We Don’t Need A Model, We Need A Vision! (why the organic church model is NOT the solution)

Posted on March 23, 2011

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After dialoging with a good friend of mine on our blog site last week about the church, it became apparent that there was a misunderstanding about what I was advocating for.  While he rightly assumed that I believe the institutional church system is a destructive system which causes many problems, he went on to assume that my solution to the problem would be for people to simply adopt the ‘organic church model.’  This is when it became clear that there was a big misunderstanding.  

My friend is not alone.  There are many others who have interpreted that the heart of my message is simply calling for the adoption of another church ‘model’ like the ‘organic’ or ‘house church model’ as a solution to the institutional ‘model’.  Let me be very clear about something;

That is a misunderstanding and a rumor.  There is no truth to this at all!  

First of all, I hate the term ‘house church’.  It sounds about as weird as calling a church that meets in a building a ‘building church’, or the 1’st and 2’nd century churches that met in catacombs, ‘catacomb churches.’  Since when should a church community be defined by the location she holds her meetings in?  I think that is a symptom of a deeper problem.  People’s vocabulary about the church reveals a lot of what they believe the church to be.  I actually wrote about this a few months ago.  Click here to read this article. That is another topic however.  

As far as my message being all about the call for another ‘church model’, I would like to completely dispel that rumor right now.  The term ‘organic church’ has quickly become a fad.  In the west, people want to know ‘how’ something works, not primarily ‘why’ something works the way that it does.  People hear the word ‘organic’ church and want to know what it is.  This is when the conversation quickly digresses.   People start talking about form.  They start talking about ‘how’ organic church is ‘done’ as far as method is concerned.  If you have ever been a part of any community that operates in what some would term ‘organically’, it doesn’t take many people long to see that there really are some practical benefits to meeting this way over the more traditional ways the institution typically operates and holds services. Many in the ‘institutional’ church world have caught on to this, and as a result, have attempted to adopt this ‘model’ as an equal to their systems.  Many have even begun to start these kinds of communities themselves.  It has become a new ‘movement’, so to speak, that institutions are actually starting what they would call ‘organic’ churches.

At first, this threw me for a loop.  I began to ask, how can someone see these two ‘systems’ as equal?  How can an institution start an ‘organic church?’  Then I realized what the main problem was.  Last year, I attended an organic church conference with the purpose of finding out more about how organic church was ‘done’.  I wasn’t alone.  Many of the people there also had this question as well.  You know what I loved about this conference?  They never even talked about ‘how’ organic church was ‘done’!  Can you believe it?  Some left angry, I left in love.  

What was presented there was the most glorious vision of the person of Jesus Christ that I have ever heard or understood before.  While this vision of Jesus Christ will certainly affect the way we ‘do’ church, if we attempt to create a church ‘model’ without this vision we will have missed the point completely. We will end up with just another ‘model’ or ‘form’ that has good and bad aspects just like any other model, but will be void of the grand vision of Jesus Christ that is the necessary foundation of any New Testament church community.  In order to correct this rumor or misunderstanding about me, I’d like to make this statement:

I do NOT believe the church is in need of another ‘model’, rather she is in desperate need of a grand vision of who Jesus Christ actually is!   

With that said, let me be clear.  I don’t believe it is possible to have a correct understanding of Jesus Christ and still see the institutional system as valid. Also, people who attempt to meet ‘organically’ without this vision of Christ, are also going to fall short of God’s desire for His church. It is this vision of Christ that will ultimately hold us together. Like scripture says, without a vision, the people will needlessly struggle and ultimately perish. I know that is an offensive statement to some, but there are reasons why I am saying that.  I hope you will see that naturally, and I will also make those conclusions in the near future as our ‘system’ and ‘form’ of church life will naturally flow from our understanding of Jesus Christ.  Before we talk about church ‘form’ and ‘function’ (which is important), I’d like to spend the remainder of time on this blog post, and the next, talking about the glorious vision of Christ that I have come to know.  I was a Christian for almost 16 years before I heard or even understood some of these foundational truths about the person I gave all of my life to.  There is a reason for this.    

So, how do you lay out a grand vision of Jesus Christ in one blog?  We’ll you can’t, and that is why I am going to try to do it in two separate blogs:)  Still, I’m afraid that my words will not do this vision of Christ justice.  Words are all I have to communicate with in this setting, however, so it will have to do for now.

When I think about the person of Jesus Christ, I think of completeness.  God lacks nothing, and in Christ, it was actually the Father’s pleasure for all His fullness to dwell in Him.  He (Christ) is the creator, and all things were created by Him (Christ), and are for Him (Christ) and are held together through Him (Christ).  He (Christ) is also the head of the body, which is the church.  This is the heart of Colossians 1:16-19.  

Since Christ is a person (the fullness of God dwelling in bodily form), I’d like for us to take a look at His person.  According to scripture, this person of Christ has a head, and a body.  Today’s blog post will have to do with Christ as the head.

Headship is an interesting thing indeed.  I believe that God designed everything for a purpose, especially our bodies.  That is why in scripture, Paul used the body as an example and picture of Christ.  One of the most important parts of our body is our head because life is disseminated through the head.  Our bodies, along with all of its parts, look to the head for direction and leadership.  Medical science has discovered that when communication breaks down between the head and the body, many problems in the body can arise.  

Many seemingly serious unrelated health issues have been corrected simply by a trip to the chiropractor where spinal and back problems were corrected which restored proper communication between the head and the body.  After the correction, the brain could route and communicate essential things to the body parts in need that were previously cut off from communication with the head.  

