Monday, June 15, 2009

Pagan Christianity: "Church" as Organic, not Institutional

(The Valley of Elah)

Today I began to read Pagan Christianity, by George Barna and Frank Viola. The book has been out for a while, a lot of people have read it and have discussed it. I'm liking what I'm reading so far.

I love the idea of the real church as organic, an organism, and not an institution. I remember teaching in Singapore in the late 1980s, eating a meal with Chinese pastor and leader Albert Kang. At one point in the meal, as Albert and I were discussing the meaning of "church," and noting that Albert's very powerful church met in a rented auditorium, Albert leaned towards me and said: "The church is a movement, not an institution!"

That has stuck with me.

Barna and Viola define "institutional church" as: "one that operates primarily as an organization that exists above, beyond, and independent of the members who populate it. It is constructed more on programs and rituals than on relationships." (PC, xxxi)

They write: "We believe that thge New Testament vision of church is organic. An organic church is a living, breathing, dynamic, mutually participatory, every-member-functioning, Christ-centered, communal expression of the body of Christ." (Ib.)

PC chapter two makes the point that "church" was never meant to be identified with a "building." "Church" is to be a revolutionary movement of people. That's what I have always wanted to be a part of, and what I see God growing, organically, in the people I move with.