Saturday, May 22, 2010

First and Second Shifters in the Organic Movement

In the early 1990's, I heard someone speak on the radio about the simple way church was done during the early formation of Christianity. They mentioned a series of tapes available from different teachers on the subject, that Jim Rutz had put into an album called, "Open Church: Lions In The Pews". I sent for the tapes, and listened to them many times over. I checked their claims with Scripture, prayed for discernment, and eventually passed them around to all my friends. I resonated with the messages and concepts on these tapes, and soon Tom and I were on the journey of discovery in Simple/Organic/Missional Church.

When I first began to talk to people years ago about this topic, it was challenging to find words and communicate accurately this new paradigm of thinking about church. I struggled to describe and "re frame" for people, this new (but old,) lifestyle of simple Christianity. I used words and descriptions like; "living church 24/7" , "being church", "living like a missionary in my neighborhood, work, coffee shop", "having simple church", "full time but not paid", "I don't go to church, I am the church", "church is relationships not buildings", "release of the laity","church in the home", "fluid church", etc.

I predominately encountered the "huh?" response. In Minnesota, we call it the "deer in the headlights" look. Most people didn't have a clue of what I was talking about! I know some thought I was in major error, if not apostate. Others, I just confused. Painfully, I had a few relationships distance themselves from me for it.
Those were some lonely and often very isolating times. You ask yourself, and God, a lot of questions and usually don't find the answers you want. Such is the life of faith.
However, the unmistakable Spiritual Fruit that we saw in our own lives, the lives of our children, the lives of those we were reaching out to, was a continual affirmation of our direction.

That was then, this is now.

Now, I believe, we are transitioning into different times.

The words I mentioned above, their concepts, and those practicing the life and journey of organic, simple, missional living are becoming more and more mainstream terms. We have great authors who are writing books, blogs and doing regional teaching/trainings to communicate the stories, definitions, and particular aspects of the paradigm.
More and more people are stepping out of traditional churches and exploring this Christianity of less church activity and more God intimacy. Mega churches, traditional churches, multi-site churches are beginning to seek out certain aspects of this movement that they want to incorporate into their expression of church. Major Christian publications are writing and discussing it. Just Google the words house church, simple church, missional, open church, organic church to see the multitude of links!

We've moved into the second shifter phase.

Second shifter is a great description for the natural progression of going from exploration to implementation. Where the ideas, concepts and ultimately a new paradigm of living, begins to take root into the culture as more and more people adopt its principles and concepts. (Thanks Trey)

In the exploration phase, those who function like "Lewis and Clark" discover and set the trails.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with American History; Lewis and Clark were explorers who opened up the western United States to settlement in 1804. They were called the Corps of Discovery. Their journey was short, but of huge significance. They are known to have opened up everything west of the Mississippi for settlement. In just a couple decades, the west was forever changed. They opened the way for the second shifter phase.

The implementers.

The implementers are those who take the information of the explorers and actually use it for settlement. They make it available and useful, giving definitions, application. Communicating these in such a way that allow for the settlement phase to take root.

Communication at this point of implementation becomes far more important because the impact and scope is so much greater, than during the exploration phase. Portability is a necessity. However, there is a lot at stake with this phase. Second shifters have a huge responsibility.

In my next blog post, I'll share some of my thoughts about that...........


  1. Katie,

    Another great post! When we first started in simple/organic church a decade or so ago, we could have never dreamed that we would be where we are now in terms of the numbers involved.

    There are definite challenges to becoming mainstream. For example, churches may change the name of their small groups to house church because it is now a popular term, but without any change in their DNA.

    I look forward to seeing your next post on the subject

  2. I'm also looking forward to your next posts on this, Katie.

    And I'm wondering if the first-to-second shift dynamic may in fact play out multiple times. I'm of the Lutheran tribe and it's clear to me that among us we have yet to see much happening even in terms of first shift exploration of house church forms. (I personally find this ironic, frustrating and just plain sad since Lutheran theology has a deep alignment with simple/house forms that should make this a natural move for us.)

    I wonder, in your experience are you seeing repeated, if delayed, occurrences of first-shift explorations arising in different groups?

    Or maybe it's something more like this: perhaps the initial bands of explorers tend to be - for whatever reasons - moving outward from their prior communities into the frontier, followed by the second-shifters as you described. But in addition there are first-shifters who travel inward to sort of re-seed their own communities, or maybe to recruit traveling partners for the next outward mission. I suppose you could also see the inward explorers as a different kind of second-shifters for that matter.

    Just musing...


  3. Absolutely Tim, I think first shifters can "go back in",so to speak, but I believe that is quite a challenge.
    One of the issues that many denominations will have to deal with especially, is the issue of paid/professional clergy, simplifying from the traditions, and a gluttony of programs. Pretty tough!
    Many in the Southern Baptist, Foursquare, and a few other groups are starting to adopt s/o/m paradigm; but it remains to be seen how much of that really results in organic/simple/missional expression, or as Felicity mentioned, just "re-naming" the same ole stuff with the terms. That's some of what I will be talking about next.

    Thanks for your great questions and comments Tim - keep em coming!!!!!

  4. I believe in order for the Organic movement to go viral it needs to drop any semblance of a "chip on the shoulder" against the institutional church. We don't do organic or missional because the other group is doing it wrong. We do it because the Spirit leads us to.

    Having a critical eye for this movement, I am impressed by some, turned off by others, and waiting to see. My goal is not to be "organic" or "missional," but to be in tune with what the Spirit is doing.

    Right now I exist in the happy world of "Missiorganic" (my term)

  5. As always Michael, I love your comments and challenges. Missiorganic huh? Love it!!!
    (I may borrow it from you brother!!!!)

    I personally, am not interested in the "movement going viral" - which may seem like a horrible comment for me to make by some -

    I truly believe that God will build His Church, His Bride, His Body in whatever way and form He wants. If it "goes viral", its solely because of HIM, and not because of a form, or lack of. It's all about HIM, nothing else -

    However, simple church "forms" are far less burdensome and much easier for "going viral"than traditional forms. Look at China, India, the early church in Acts.

    I, personally, want to be obedient to "build up, build up, prepare the way, remove every obstacle out of the way of My people" Is 57:14

    So that EACH person can be released and empowered to God's purposes - not just the few chosen professionals. The organic, simple, missional movement is that to me - each person fulfilling their destiny in Christ while on earth.

    I make a lot of effort personally, with those folks I work with NOT to condemn the traditional church. However, the very fact that you LEAVE it has some connotation of that to it, no matter how hard you try to keep that from happening. We are one family - however extended we may get to be -

    May the Spirit keep us as One

  6. As a relative "newbie" to the organic/simple church paradigm, leaving IC about 9 mths ago (years ago in heart), I SO appreciate your posts, Katie. Thanks so much for sharing your story and insights.

  7. Thanks Sharon!!! My privilege to help you in any way I can, even if it's from a distance!