the weblog of Alan Knox

Report on Simple/Organic/House/Missional Church in the UK and Ireland (2011)

Posted by on Dec 19, 2011 in blog links, discipleship | 22 comments

Ben from “MissionBritain” wrote a guest post for me a few months ago called “Building a culture of discipleship.” (If you haven’t read his guest post, please do. It is excellent!)

Last week, he sent me a copy of a report on simple/organic/house/missional churches in the UK and Ireland. You can read more information and download the complete report here: “Simple/Organic/House/Misisonal Church in the UK and Ireland (2011).”

While I would encourage you to read the entire report, I want to highlight a few of the statistics. (By the way, the report is NOT a list of statistics. Instead, it includes much more information, including some suggested steps forward.)

We asked people to describe their simple/organic/house/missional church and the top answer was – “We are a group of Christians seeking to live out New Testament principles/models of church.”

We asked people to describe their journey so far in terms of seeing people baptised.
– Approximately 60% of people said that they had seen some people baptised and discipled.
– No-one said that they had seen many people baptised and discipled.
– 40% of people involved with simple/organic/house/missional church in the UK and Ireland said that “It has been a challenge to keep persevering on this path when it seems that we have seen little fruit from our efforts.”

Do you see the disconnect? While most of the people in the report said they were trying to “live out New Testament principles,” very few were actually baptizing or making disciples. In fact, a large number (40%) said they had seen “little fruit.”

Now, I’m sure these 40% have seen many changes when it comes to church practices, methods of gathering together, and leadership. But, they have seen “little fruit” specifically in terms of baptism and discipleship.

Should we expect “fruit” if we are living according to New Testament principles? If so, is there something missing? What?


Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 12-19-2011

    Ya know a lot of people are put off by those kinds of fellowships because most people aren’t secure in participating so they go find more comfort in the masses

    Plus I think the unsaved/undiscipled think they will get what they need and/or be more apt to just blend in in a bigger meeting

    Also some think if they can’t find a “ministry” to get “plugged into” then they ain’t servin

    The paradigm shift from business form church to full paticipatory family style fellowship is hard for many to make ya know

    That’s just what I’ve experienced

  2. 12-19-2011

    It would be interesting to see how the early church carried out the mission of disciple making, before business models and programs were in vogue. Maybe they weren’t very efficient or had big numbers, but I would suspect that the slow way of investing lives with each other made for a greater and deeper disciple making process. I’ve read that missionaries in non Christian environments spend years with few converts and very little numerical growth, yet when growth does start, it seems due to the many hours invested into individual lives. Sometimes I think we se Christian growth through a Western business efficiency lens.

    It is easy to quickly spread the good news these days, especially with technology. Disciple making still takes time.

  3. 12-19-2011

    Can I answer both ways?

    A. Yes, we should see fruit. Why aren’t we? We aren’t following the principles found in Acts.

    Paul’s example in Acts 13-21 took place in a surprisingly brief timeline of about 11 years. The work in planting a series of churches in each of Galatia, Macedonia, Achaia, and Asia was taking place among very similar cultures and times to our own. Here are seven key observations, which would be considered ridiculous strategies by the church planting movements in the West today.

    (1) On average, churches were planted and self-sufficient in 12 months
    (2) The work was unfunded, accomplished by bivocational servants
    (3) Paul planted multiple churches regionally, often from a base camp church in a major city (churches that planted churches)
    (4) There was follow-up by Paul and/or itinerants as well as letters to continue to support and encourage, especially through troubles
    (5) Whole households were being converted, not just individuals
    (6) After an initial time in weeks or months of reaching new disciples, they are left on their own as a church without formal leadership for months
    (7) Paul enlists additional workers from among the new churches as local elders (on average with 6 to 12 months experience as believers) and as itinerants (with about 2 years experience as believers).

    B. No, we are likely to not see fruit. Why shouldn’t we? Because we aren’t following the principles found in Acts.

    Maybe one of the key differences–an overlooked principle–was that Paul was picky. He did not labor in areas unresponsive to the gospel. Subsequent to proclamation and defense, if no fruit, he moved on. This was also what our Lord advised the 70 when He sent them out.

    Maybe we are unwisely laboring here in the west on hard, thorny ground?

