Grace Brethren pastor Neil Cole (Awakening Chapel, Long Beach, California) is featured in an interview in the latest Advance e-mail newsletter from Leadership Network, which highlights the appearance of Cole’s latest book. Here is the text of that interview:
Neil Cole (Long Beach, CA) is a church starter and pastor, and founder and executive director of Church Multiplication Associates
His latest book, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, is one of the newest books in the Leadership Network Publications series, produced with Jossey-Bass.
ADVANCE: What is the big idea–the basic message–of Organic Church?
I want to see us lower the bar on how we do church, and raise the bar on what it means to be a disciple of Jesus. If we can do that, the Kingdom of God will not only be changed, it will be a change agent. Ordinary people will be involved in extraordinary works of God.
ADVANCE: What new ideas are you putting out there for church leaders to consider?
The idea that church can grow out of the harvest of lost souls and find its expression in common places where people live and work and play is new in some respects. The drive in our movement of churches for true, spontaneous multiplication has led us to many of the simple ideas expressed in the book. The DNA of the living church is a new concept that has huge ramifications for a movement.
ADVANCE: What do you mean by the “DNA of the living church”?
Our hope is to see the value of DNA–Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission–intact at the smallest, most basic unit of church life. An organism is only as healthy as its smallest cell, and a church is only as healthy as its disciples. The true test of spiritual health is our disciples–not our preaching, our music, or our programs.
The solution to health in a complex organic creature is to bring health to every cell of the body. If my church is spiritually healthy at its smallest unit–one disciple in relationship with one or two others with the DNA intact–and all of those units are healthy, we will have a spiritually healthy church. We view it from micro to macro.
ADVANCE: What one or two lessons inherent in the concept of simple, organic ministry would you most like to see people apply?
First, I would like to see church leaders begin to change their thinking from an attractional mindset to a more missional one–where we see the Kingdom of God infiltrate the places we live and work and conduct our social lives, and turn the church inside out.
Second, I think it would make all the difference in the world if we focused on the health of our disciples in relationship to each other, rather than on the health of the organization from the top level.
ADVANCE: As you talk to church leaders about organic ministry, what seems to be most helpful or challenging for them?
A lot of church leaders easily recall the first time they felt God’s call. They remember the excitement of that moment when they gave themselves to something very significant. Then they wake up 10 or 15 years later, look at their job descriptions and their performance reviews, and realize they are pushing a lot of paper and counting nickels and noses. In many ways, organic ministry is a call to that primal urge they first heard into ministry that will personally transform people’s lives.
ADVANCE: What do you hope the reader takes away from your book?
I hope that this book awakens people to the idea that ordinary people can do extraordinary things for the sake for God’s Kingdom. I also hope that we will see movements of healthy and reproductive churches spring up all over the world. This book will challenge people to live a life of greater meaning in and among the darkness of this world, for the sake of Christ. It presents practical ways this can be done, and real life stories of how this has worked.