Beware of These ‘Organic Church’ Temptations… 

December 18, 2013

In today’s post, I’d like to share with you some very real temptations that can occur to folks who are attempting to meet organically outside of the traditional religious system.  This is a temptation that I am experiencing right now in my current season of life, and I’d like to share my temptation with you today in the hope that my experience can be helpful to you and your relationships.  Before I do that, however, I need to give you some background information about me.     

Several years ago, I left the institutional religious system.  This was no small feat for me as it was a system I was heavily invested in.  I had been religiously trained in college, and I had been employed as a clergy member.  When I decided to leave this system, many people felt I had withdrawn or abandoned them personally.  On a semi-regular basis, it would be common for me to hear something like this when I would encounter a former ‘church member’ in a store when I was out and about:

“Oh hey Jamal, how are you?  I haven’t seen you in a while.  We’ve missed you lately.  It would be great to see you soon.” 

Whenever I would hear something like that, I would chuckle inwardly.  Normally, I would respond by saying something like this: “Oh thanks.  I’ll pop in and see you guys sometime.”  In my heart, however, I wanted to say something quite different.  I usually wanted to say something like this:

“What?  You’ve missed me?  That’s strange.  I would only see you once a week during ‘church’ service.  We didn’t interact during that service because we were sitting in chairs listening to a person on a stage (sometimes me) preach at us, and you were looking at the back (or front) of my head.  The good news is I haven’t moved.  I still live in the same house, and I still have the same phone number, but I haven’t heard from you.”

Obviously, that probably wouldn’t have gone over too well, so I refrained from responding that way.  In my perception, however, there were a couple of reasons why people would say they missed me even though we rarely interacted normally.  

The first reason folks would say they missed me is because they actually did desire to know me better and interact with me more, they simply were interacting within the limited relational box that had been created for them by the religious system.  Seeing me once a week gave them an illusion of connection, and that was better than nothing.  

The second reason why others would say they missed me was because they were making a statement of disapproval regarding my decision to not attend the weekly service.  Saying they ‘missed’ me was simply a more tactful way of accusing me of not being in right standing with God and the church.  Relationally speaking, they really didn’t desire a greater connection with me, they simply felt the need to make me aware of my error.  

Those of us who have left the traditional religious system can relate with these kinds of interactions.  In the past, I have been on the giving and receiving end of these kinds of interactions.  I have discovered, however, that it is quite easy for those of us who are a part of communities meeting outside of the religious system to carry this institutional mindset into church life.  For those of us attempting to meet outside of the religious system, there are three major temptations that I’d like to address here.  

Temptation #1- Substituting Group Meetings For Personal Relationships…

When groups meet together around the headship of Jesus Christ, and when believers have been liberated to freely express Christ, the weekly meetings can be glorious.  Because these kinds of meetings are interactive, however, there can be a very real temptation to confuse this kind of interaction with true connectivity.    

I have discovered that you can come to every group function and remain relationally distant and disconnected.  When a group falls into this temptation, the meetings will become awkward and tense.  The lack of personal intimacy and relational connectedness between the body parts will begin to be put on display when the whole body meets together for meetings and it will eventually become painfully obvious.     

Sometimes it can be easier to attempt to relate to a whole group (or sub group) of people than it is to relate to others in personal relationship.  This is especially true when relationships become strained, or if you normally struggle relating to people personally.  Group meetings will never produce the shared life of Jesus Christ, rather, they simply will express a true shared life that is experienced in day to day relationships.  Meetings and relationships are quite distinct from one another, and the temptation to substitute one for the other must be resisted.  

Temptation #2 Projecting Your Own Relational Failure On Others…

I have discovered that we can fall into this temptation quite easily without us even being aware.  The root of it is offense.  Here is an example of a fictitious, dramatic, and slightly comical conversation between three people we’ll call Sally, Fred & Ted.  I think this conversation should speak for itself without much commentary from me:

Sally:  (looking a bit suspicious and annoyed) Hi Fred, it’s great to see you today.