    Curious about how different those limited results are from traditional churches answering the same questions. Then, stack up the average number of people in each. Just guessing: a dozen on average in Simple/Organic/House/Missisonal Churches (SOHM) and averaging 80 in traditional churches? Then also factor in “cost” (how much money each spends in total).

    I’m guessing the SOHM churches comes out ahead in miniscule effectiveness. That said, both seem to be rather on the fruitless side of things.

  4. 12-19-2011


    I agree that alot of Christians do not like to forced into the kind of intimacy and fellowship that are found in most churches that are more organic. What do you think about the discipleship thing? Should we see visible fruit (discipleship)?


    “Disciple making still takes time.” I agree. Why do you think that’s still a problem for those in “organic churches” today?


    As an electrical engineer, I prefer “OHMS” churches.

    “Both seem to be rather on the fruitless side of things.” I agree… and I think that should tell us something.


  5. 12-19-2011

    Isn’t fruit something the Spirit must produce? If so (and I think it is) then we can’t really produce anything. All we can do is be faithful and obedient and let the Spirit do what the Spirit will do (cp. John 3:8).

  6. 12-19-2011


    I agree completely that “fruit” (whether internal or external) is a work of the Spirit. Does John 15:8 indicate that the production of “fruit” in some way depends upon us as well?


  7. 12-19-2011

    “Disciple making still takes time.” I agree. Why do you think that’s still a problem for those in “organic churches” today?

    I’ve not been involved in an organic church, but I’ve been in several small groups and I can tell you that usually leadership is the key. Having someone who is intentional about discipling keeps the group from becoming morphing into a jam session where everyone is vying for time and/or attention. If from the start people who come are told that the purpose of the fellowship is to worship God through singing, prayer, and the Word, then go out and make other disciples, I think that would set the priority. Not everyone would be willing to sign up for that, just like many of Jesus’ followers left when He started talking about eating His flesh and drinking His blood. But it would go a long way in making disciples.

    I know that people come to church for a multitude of reasons (hurting, need friends, want relationships, etc) other than worshiping God, and those places are a good place to start. We want to and need to minister to those needs. But the ultimate goal should always be known from the outset.

  8. 12-19-2011


    I sense some resistance in your choice.

  9. 12-20-2011

    We have 2 friends, both of whom have moved abroad to make disciples and spread the gospel.

    One is from our “simple church” group here in Ohio. He was a teacher and would go each summer to the refugee camps in Ghana and teach from the Bible. When the camps were shut down, he quit his job here, used the money he had saved and moved to Liberia with the families who he had been teaching and who were now believers. He comes back occasionally to work a little and make some money for his expenses, but now has a source that is funding him. We all contribute (and spread the word) to give money for the mission – copies, Bibles, motorcycles, etc. The believers there go, go, go every day to villages and counties and are in demand to come and share the message and baptize. Each month our friend reports between 10-100 are baptized. Frustration comes from not enough “workers” for the harvest.

    Our other friends moved to a diverse, working class part of England to live out an organic church model (about 3 years ago). They are mostly funded by a more traditional US support model. They are part of a somewhat structured house church/large gathering group and continue to “plant” more house church groups as the need arises. They focus very micro on their specific neighborhoods and building those relationships among people who are very “church”-resistant. They have reported very few new believers, but lots of seeing The Church in a new light because of relationships. It is hard and slow and frustrating at times for them.

    We are happy to support both friends, even though one might seem to be “producing” (reaping?) more fruit. Both places need Christians living and working there. They are where they felt led to be, and we are supporting as we felt led, not according to the “results”. Both are living out New Testament life. Just our viewpoint!

  10. 12-20-2011

    Alan, you asked, “Does John 15:8 indicate that the production of “fruit” in some way depends upon us as well?”

    I think from that passage we see that fruit is the work of God in us as we abide in Jesus (i.e. the vine). Perhaps then our job is to abide?

  11. 12-20-2011


    I agree that intentionality is important. Why do you think this is the responsibility of leadership?


    Did you know that the inverse of resistance has the units mohs? 1 moh = 1/ohm. Maybe I should start using the term “MHOS”… nah.


    Interesting… Actually, I saw evidence of “fruit” in both stories…


    Can we conclude anything based on John 15:8 if there is no “fruit”?


