chapters of the book together, and the reaction has been positive. Not everyone agrees with everything, but we have been able to come to a consensus on everything so far.
Many of the things he says are very practical, much of it common-sense logistical advice that everyone should follow and probably would have done in any case (but not following would certainly put a damper on things--like keeping the bathroom clean and making sure the potluck dinner consists of a mix of different foods instead of accidentally being all, say, mashed potatoes. Oops!) I really liked the section on music, and I think reading it helped some of our more musically inclined people to let go of the idea of leading the music.
I would say absolutely do not JUST read the book. We recently attended a conference on organic church given by the author and several co-workers. I was surprised to learn that doing organic church requires planning. From reading the available literature, all of the members of our group had come to the conclusion that the author decried planning, so we had been trying to wait for the Spirit to tell us what to do. (We were pretty much about to give up on that notion--we're not THAT dumb--just a little dumb.) Well, the author does plan--he is against liturgy and prescribed order of service and a clergy class running things, but to my surprise, he isn't against planning. Obviously, we had missed something. I share this here because it seems to me that if we all missed it, others may have missed it as well.
So yes, get the book. Don't be discouraged by the first part, and don't take it as your only authority. Go to one of the conferences. There should be one somewhere near you in the next year, and it's a must. And remember that God will do something unique in your group, so don't consider Frank's words to be law--I'm sure he wouldn't like that. Look for the meaning he's trying to impart and let the Holy Spirit guide you (especially in your planning!) :)
says 'organic church'. There's a lot of other people using the terms and one is almost forced to define them to make sure you are talking about the same thing. ( organic church may or may not be "house church".. and it definitely isn't "simple church"... or some other small break-a-way (from institutional) type of church.
For those who have recently started down the road of 'organic church' .. or have been in it for awhile, this book is full of Frank's own experience in this area. The Church meeting is for Him.. and should be God-centered as opposed to man-centered. The mission of the Church should reflect God's eternal purpose in Christ and not just be focused on human needs... The life of the Church should come directly from Him and not be fueled by programs or traditions and should result in true NT community and Body Life 7 days a week... She should look like a loving Family to anyone looking in.. and on and on... Frank Viola does a great job of offering suggestions and directions that might prove helpful in your situation as you learn to pursue Him corporately!