Fred: (looking friendly and smiling)  Hi Sally, it’s great to see you too.  

Sally:  Oh really? It must not be that great to see me since you never call or come around.  

Fred: (feeling awkward and looking for an exit to the conversation) Ummm… gosh, sorry Sally.  I’ve just been really busy.  We should get together sometime and catch up.       

Sally: Whatever.    

Ted: (walking up after Fred escapes)  Hi Sally.  How are you?

Sally:  I’m so sick of all the fake and relationally distant people in this church.  This is NOT the New Testament community that I have read about in the scriptures.  

Ted:  Wow.  I’m sorry you’re feeling this way.  What happened?

Sally:  I’m concerned about Fred.  He thinks he’s a part of this community, but he’s not. He’s really fake.  He’s not interested in being a part of this community.  He never calls or comes around.  I think he’s into something really bad and he doesn’t want to be known.

Ted: I don’t know about that.  Fred is our brother in Christ.  I know him well.  Sally, may I ask you an important question?

Sally: Sure, ask away.  

Ted:  Do you try to personally relate with Fred?  

Sally:  What do you mean?

Ted:  Since you seem to want to relate to Fred, do you take the initiative to relate to Fred?  Do you call him and check in on him?  Do you send him encouraging texts and things you hear from the Lord?  Do you seek to build him up in Christ?  

Sally:  No way.  

Ted: Sally, why do you think it’s ok to hold Fred to a standard that you yourself don’t meet?  Instead of putting the relational burden on Fred, why don’t you seek to serve him with Christ’s life regardless of what he does.  Unless he personally closes the door to you, you are free to share Jesus Christ with him.  Instead of looking to be served, you are free to serve.  I do this with Fred all the time, and we have a very close relationship.  

Sally:  Gosh, would you look at the time, it’s getting late.  Talk to you later Ted.

Temptation #3 Abstaining From Corporate Meetings…

It should go without saying that the church described in the New Testament met together regularly for meetings.  Expressing Jesus Christ in corporate meetings with saints who have been liberated to express Him is of utmost importance.  

There is a very real temptation, however, that regularly assualts us regarding meeting together corporately with other believers. I’m convinced there is a real spiritual enemy that we wrestle with that seeks to keep us from meeting together with other saints corporately.  This is why the scripture explicitly speaks and encourages us to not forsake assembling together with others.  If you are a part of a group that meets this way, don’t take it for granted.  If the group you are a part of is struggling relationally, reacting to that by abstaining from coming to corporate meetings is not the way to go.  You will miss Christ’s fuller expression from the other saints, and the church will be lacking your expression as well.  

With that said, there may be times that you as an individual may need to take a break from attending the church’s corporate meetings due to circumstances that are not normal and need to be addressed.  This should not be done lightly and is the ‘exception to the rule’, so to speak.  There is more that could be said about this, but that is another article for another day.  

I truly hope being aware of these very real temptations will help us keep relating to and loving one another as we seek to know and be known in the kingdom of God.                


Jamal Jivanjee   

Jamal Jivanjee

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63 responses to Beware of These ‘Organic Church’ Temptations… 

  1. good word, brother. temptations indeed.

  2. Excellent post, Jamal. This is a subject close to my heart from studying the Song of Songs, as there is within it’s imagery a message of simplicity and power that most are afraid to touch because of old religious paradigms. When Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered in in my name, there I am in the midst,” He did not say, “Where two or more…” We think this though! In other words, the number is not a minimum. It is a principle!

    When this hit me, it hit hard and transformed my understanding of meeting in groups. The unity of two – the Bridegroom and the Bride – and the unity of three – the Trinity – is the only definition of spiritual fellowship there is. The rest is flesh. Unless there is unity – one mind – Jesus is simply not in the midst. Maybe in the midst of individuals. But not corporately.