  12. 12-20-2011

    Maybe I’m missing it or thinking too simplistically, but if there is no fruit then there is no abiding. And it appears from John 15:10 that if we are going to abide in Him and His love then we must keep His commandments. It appears that obedience is a key to fruit bearing.

  13. 12-20-2011

    I agree that intentionality is important. Why do you think this is the responsibility of leadership?

    I don’t mean that ‘leadership’ does all the discipling, but someone has to explain and then start the process. Part of being discipled is for you to start discipling too. Someone once told me that every believer should have a mentor who is discipling them and at the same time be discipling or mentoring someone else. That seems to be a pretty good way Biblically to do it. I think of Timothy pastoring a church while at the same time being mentored by Paul.

    Part of the problem in today’s church culture (at least what I see) is that we ‘hire it out’ and expect the paid staff and teachers or elders to do all the discipling and we just sit back and get feed. Leadership can explain that’s not really the way it should be.

  14. 12-20-2011


    No, I don’t think you’re missing anything at all. Matthew 28:19-20 also connects being a disciple of Jesus with obedience.


    I agree. The reason that I asked is that I’ve heard some believers put the responsibility of “bearing fruit” (or the blame for not “bearing fruit”) on leaders. I think that we all must be intentional and discipling others, and we should be intentional about reminding others to be intentional. Even though I’m one of those recognized as a leader among the church, I’m glad when someone points out our lack of intentionality (individually or corporately).


  15. 12-20-2011

    the background of this survey’s report includes RM, a paradigm-goal poorly supported by early church accounts. As Paul reminds us, it is God who causes the (real) growth, and therefore not a human push or hope to multiply. (Seems there are a few folks around who would like to send church to a fertility clinic?) RM is a borrowed-from-legacy-church twisting of faith which largely has the outcome of engendering religious obligation.
    Returning now, with Christ as our goal, directed in what He is building…
    As the survey results reflect, many coming in to OC/SC/HC/BC are still unconvinced of Christ, while beyond the survey we know that significant proportion of small gatherings are transitional (as like bringing portions of legacy church into the Living Room, to then watch people come & go through it).
    Today, with thousands streaming out of “Christian” religious systems, and to see the ministry of reconciliation without seminary… What is being done by God has some amazing fruit but, if you’re back to looking for ballooning numbers (like we’ve done in legacy churches) than you may not see or fully appreciate His marvelous work among us: the fruit of the Spirit, Light & Righteousness; fruit matching repentance; good, maturing/ripening fruit.

  16. 12-20-2011

    Most of the harvest / fruit is occurring, not in America but in other countries. When 100% of our giving is supporting work where the harvest is greatest, then yes we are being very fruitful in a key way. Once our giving is going beyond ourselves, our hearts are able to go beyond ourselves in our intersession. Giving + praying for reaching all nations is fruitful, even if no converts here are walking the aisle (if you have an aisle) :).

  17. 12-21-2011


    I don’t think anyone disagrees that God causes the growth. The question is, if we are following Jesus, should we expect some type of fruit? If we do not see fruit, should we be concerned? (By the way, I’m not equating “fruit” with converts.)


    This report is about the UK and Ireland, not America. But, I agree that more converts are seen in other (Third World) countries. I’m not equating “fruit” with “converts” here.

    Do you think that giving money and praying are the extent of a believer’s responsibility in making disciples?


  18. 12-21-2011

    Alan, it is His garden. Just as the Farmer and the Father anticipates good growth and fruit for His seed sown, so also His laborers with Him. Our expectation is in His parousia, while our anticipation is more fitting for fruit and of harvest; anticipating good things in one another. Anticipation, even as Jesus with the Twelve; though they often seemed to be slow-starters and of scant faith, He presses on with them even until the time had come for them to bear much fruit. Although His journey transitioned, His method held steady and without compromise.

  19. 12-21-2011

    “Do you think that giving money and praying are the extent of a believer’s responsibility in making disciples?”

  20. 12-21-2011


    So, is that a “yes” or “no”? 🙂


    What other responsibilities do we have in discipling others besides giving and praying? Should we be concerned if we do not see any “fruit” from any of our discipling activities?


  21. 12-21-2011

    no, to expecting some type of fruit.
    yes, to anticipating good growth and fruit.

  22. 12-21-2011


    I agree completely! In fact, I’d say that growth is a type of “fruit”.