The organic church, sometimes also called “simple church,” is an idea that promotes a simpler model of Christian fellowship. It is “organic” in that it is more “basic” and more “natural” than today’s popular church model. The organic church idea counters the modern evangelical philosophy that has led to large programs and buildings, a professional pastorate, a complex business model, and an unfortunate dependence on money. The organic church looks to the church in Acts 2 for its model, focusing on small groups of Christians gathering for the purpose of spiritual growth and mutual help and comfort, while studying the Bible and being led by the Holy Spirit to do His work. The website organicchurch.org describes an organic church as “a group of believers in Jesus Christ who are learning to live by the indwelling Lord together. They have left behind the man-made religious system normally referred to as Christianity, along with all the ‘baggage’ associated with that system.”
The term organic church has been hijacked to describe a variety of different types of Christian meetings, from house churches to cults. It is important to remember that the organic church, or the concept of an organic church, is an idea, not a movement, per se. And it is important, of course, before joining any group, organic or not, to prayerfully consider its teachings in light of Scripture. Some Christians are becoming disillusioned with the current church system and are seeking ways of returning to a more biblical, simpler way of doing things. People have noticed this phenomenon and have given it a name: the organic church or the simple church.
The organic church phenomenon has received criticism, with the main argument being that, if we eliminate programs, sanctuaries, and organizational structure, Christendom will disappear, and the church will stop growing and eventually die. But this opinion is driven by fear, a lack of faith, and a failure to observe the facts. It is well documented that the church grows and thrives most vigorously in nations that persecute Christianity and disallow gatherings of Christians. The more Satan attempts to squash the church, the more it grows. Furthermore, Jesus said, “I will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matthew 16:18). That being so, it is highly unlikely that the church will wither and die as a result of there being not enough programs or no building to meet in.
The organic church encourages the equality of the brotherhood, with all people being led by the Spirit and growing together. It operates on the promise of Ephesians 4:11–12: “Christ himself gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, to equip his people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up” and the belief that God is always faithful to give gifts to His people (verse 8). The organic church philosophy is that the gifts of teaching, shepherding, evangelism, and all the others are given specifically for the growth of the church (which is not a building, but a group of people) and are not predicated on the existence of seminaries, traditions, ecclesiastical documents, church creeds, hymn books, or worship bands.
An organic church, or simple church, is a group of believers meeting to study the Bible and follow the Lord without the burden of the programs, traditions, and structures that, particularly in Western culture, may have become more of a hindrance than a help.