    It may be fitting to share here as well, an exposition I did of Hebrews 10:24-25 looking up the word meanings in the Strong’s Greek concordance. When looked at it this way, people can be “assembled”‘ and yet not be. And “not assembled,” and yet be in the truest sense of the word. : -)

    “Let us consider [deeply behold, fully observe Christ in] one another to provoke [challenge and stir up Christ, stimulate desire] unto love and good works; not forsaking the assembling [pulling close together] of ourselves, as the custom of some is [who hide from such intimacy in cold religious activity], but exhorting [inviting, wooing] one another, and so much the more as you see the day approach.” Heb 10:24-25 [inserts mine]

    Love back!

  3. Thanks Jamal! This is really good stuff. Keep up the good work!

  4. Eye-opening and encouraging. Thank you, brother.
    Greetings from OKC! : )

  5. Regarding #1, after I left the institutional church, there was one woman who would tell me how much she missed me every time I saw her, and we live in a small town so I saw her frequently. I DID tell her “I still live in the same house, and I still have the same phone number,” but she never responded to that. One day, when I’d run into her again and heard for the umpteenth time that she missed me, I had had enough. So, I politely said what she really missed was my sitting in a particular chair during the service. Which was the truth, particularly since I never heard from her even when I still attended that church, and she lives fairly close to me. The sad thing is, I would’ve enjoyed getting to know her while I was still in that church or even afterwards, but she apparently isn’t interested in a relationship.

  6. Awesome post Jamal ! It will take days of chewing on this to get all the nourishment it contains. What comes to my heart now is , ” when we have real and true intimacy with our Lord , we will desire to have it with one another and the fear of rejection ( which I think is a root to destroying this intimacy) will no longer have it’s power over us.

  7. Thanks, Jamal, for the post. As part of a new “church plant” I understand the necessity of your warning. I particularly like Ted’s response to Sally’s condemnation of Fred. It’s real easy to bash others for not giving me the attention I feel like I need, but “ouch!” when the Spirit points out to me my failure to offer my brothers and sisters the same attention I crave. Shared life can only be realized when self-seeking life is crucified. I am still learning to do this, and while not successful 100% of the time, a great deal more than what I was even a year ago. Keep the truth coming, my brother!

  8. Love isn’t into the physical aspect, such as where, how, when, organic, house, etc, etc.

    Love is ‘in’ the heart, or heart condition, which is ‘past dead’, or a new heart.

  9. Jamal, I have a thought or two to share here: We cannot fully express Christ together if we have no experiential life with one another, without continually and actively “knowing” one another. If there is no interaction in our daily lives then it is usually just a show, or at best extremely limited in Love, Trust and Freedom. When the interaction, connection and involvement of Christ in and through one another is lacking, we are like strangers. And, we know that trust and love is birthed out of knowing one another; Christ is the relational Life. If we have no depth of Life together outside of a “meeting,” then what is it we have when we come together as a whole? Disconnected individualistic body parts who cannot fully function together. There is no substitution for shared daily Life together. Fast food from strangers is not exactly home cooking, is it? It will make us home sick.

  10. Jamal – very well said. I can see myself in #2 whey my fleshly desire for love wants reciprocation instead of just pouring out agape as the Lord leads and let Him be in charge of the harvest in my brother or sister.

  11. That’s a good post..I left the institutional church about ten years ago and I do not miss it and from what I can tell they don’t miss me.i have sought serious fellowship with other believers outside of church and run into problems.of course in the meantime I went through a divorce,all these experiences just goes to teach me that we all as humans struggle in our manners of relationships.i am reminded of Peter when he says..I will die for you and Jesus says no you will deny me three times…we have the best of intentions but we lack the real ability…that’s why I’m trusting in Christ to live his life out of me,I figure if anyone has the patience to deal with these bull-headed humans he certainly does,but I know I don’t.

  12. THANK YOU! And thanks to everybody for the awesome, insightful comments!

  13. Wow Jamal .. fantastic post. I have to say in my experience in meeting in organic fellowship all of these are relevant and right on. Thanks for writing this!

  14. Hi Jamal

    Thanks for the insights born out of experience. Those of us who are beginning and perhaps considering this journey will definetly benefit from this type of encouragement, I know I have.

