Discipleship “Methods” of the Organic Church

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I read this over at Jesus Creed. Scot McKnight recently highlighted this article by Frank Viola who is a proponent of what is called the “Organic Church.” Viola is a critic of organized religion or for that matter the institutionalized church. For him a better fit of doing ministry and church is to model it after the biblical perspective, or should I say a more historically directed approach to doing church.

He says a lot of good things in his proposal. Most of which must be commended. But I think he is far to harsh in his criticism and proposal. Here is the comment that I posted regarding the article by Viola on the Jesus Creed blog (you can read other comments as well):

Although what Viola proposes is commendable and in some ways biblical, my only question is, “what authenticity are we seeking really? Is it simply being confined to the way things were back in the biblical days or are we to simply fill in the blanks where the bible seems silent, by that I mean in how we do discipleship?” I think we cannot restrict ourselves to the age old model but seek ways to enhance our understanding of changing times or context and seek biblical wisdom to ground how we do things. To me we have to be open. Although Viola proposes we conform just to the “biblical” pattern, how would we really know how they actually did discipleship? All we have are patterns not constriction. The bible is more open than the vision of the organic Church. In a way, the organic church is advocating their own brand of “institution.”

3 thoughts on “Discipleship “Methods” of the Organic Church

  1. I haven’t read Viola’s take on discipleship, but I’m convinced that kingdom life was not intended to be complicated. Jesus taught and discussed kingdom life with his followers, demonstrated it in every day life, sent them out to experiment on their own, examined the results when they returned and corrected them when their motivation was anything less than love. His “method” seemed to work quite well, and I’ve found the same to be true today. Once I did away with discipleship programs and instead lived life with those serious about following Christ, transformation began to take place. Of course the demands and time restraints imposed by the traditional “church” sturcture make such effective discipleship impractical.
    But if making disciples of Christ is the most important commission of the church…….

  2. Hi David,

    First off, thanks for dropping by and also for the thoughtful comment. I agree with you when you said ” I’m convinced that kingdom life was not intended to be complicated.” You obviously nailed it there.

    I’m gladly in agreement with all the things you mentioned above. There is great difficulty really in creating programs of discipleship and what initially does not lead anywhere near to discipling.

    But I wouldn’t scrape off any program. I guess it is the church’s dependence on programs alone that contributes to the “success” of discipleship really. I’ve been part of a church which took a program on mentoring. But, far from being truthful to the principles of mentoring, they chose to do just the program instead. There was no working out of the implications of what mentoring meant. So I posted on my blog before on “the myth of baton change” (you can search it on my blog) which got leaders questioning me after that.

    I guess you could call me a fellow critic of church based programs but I have to explain that, I have no qualms of dishing out on just relying on program kind of attitude that some have. But in themselves programs or whatever we call them are just programs in themselves. They do not necessarily translate to what actual discipleship really means.

    I think if we put the community vision as our underlying goal, and that is to kingdom perspective life of following Jesus, then, I think programs will work, not as the answer but an aid to enhance discipleship.

    Anyway, that was a rather long comment, which could have been another post but thanks for the posted comment and the conversation.

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