This week, I read Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens by Niel Cole. He writes about spontaneous church planting and leans towards a viral house church model. The church should be spreading the DNA of the kingdom spontaneously, thru planting new and smaller churches.
It was quite a contrast after reading Confessions of a Reformissional Rev by Mark Driscoll, who is pastor of Mars Hill, a mega church in Seattle and their dreams to keep growing by adding new people into the Kingdom.
Both have a passion for seeing people come to faith in Christ, though both go about it in different ways.
I enjoyed Cole’s thinking outside the pizza box, his passion for evangelism, and his rather sound explanations of new testament era churches. He does a good job in explaining the biblical idea about the priesthood of believers. I liked the critical thinking about engaging the culture.
I found two challenges with Cole’s book.
1. What makes a church?
It didn’t go into much detail about the individual churches themselves, how they are structured, or what makes them definably different than a traditional small group. It read as if any small group of people that organized themselves would have been called a church. Perhaps he lays out further development somewhere and I’ve not yet come across it.
But I’m not sure what separates these little churches from small groups disconnected from a church. He doesn’t interact with the rich theological history of the marks of a church, which in my confessional tradition (Presbyterian) are
1. The pure preaching of the Word of God as sound doctrine,
2. Administration of the sacraments,
3. The exercise of discipline
The point here is not to debate tradition, the validity of how many marks define the church visible or invisible, but rather how to blend the material in the book into the richness of good sound theological tradition.
If you are more familiar with his writings elsewhere, I invite you to chime in with comments.
2. Church Leadership
There are variety of historical understandings on church leadership and plenty of good books. Driscoll’s book devotes a chapter to exploring church leadership given that Mars Hill is hosting over 10,000 people a weekend.
From reading this book, there is no clear discussion of leadership other then a good discussion on the priesthood of believers. But New Testament ideas of “appointing elders” or “pastors and overseers” is not developed in this book. Some of the illustrations indicate perhaps the premature elevation of immature leaders, or the lack of protecting churches from wrong doctrine.
For our family, we will setting up shop in a new town (and a new country) in the not too distant future.
Our current ministry plan is to link up with a local church, but start new small groups in our section of town.
We will live in a 14 story apartment building, in a neighborhood with more condos in nearby towers.
Our group will be made up of mostly non-Christians who are seeking a relationship with God and want to discover their faith. I hope they as they find faith, they would get involved with the local church, instead of seeing themselves as a local church as Cole seems to indicate.
Once such folks are established and connected to the local church, we’d start another small group.
Let me ask you this?
Would you pray about starting a small group with your neighbors?