Charles Simpson “The Church is Not Structural but Organic”
Charles Simpson who has served in the ministry for 64 years since he was 18 years old, joins Greg and they discuss Charles book Ants, Vines, and Churches. He gives wisdom and insight into the Church and how it shouldn’t be contained in a structure but should be able to spread like a vine.
According to Charles Simpson Ministries website, Charles was widely recognized in the modern charismatic renewal movement after he had his own spiritual renewal and co-founded New Wine Magazine where he served with Don Basham, Ern Baxter, Bob Mumford, and Derek Prince. He also founded Covenant Church of Mobile which is an organic group of cell-groups at homes based on making disciples of Jesus Christ and spreading the Kingdom of God. He also served on Integrity Music’s board of directors once New Wine Magazine birthed, what became, the largest praise and worship music company in the world! He has written many books and now serves as a spiritual father to pastors and is a consultant to churches and businesses. He also travels and ministers globally and is the Editor in Chief of One-to-One™ magazine. He has accomplished many things in his life for the Lord and continues to reach the world for Jesus!
Greg asked Charles what sparked his interest to write a book like Ants, Vines, and Churches? He says that he was reading a book Three Scientists and Their god’s by Robert Wright, who was a liberal commentator and he interviewed three scientists. This interview was in the 1980s and one of the scientists was the father of computers. This scientist’s theory was that everything is digital and that everything had memory. Then another scientist who studied ants, E.O. Wilson, he specifically studied army ants in Central America and was able to isolate a chemical that meant “bury the dead.” He sprayed it on a living ant, and the others buried it. He speculated about how the ants functioned and called them a superorganism with many acting as one. They were not structural but were organic. This began to affect his thinking about Christianity.
Originally his ministry was called Integrity, and that word is a mathematical term which means a whole number. Since it is a whole number it can integrate. “Integrity has a relationship to digital. If a unit is healthy and whole it can integrate.” He said this just went off in his mind. As he was sitting on his porch, he saw a flowerpot. He saw it as a metaphor for how the church is in America. “I thought that is like the Church; it’s a flowerpot. If you are going to see it, you have to go to where it is.” At the same time he remembered that Jesus said He is the vine. “I began to think that it’s not about locations it’s about spreading.”
This brought to mind the Kudzu vine, which is invasive and can sometimes grow 18 inches a day! It can cover a building if you don’t stop it from growing. “If the Church was like a vine or if it was digital, motivated by internal issues, rather than external, that we would be a lot more effective in the world.” It is Christ in us that should draw us together versus an organization. When we are drawn together with Jesus reigning in the midst of us, that is the Church!
“The founders of our nation had an appreciation and felt the importance of healthy free individuals. And as we have gotten away from God, we depend on systems more and more particularly the governments to coordinate our activities or provide for us. And I really believe they had a much deeper understanding of God and His Word, but of nature itself and how things ought to go. When you lose healthy individuals, there is no external structure that can control everything.” Where we used to be ruled by kings of a country, we are now ruled by kings of a mountain of culture versus being ruled by King Jesus. As Charles said, the Church has lost its influence in the world.
Greg shares how frustrating it can be to talk about the status of the Church to the analog church. Yes, the analog church meets our needs in the way of being with people by getting the socialization that we need. When the analog church is compared to a flowerpot, we make it look good by trying to make it the best looking “flowerpot” around, but it is limited! God showed Greg a flowerpot in a prophetic dream, and it was overgrown with the roots of the plant maxed out. Then the plant was picked up and put in a huge flowerpot. God also showed Pat Hamilton where the plant was pulled completely out of flowerpots and then planting it in the ground. This is where the journey began with Vine Fellowship Network, and we have been walking this out, learning how to be the Church. We had to come up with a name, so Vine Fellowship Network came from John 15 where Jesus says that He is the vine.
“I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.” John 15:5 ESV
Charles wrote in his book that “Vines are opportunistic. Some are virtually unstoppable. Put kudzu in a flowerpot and in a few hours, you won’t see the pot again. Now that’s Church!” A flowerpot can be easily stopped, because you have the building to worry about, and it becomes about the building. But according to the Word of God, followers of Jesus Christ are the building of God!
“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” 1 Corinthians 3:16-17 ESV
Greg asked Charles what he meant by vines being opportunistic and unstoppable. “It follows natures path rather than a prescribed path.”
“The earth produces by itself, first the blade, then the ear, then the full grain in the ear.” Mark 4:28 ESV
This is the Kingdom of God! Jesus is the seed that fell in the ground, and the corn kernels are the people that follow Jesus. A pastor’s role is to bring out what God has already put in you and when we all move in our gifting that is the Kingdom of God. The Church, in the end, will look like the Church in the beginning. We are not all the same, and we can’t be cookie-cutter Christians! As we are discipled, we blossom into who God has called us to be as we are all unique.
We must be careful not to be focused on becoming like a certain person, as that is an easy tendency for humans, but always to be focused on being like Jesus! “Ambition takes you beyond your grace level! If you are out there in your mind projecting who you are going to be you are getting in God’s way. Because we have never imagined what God has for us…”
Charles said that the world is looking for authenticity and we can’t live in a place of ambition for our projection of where we think we should be in our lives or ministries. We need to be close to people and be who we are, knowing that we are all saved by grace, and that it is God in us that draws us together. Through relationship is how you can disciple someone because discipleship is more caught than taught. Pastor’s need relationships too, Jesus had his small group of disciples close to Him, you can fall when you are alone, but a cord of three strands is not easily broken. We can’t work with everyone, but some can stick close through the hard times.
Be sure to watch or listen to future programs as we continue this interview. What do you think about the Church being compared to a vine? What do you think about discipleship? We want to hear from you! Write to us at [email protected] or in the VFNKB Community HERE.