Book Review: Organic Church

Organic Church - By Neil Cole

It was with great anticipation that I began listening to Neil Cole’s audio book of “Organic Church” several weeks ago. When Christianaudio.com offered the book for a weekend download sale of $0.98, I jumped quickly and had the work in my MP3 player in minutes. Having already read Cole’s newer work, “Search and Rescue”, I had wanted to get through this book at some time to hear of Cole’s journey into his church planting ministry.

Let me say there have been critiques of this book, both good and bad, on differing sides of the debate of what a church should look like, the structure it should have, and the facilities needed for it. That increased my anticipation for taking in what Cole had to say and how I might process it myself. Since you can find those reviews on other sites, let me focus on some takeaways for you to consider so you can make up your mind about whether or not to read this yourself.

First, understand that Cole’s model focuses on what most might term a “House Church”, which is a church loosely organized in homes and devoid of any building or programs. Cole references his time as a pastor in more traditional settings but his focus is on smaller groups of people meeting at coffee shops, homes, and other similar places. Can the ideas in this book work in more “traditional” settings? I believe they can. there is much here that church leaders can take from the book and implement in their own church settings if they think creatively.

Secondly, Cole’s idea of the LTG or “Life Transformation Group” is something that churches could consider as an alternative to traditional small group ministry. I really resonate with Cole’s logic in this area. LTG’s are essentially two to three people meeting weekly to pray for the lost, share thoughts about their weekly scripture reading (up to 30 chapters a week!), and to build strong disciples. The emphasis on bible reading is truly something that many churches need to embrace.

Thirdly and Lastly, The reality of simple church is upon us. I believe “big box” churches will continue to exist for several years because many people are wired for the larger experience. It’s the way our culture has taught them. Multi-site is also a growing enterprise but for many, the idea of video preaching isn’t appealing either. There is an uprising of smaller, more simple churches taking shape on the horizon and the reality for anyone involved in ministry to grasp is that within the next decade, I think we will see a shift in the way many of the twenty somethings of today will mold and shape our churches when they are in their mid-30’s looking at 40.  The cost factor will play into this as well. It’s extremely expensive to pay for land, buildings, and all the baubles that big church requires. Simple churches are starting with very little money and growing exponentially in our midst. We can criticize it if we want but for many, this is what they want in a church. The bible, taught plainly, without all the “extras” that many feel are needed to be “relevant”. Instead, they want to live that life out in the real world where the lost live, serving them, and ministering to their needs. Pastors must understand this in the years to come.

The thing I like about Cole’s work is that it makes you think. There’s nothing wrong with that. Like it or not, we need to consider the ideas that are shared here because for many of us, the reality is upon us and for others, it will be in the years to come.

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Book Review: Organic Church

4 thoughts on “Book Review: Organic Church

  1. Jacob says:

    I haven’t read Cole’s work, but my thinking recently has led me away from the concept of an attractional church. My main crux is that a church is a group of people GOING into the world, taking the kingdom with them to make disciples. The attractional model sounds too much like a business to me. I love the idea of elders being in charge of respective community groups. they function in homes, they serve their community by meeting needs, they study the Bible, they have meals together, and actually love each other like you read in Acts 2.

    This is not to say all community groups don’t come together to worship and hear preaching. Of course they do. How else will they be trained to go out? Of course there is church discipline. Of course there are pastors and elders.

    I see the growth in the church coming in community groups. If I’m an unbeliever that sees others in my community really caring for each other and studying the Bible, I’d be interested in what they are doing. Once the community groups get a certain number, they multiply similar to a small group structure. Guests to community groups can go to the worship gathering any time they want, but i wouldn’t see it profitable to make that first place.

  2. I haven’t read Cole’s books but I have been involved with a ‘house church’ fellowship for over 45 years and have found it very fulfilling. It is a wonderful setting where all can participate which helps people to grow in Christ.

  3. Martin says:

    I have read Cole’s books – and am currently leading a network of LTG (admittedly a small network at the moment) and would highly recommend using the model for small groups in any church setting – it really is amazing the effect it has on older, mature Christians as well as new or younger believers! Lord willing we will see people come to faith through deliberate discipleship – and then we will plant churches, probably house based, in support to our Sunday service! Don’t feel restricted to doing one form of church over another – be creative – be led by the Lord and do what fits best for the situation you find yourself in. Either way – be encouraged and focus on grass roots discipleship – it is shaking the tree at my end and I couldn’t recommend it enough 🙂

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