one of the ways i often describe the shaping of eikon is “organic.” by this, i mean natural growth. growth that isn’t forced or contrived. it’s growth that allows things to grow in ways that aren’t foreign to their environment.
to flesh this out a little more in real life terms, i view organic growth as non-”gimmick” growth. while we certainly plan on using various streams of branding and marketing, we don’t want to turn to gimmicks that misrepresent the church and mislead people. i also use organic to work alongside the idea of being incarnational. in other words, jesus lived with the people he reached, looked like the people he reached, ate with the people he reached and engaged in the culture of the people he reached. of course, all this is in the context of being organic and natural—not in some contrived way. we don’t want to force our way into some kind of foreign culture, but rather, we hope to assimilate in an organic way. additionally, i use the term organic to move away from the idea of program/attraction-driven models that solely rely on big events and impressive displays to attract people. again, we certainly hope to create spaces that draw people in and create opportunities for people to meet and interact, but we want to do this in the context of relationships and generative friendships. there are many, many more ways to define my use of the word organic, but these are a few that help to illustrate the point.
sometimes the word organic is misused or misunderstood by some people to mean “fly by night” or “whatever happens happens” or some other similar derivative. in fact, growing an organic community is a very strategic and thoughtful process that requires a significant amount of work and commitment. julie clawson, self-described “mom, writer, activist, dreamer”, on her blog, one hand clapping, spent a little time thinking about this very issue of organic community. in talking about her and her daughter tending to their organic garden at their home, she stumbles upon some great analogies about growing an organic community. she writes:
…I am spending more and more time pulling the weeds that choke out the life of the food and attempting to do something about the bugs that are eating my food. I don’t want to dump toxins onto the land, but I really don’t want to be sharing my swiss chard with the critters either. So I’m experimenting with organic pesticides. Yesterday I made up a batch that was pretty much a mixture of pureed garlic and habanero peppers. I could barely stand being in the kitchen with the stuff my eyes stung so bad, so I hope the bugs have the same aversion to it. We shall see.
All that to say, organic gardening is work. Growing my own food and doing so in sustainable ways that doesn’t harm the environment or my kids takes works. It reminded me of…how all too often we speak of organic leadership or organization as if it is this nebulous unstructured thing. People who despise brands or hierarchy will suggest organic systems instead. But…organic gardening is hard – it takes a lot of deliberate effort. No organic gardener is going to go in without a plan, without knowing when to plant. They aren’t going to let pests or weeds take over the garden if they care about actually producing food. It’s just that as they go about their work they do so in loving, careful, and considerate fashion without imposing unnatural elements onto the garden. Understanding that work…really helps me understand more the spiritual metaphor of what an organic community should be like.
i think she presents a beautiful metaphor. while i’m not a gardener, i can really appreciate this palpable analogy that really expresses the care and love needed to grow organically. to produce something as natural as possible, it takes diligence and care and an informed plan. we hope to be a similar kind of gardener—as julie describes—at eikon.
one of the beautiful pieces of julie’s story is that she tends to the garden in community. specifically, she and her daughter oversee the garden. we hope to do the same at eikon. i (ryan) don’t want to reign over eikon as some kind of dictatorial gardener, but someone who cares for the growth alongside others. we don’t want to build needless hierarchies or divisive systems, but rather hope to come alongside people as co-laborers and co-sojourners. certainly, we’ll have leaders (which i’ll begin to talk about very soon), but we hope to build the leadership team (as we’ve already been doing for quite some time) in an equally organic way. so, we want you to begin to think about whether or not you think you have a part in this thing called eikon. as we grow organically, we need people to partner with us to help in the work of gardening.