    Thank you brother

  15. In our group, which died wretchedly in its sixth year together, #1 was the most significant shortcoming and #2 was the clincher.

    Wife and I decided to leave the “dis-organized” church and have taken up residence with a “high” liturgical tradition. The nourishment is more rounded.

    It isn’t my intention to poop on the party represented here by Jamal and Company, but did want to offer a hard bought insight…Just because the (perceived) right environment and ecclesiology is provided and pursued there is no guarantee that greater intimacy among the community will be realized or that a more glorious expression of Christ will be produced.

  16. Shelby Shock-Marsh December 19, 2013 at 2:40 am

    i have mixedf feelings about organic fellowship. Part of me longs to have it & the other part realizes since i am not part of Body life, im prolly not ready. One thing i know for sure…relationships…deep, real, gritty day in & day out laying down of one’s life for the good of another is the most difficult yet most rewarding part of life there is. I appreciate you going before me. Someone used to say to me all the time “Those who do not listen, MUST feel.” Ive been a feeler most of my life. But since im living in another tree, i thought maybe this was the perfect time to transition into a listener. Ha!

    • that’s how I feel also….I don’t want anything unless its truly God manifesting.
      Ive been churched out for a long time

  17. people who love God 24/7 and are spending their time filling their ears and eyes with God, his word and his will for us,- spending time sharing Messiah Emmanuel with them is the meeting I love, wherever it happens to be, at work, in the train or plane, on a ship, or a shore! Messiah was not born in a cathedral, he was born in a stable, and where he is is where there is “church” ps Messiah never attended a funeral- because he always raised the dead!

  18. Shelby, Please don’t hold yourself back if you sense Jesus leading you there.

    In the long run “community” isn’t easy. It calls for more self-sacrifice than we ever imagined and the payoff is often quite unexpected. Just as in a marriage, intimacy must be constantly pursued and nourished.

    A wise Roman Catholic once said;

    First we discover a group of people who are amazingly wonderful. They “get me” and love me. They’re saints! Then, after a period of time we’re convinced that every last one of those “saints” is in reality a walking, talking demon. Then, if I persevere with them and myself I come to the realization that in fact I’m just like them. Very few people make it past stage 2.
    …“But in another way, community is a terrible place. It is the place where our limitations and our egoism are revealed to us. When we begin to live full-time with others, we discover our poverty and our weakness, our inability to get on with people, our mental and emotional blocks . . . our seemingly insatiable desires, our frustrations and jealousies, our hatred and our wish to destroy.”

    —Jean Vanier

    • Shelby Shock-Marsh December 21, 2013 at 6:36 am

      Thank you for the encouragement Volkmar. There is no organic body near me. i have been open to it for almost 2 years now. At first i felt desperate to find believers outside the traditional church setting. Next i relaxed & stayed present in the moment.
      Then i went to a Searching Together conference & received a taste of it & visited a Local body & enjoyed it tremendously. Sadly my husband isnt on the same page yet. So i do what is in front of me & trust God’s perfect timing.

    • Shelby Shock-Marsh December 21, 2013 at 6:44 am

      BTW-love what the wise R-C said…very wise.

  19. I want to point out one other temptation that you might have missed in your article, but that I feel is significant enough also for us to consider:

    Temptation #4 The temptation to not prepare any bread …

    Some days I sleep in longer than I intend to.  When that happens there is a whole chain reaction in my morning schedule that prevents me from taking the time to prepare something as food for lunch.  I come to lunch hungry, and my family is hungry as well.  But I have nothing to offer them.  There is, of course, an awkward feeling when you attend a meal but there is nothing to eat!  In fact, because you know that you did not prepare for your meal, you don’t really want to involve others in the meal … you don’t pursue your relationships (Temptation #1) and you live in a lethargic and “hungry” state and blame others for this problem (related to Temptation #2).  Obviously meals without food are disheartening.  You go to the meal (meeting) and you’re tempted to begin to Abstain From Corporate Meetings (they’re awkward … there’s nothing to eat!) (Temptation #3)

    You are at that point easily convinced to go buy “fast food” that will fill your stomach but offer none of the nutrients your body really needs.  The fast food is not life giving, but it keeps you at a mediocre of level of existence, but everyone knows you only feel half alive.  It fattens your stomach while your cells long for something more, a better way of life.  You are getting the calories but not the life (vitamins, nutrients, wholeness) that you need.  As a result of living off of “half food”, you are starving but don’t even know it.  And your family is starving too.