Can you see the parallels?  Jesus Christ is the head that humanity has been longing for.  In the garden of Eden, the headship of God was rejected.  Man became his own head.  This led to disaster.  Thankfully, God did not abandon us, rather it was His plan all along to restore His headship.  When the Lord began to separate the Jewish people for Himself, he desired to be their head and ruler.  While the Jewish people initially received the headship of God, they typically fell into a pattern in which they rejected God’s headship, fell into trouble, then looked to their fellow man to be their leader.  There are several examples of this throughout the Old Testament.

One of my favorite examples is found in the book of Judges regarding Gideon.  You probably know the story.  The Lord used an unlikely and low statured man in Gideon to overthrow Israel’s oppressors, the Midianites, and deliver Israel from bondage.  Once this occurred, Gideon became a celebrity.  As a result, the people began to look to Gideon for leadership and headship.  Here is an interesting exchange between Gideon and the people of Israel:

Then the men of Israel said to Gideon, “Rule over us, both you and your son, also your son’s son, for you have delivered us from the hand of Midian.” But Gideon said to them, “I will not rule over you, nor shall my son rule over you; the LORD shall rule over you.” (Judges 8:22-23)

Gideon reflected the heart of God, and the people of Israel reflected the natural heart of mankind in wanting a human leader instead of a divine leader.  This tension did not go away after the time of Gideon.  

The more that the Israelites became focused on the world around them, the more they wanted to be like the nations of the world and have a human king.  There was another confrontation between God and the people of Israel that I’d like to mention here.  The people were asking the prophet Samuel for a human king, but God let them know that He desired more for them.  He did not want a man to rule over His people.  He loved them and He wanted to be their shepherd.  They did not want this.  The exchange is very telling indeed:                         

Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; and they said to him, “Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations.” But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, “Give us a king to judge us.” And Samuel prayed to the LORD.  The LORD said to Samuel, “Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.  “Like all the deeds which they have done since the day that I brought them up from Egypt even to this day—in that they have forsaken Me and served other gods—so they are doing to you also. “Now then, listen to their voice; however, you shall solemnly warn them and tell them of the procedure of the king who will reign over them.” (1 Samuel 8:4-9) 

As a result of their decision, the people of God suffered just as the Lord said they would. Like all things, God still used these line of kings to accomplish His plan. Just because the people of God rejected God’s headship then, didn’t mean that God gave up on fully re-establishing His headship over His people. He had a perfect plan. From this line of kings, the ultimate King would come.

Everything in the Old Testament points to Jesus Christ as He Himself said. He would be the fulfillment of everything. He is the ultimate Judge. He is the ultimate Temple. He is the ultimate King. He is the very fullness of God wrapped in human flesh. Christ is the ultimate fulfillment of the headship of God. Now that Christ has come, there is no human that can operate as the head of His people. Those human kings & religious leaders were just shadows of Christ who was to come.

The hallmark of man’s system, including man’s religious system is human headship. The hallmark of God’s system is divine leadership. This is the heart behind Christ’s own teaching on kingdom headship in Matthew 23:8-10:

But do not be called Rabbi; for One (Christ) is your Teacher, and you are all brothers. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven (God the Father who fully dwells in Christ). Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.

There is a reason Christ told His disciples this. The system of man is still very much alive and well today. This system to seek out and enthrone a human leader over Christ has been a major battle throughout church history.

While Christians give a theological head nod to the headship of Christ, history keeps repeating itself because the people of God have largely been ignorant of what it practically means to know and function under Christ’s headship. Because people don’t see Christ in this way, they have been accustomed to operating under man’s headship. Christ’s headship brings freedom, man’s headship brings slavery.

Conclusion

I’d like to leave you with two thoughts about the headship of Christ.

1. Headship cannot be delegated.

Like I mentioned, scripture uses the human body as an analogy to describe the union between Christ and His church. According to scripture there is one part of the body that belongs exclusively to Jesus Christ, and that is the Head. The head is unique in its ability to command and control the entire organism. All the decision making about the direction, and life of the body occurs in the head.

All the function and operation of the individual parts and organs of the body get their direction and orders to operate from the head. No other part of the body has been designed to mimic the head or act as its substitute. Each part of the body is fundamentally different, and the head is unique in its function and ability.

2. Each individual part of the body has a direct and intimate connection to the Head.

This is a beautiful way to understand Jesus Christ. There is no one body part that acts as a center or sole mouthpiece that relays information from the head to the individual body parts. There is no ‘go-between’ part. Each part of the body has a direct nerve line to the head! There is no ‘select body part’ who’s job it is to determine what the head is communicating. Again, each part has access to the head.

Because of this connection, the head can communicate to each part directly, and also to the whole body. The head sets the direction for the body as a whole. It is not any one part’s job to discern how the head is directing the body, but the body as a whole must lay a hold of the direction the head sets. The head is primarily concerned with the health and direction of the body, and knows intimately what each body part needs. If a specific body part needs blood flow, the head directs blood flow to that part, if the part needs nutrients, it directs nutrients to that part. If the part needs help fighting off disease, it dispatches antibodies there.

You get the picture. This is essential, not just for the health of the individual body parts, but the body as a whole. This is why no other body part can masquerade as the head, and why there must be nothing blocking connection from the head to the individual parts.

It would be incomplete to lay out a vision of Jesus Christ, and only talk about His head. If we are going to talk about all of Jesus, we must also talk about His body. I wrote an article that talks about this stunning body. You can read this article by clicking here.

Thanks again for reading!

Blessings to you,

Jamal Jivanjee

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