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.