    This happens in myself because I know I get busy and life happens.  But nutritious food is necessary, but it does take time, effort and commitment to acquire.  When I make bread or other wholesome foods, it takes hours to prepare.  That is why Christ said to come, take, eat from the tree of life.  But if we don’t go to the tree and obtain this food, we will starve or eat from another tree that is not Christ.

    I love you brother!

    • Great comment Stephen Mayer…a needed encouragement and insight into this temptation for all on this journey!

    • Stephen, you are on to it brother…My husband and I can spend hours in the anointing, and just 1 meeting with someone who is out of the spirit can zap all our oil…I love to meet with others but I separate myself a lot because I don’t want to loose the anointing…I think only people on the same level can fellowship together because of this……I said on another blog about how God seperates the gold from the silver……I don’t like pouring oil out on people who trample it like swines, its too much sacrifice to get it….People tend to be lazy,,,they want the oil you have, but they don’t want to get their own….BUT when a group of people filled with oil equally pour out their oil, that’s where revival is. Its birthed through prayer and not fellowship Hours and hours of prayer and intercession.

  20. Well said brother… I really enjoyed it!

  21. Another temptation: Try to gain church via church. End up wallowing in agony because all you see when you look to humans is humanity

    All the riches of Christ are IN Christ. When I look at Him I see the church in Her glory. We receive the riches in the saints by beholding Him together!

  22. I am reading this and taking it all in. It’s all new to me and very appealing. Seeking God on all the comments to see if it is time to make a move in our church. I do feel called there and not to go anywhere else. I am going to pray to ask God how to do this in our church, what to do. It is all so good.

  23. P.S. I utterly disagree that meeting “corporately”…a phrase that you use a lot and seemed to have picked up along the way…should always be the way to go…what does this mean? New Testament Christianity was an intertwining of lives and hearts of one accord…meeting in homes…praying together…it was not organic….it was rooted and flowing in a deeper dynamic that perhaps some have not experienced….so they label it organic like it’s another man made strategy…no….it’s beyond the human mind and reasoning….perhaps you will know it one day…if “corporate” is your experience then don’t let it limit you….by corporate do you mean in a building with made up titles like “Worship Pastor” and “Youth Pastor”? The article was going well until you finally conceded that some sort of meeting together in this undefined “corporate” manner is somehow better than nothing….what if Babylon is in the church…which it is….Jesus may tell you to flee to the mountains…get out while you can……? There is an enemy….I have personally encountered him face to face….but my strength comes from Jesus….even through the wilderness…”corporate” is the easy Christian experience for most is my guess….I think this is what you mean by this word

    • Thanks for your comment. You must be new to this blog, and I think you misunderstand what I mean when I use the word ‘corporate’. Perhaps knowing a bit of my background may help correct your assumptions about my experience. If you’d like, you can read a bit about my journey out of the religious system by clicking here:

      • Zaphenath-paneah December 23, 2013 at 9:46 pm

        Well, I seem to have got some of it right. I have been on a similar journey in a way. I now see church as the intertwining of lives and true joinings birthed by the Holy Spirit. Just one or two who want to go the distance and lay it all down. I wasted a lot of time in institutional churches looking for real brothers and sisters but found none. Not sure where to go with it all. I am not religious and my struggles and experiences in this life don’t sit well with religious folks. I would give a lot just to share my life with some real brothers and sisters. I can’t be with folks that have been lured with the love of this world and this life. I’d rather be a monk.

