Perspectives on the World Christian Movement (Perspectives) is a fifteen week course about the global purpose of Christians, designed around four vantage points or “perspectives” – Biblical, Historical, Cultural and Strategic. The course has the objective of opening the eyes of Christians to the vision that God has a “world-size” role for every believer in His global mission. The point of this course is to simply show practical examples of how missions can be done wisely and well, against the background that God will fulfill His promises.
Declare His glory among the nations, His marvelous works among all the peoples! (Psalm 96:3).
I have embarked on the Independent Study Online format of the Perspectives study program and will periodically share a perspective on different lessons.
Lesson 13 – Christian Community Development. I was introduced to the idea of “organic churches” in this lesson and how this connects with making Jesus Lord of all. I also saw how healthy churches produce other churches.
The Organic Church
In this study Neil Cole (author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) defines the church as, “The presence of Jesus Christ among people called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet.” It is important that we view the church as Jesus Christ being followed, loved and obeyed. The church should not be viewed essentially an organization, although churches always have some kind of institutional and cultural shape. In a very real way, the church is an embodiment of the risen Jesus. With this correct view of the church makes it a potent living organism. This is a matter that the church is alive and vibrant as living organism. Christ alive, forming spiritual families and working with them to fulfill His mission, is the living reality of the organic church. This explains the Bible’s reference to the church as the Body of Christ.
Ministry happening for Christ usually leads to institutionalization and ends up not displaying features of an organic church – health, living and productive. If we evaluate our church not by attendance or building but by how recognizable Jesus in our midst our influence would be more far-reaching and we would be see ourselves as the organic church we should be.
Obedience to Jesus in church planting helps to avoid legalism
In the religious sense legalism can be defined as strict adherence to the law or instructions of God, especially to the letter rather than the spirit. Whenever living the spirit of the law becomes secondary, problems arise: institutional ideas begin to dominate, nominal Christians come to be tolerated, foreign traditions can be misunderstood as essential; and of course the church stops multiplying. Followers of Christ struggle between legalism and the spirit of the Law. Obedience to Jesus in church planting help to avoid legalism. In emphasizing obedience probably the most important idea is to promote the core reality of the church, which is people obeying Jesus’ command in love. When a church becomes legalistic it moving from the spirit to the letter of God’s requirement. However to avoid this members should take the position of obeying God. This Orientation to obedience is not legalism at all, since there is never a sense of meritorious righteousness earned by performance. Instead, a loving relationship with Christ is encouraged that offers Him what the Bible calls the: obedience of faith” (Romans 1:5).
Two main ways a healthy church can bear fruit:
Neil Cole (author in Perspectives on World Christian Movement) explains that Christ intends for the church to bear fruit, since the seed of the gospel of the Kingdom brings forth changed lives, living out faith together. A healthy church is regarded as one that has the living raised Jesus Christ, operative and powerful in the midst of those who are committed to follow and serve Him together. A product of a healthy church is bearing fruit and that I will describe as maturing Christians, winning new believers to Christ and planting new churches. Cole goes on to say that the church bears fruit in two ways:
(1) The Organic Churches reproduces when the seed of the gospel of the kingdom is planted in individuals and the fruit that will grow is changed lives living out their faith together.
(2) Organic Churches Cultivate Fruit in their Culture by finding and developing Christ followers, not merely gathering more church members.
Seeing the church as an embodiment of the risen Christ, walking in a loving relationship with Christ and working to reproduce & cultivate fruit for the Kingdom usually results in the Organic Church working to transform lives that brings change to neighborhoods and nations.
– Garfield Miller, Missionary Society (Jamaica)