The “traditional” way of having church no longer appealed to Michael Cox.

After years of planting churches as a denominational minister, Cox has become a proponent of the organic church in which a small group of believers in Jesus gathers at each others’ homes.

“It doesn’t follow a form and a pattern as we see in most of the institutional churches today. It just happens organically. You plant a seed and it grows,” said Cox, of Denham Springs. “We’re not part of the institutional mind-set. We’re traditional as far as our understanding of Scripture.”

Cox, 70, said the organic church is modeled after the first-century church as recorded in the Book of Acts. He said early followers met in public places and met in homes and broke bread together.

“It’s really sharing life together, and through that I’ve begin to see Jesus in them, and his life is expressed in each and every person,” said Cox, who attended Southwestern Assemblies of God University in Texas.

The group meets about every two weeks. Cox said there is no sermon but the gathering can include a song, hymn and teaching. There’s no “artificial division” of clergy and laity, he said.

“Each person comes with something that they have received from the Lord since the last time we met, and they’ll share that, and we’ll talk about it and we’ll pray over that,” Cox said. “It’s very spontaneous.”

Hurricane Katrina in 2004 moved Cox out of the mission church he had been pastoring in Plaquemines Parish and toward the organic church.

He returned to Buras in 2006 but didn’t feel the same about traditional church.

“When I came back, I said that it wasn’t working for us,” he said. “I said there’s got to be more with my walk with Jesus than just the Sunday mornings or perhaps a Wednesday night.”

A retired schoolteacher, Cox and his schoolteacher wife Elaine helped turn an old dentist office into a coffee shop. They called it the Gathering Place, and helped people with tutoring, résumés, counseling and other assistance.

“We were a service to the community,” he said.

The Gathering Place soon turned from a place of service to a place for church services.

“That’s when our organic expression of church started,” he said. “We began to meet on Thursdays in the coffee shop, and it was very successful numerically and spiritually,” he said.

Cox started a similar church when he moved to Denham Springs in 2010. It was short-lived before being recently revived.

“It felt like God wanted us to start another organic church over here,” he said. “So we began to get to know people in the neighborhood and the community. It just evolved.”

For information on the organic church, call Cox at (225) 665-2943 or (504) 256-2951.

Dance Fever

Music and dancing took center stage at the recent Navratri Fever event.

It was also about prayers, traditions, food and coming together as a community, said Nigam Patel, president of the Hindu Samaj of Baton Rouge, which sponsored the event at the Lamar-Dixon Expo Center in Gonzales.

Patel said the Navratri Fever event celebrates the traditions of the Gujarati people from the state of Gujarat, India. He said Navratri, which means “nine nights,” is traditionally celebrated with dance and music for nine straight nights leading to Diwali or the Indian Christmas.

“The event meant an opportunity for the Baton Rouge community to host all our fellow Indians in the state of Louisiana and Mississippi to celebrate our Indian culture and gather in one location.

More than 750 people attended the event, where traditional Indian cuisine was served.

“I love the traditional dance and music (which was provided by a band from India) that makes Navratri a festival that all age groups of Indians can enjoy together,” Patel said. “Religious groups benefit from being able to bring the Indian community in the tune of 750 individuals in one place to pray, dance and sing.”

Patel, 37, is a native of Gujarat and has lived in Baton Rouge for about 13 years. Patel was voted the organization’s president in March.

Sinful lists

Is eating pork and shellfish a sin? Or roadkill? And is getting tattoos a sin?

Author Tom Hobson takes a daring looking at those questions and many more in his book “What’s on God’s Sin List?” (WIPF and Stock Publishers).

Hobson, a Presbyterian pastor and professor, says he hopes his 101-page book gives confused Christians a “consistent picture of what forms of behavior the Bible identifies as sin, using the lists of sins found in both testaments, and the tools I have proposed for sorting out which commands are timeless and universal, and which ones are only intended for the original audience of Scripture.”

He discusses what’s on the Old and New Testament sin lists and what’s excluded from the list. However, Hobson says the book does not identify do’s and don’ts.

Jesus is the authoritative interpreter of the Law of Moses, Hobson says.

“Jesus was aside both the whole system of clean and unclean that God gave to Moses, and kosher food laws, in Mark 7. Those are two humongous moves for Jesus to make as a teacher of God’s law. These are the major trademarks of Judaism ... If Jesus the rabbi can set aside the cleanliness laws and the kosher food laws, what else is up for grabs? Where do we draw the line? How much of the Law of Moses is still God’s word for us today.”

Chapters in the book include “The Old Testament Sin Lists,” “The New Testament Sin Lists,” “Sex in the First-Century World” and “Alcohol and Drugs in the First-Century World.”

Topics cover alcohol, drugs, homosexuality, gambling, lying, stealing and idolatry.

“God’s sin list was not intended to show us how we can earn our way to God. Nor was it intended to leave us permanently condemned and hopeless. It was designed to show us how badly we need the salvation that only Christ can give us. ... Thanks be to God that has not left us clueless, but has given guidance through Jesus and his apostles on how to live in the light of his wonderful free gift of mercy that we call grace.”

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com