    • Brother, God told my husband and myself that the remnant who have endured the wilderness and cleved only to Christ and forsaken all to follow him will be the next foundations of the new church age…These are the sons of thunder, the dred champions, the holy prophets and apostles that will usher in the new church age and last move of God on the world as we know it…So eventually, we will need to gather in 1 accord on the mountain of the lord, in the tabernacle not made with hands, because unless we do. we will not have Christ come in power, and the spirit of Elijah will not come……
      When this will happen? many think its when Billy graham passes away because he is a sign of being the modern day Moses, and Moses must be buried before Caleb and Joshua take the kingdom…..and it will be by force…..But some others think it will be when the peace agreement in Israel is forged. Whenever it is, it will be a corporate anointing and not a one man band.

  24. Cleave to Christ. Part of the deception of these churches is that you grow in your walk with Christ “relationally” through interaction with others. However, in the main these “others” are usually middle class nice folks who create their own pseudo-Christianity within the confines of their church clubs. Nice folks but all bound by the dictates of the institution. This is not being a disciple of Christ. Unless you yourself aspire to be middle class and part of a nice club and play it safe year after year with intellectualism and cosy church clubs, you will not fit in. Why not try martyrdom in Pakistan or somewhere that has persecution as a reality? I think you will find writing your blog a safer alternative than some of the deeper realities you seem to hint at desiring for your life. Getting pats on the back in the cyber world is no heavy cross to carry.

    • Malcolm,

      Thanks for visiting this blog and sharing your comment here. I am not sure exactly what point you are trying to make, however. It seems to me that you are making an assumption about the nature of my life and what I may or may not be experiencing. Since we have never met, you do not know about my economic situation (middle class), you don’t know about the spiritual family I am a part of (cosy church club), and you don’t know whether or not I am carrying a cross. Your assumption that writing a blog is my substitute for these things is also absurd since you have no knowledge of my life.

      I have discovered that the cross is available to anyone who would live by Christ’s indwelling life with others in community who wish to do the same. It’s not just for those who ‘try’ martyrdom in Pakistan:)

  25. I left Church 10 years ago and my husband 30 years ago…
    We have been in the wilderness a long time…Weve tried many times to reconnect to people but the only prophetic people we know of are in the church system…Its been such a lonely place….
    Weve advertised as having a home group for prayer and worship, but had no interest…
    In fact, my husband is anointed, and every time he heals someone or prophesies over them, they want us to go to their church and sit under their pastor…..God told us along time ago that until a new wineskin forms, and its birthed by prayer, we cannot join in because we need spirit and not flesh and we want the foundations to be apostle prophet with Christ heading it and not man…..anyways, just wondered if anyone else felt similar.

    • Where are you? I can appreciate what you have said in this post and what others have shared.

      We, my husband, children and I, have been alone for 7 years outside the system. We just recently started attending a man made Jesus club because we so lacked community that we felt something was better than nothing. Well, I’m DYING on the inside. I hate it with an all-consuming passion and I don’t know why we are doing it. If I knew of a group of people who desired shared life, Christ led (in deed, not word- show me your fruit) community I’d be all over it. We are in central Illinois.

      • Vara,

        Thanks for reading, and for your comment. Welcome to the blog. I know exactly how you feel. I know how difficult it can be to go through the wilderness, so to speak. I am in the Nashville, TN area, but I will keep your area in mind in case I may be able to connect you with others in your area. Just curious, what town / city are you near?

  26. Thanks for the quick response. We are just outside of Champaign-Urbana, IL, home of the University of Illinois. It’s located about 2 hours south of Chicago and 1-1/2 hours west of Indianapolis, IN.

    I’ve been reading your stuff for a long time now…a quiet lurker. You post really thought provoking, meaty stuff and I so appreciate your gift.

    Blessings to you.

    • Vara,

      Ok, I will keep that in mind. I don’t know of any groups in your area just yet, but I do have some very dear friends in Indianapolis and also in southern Illinois. Thanks for your kind words about the blog, so glad you are enjoying it. Blessings to you on this journey:)

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