Radio Podcast on house churches

John White and I did a radio interview on house churches this last week with IWork4Him. Jim Brandenberg is an excellent host and asked all kinds of penetrating questions. Various others who are house church practitioners here and elsewhere also spoke for a few minutes.

Check out the link here:

Radio interview airing on Monday February 1st

Periodically, I get asked to do radio interviews about books I have written.

Towards the end of last year, I was asked to do an interview on  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church with Dr. William P. Campbell of Beyond Words Radio. Dr. Campbell was a brilliant interviewer, and I greatly enjoyed my time talking with him.

Dr. William P Campbell

The program will air on Monday, February 1, 2016 at 10 AM EST (after the news), on It will then air over the next two weeks on stations in Asheville and Greenville, and on satellite networks around the world. Podcasts are easy to listen to or download (after Monday morning) at Beyond,, and
They are praying that this message will give our listeners a fresh perspective on the topic of women in the church.
Check it out!!

Penelope Dale: in memoriam

Yesterday evening, my mother-in-law, Penelope (often known as Penny) Dale graduated from this life into the presence of Jesus. She has been longing to see him for many years, and so for her, this was a joyous release.


Born in New Zealand, in 1924, Penny spent most of the formative years of her life in the care of the Armitage family. (Her own father was very sick, and so she lived from the ages of two to ten with a wonderful Christian family who introduced her to Jesus.) Then on to boarding school.

At 18, Penny trained to be a nurse at the same hospital where Tony and I trained–St Bartholomew’s Hospital in London (founded in 1123, just to put American history in perspective.) It was there she met Donald, who was training as a doctor. Her stories of the war years in London revealed some of the drama they lived through. When they both discovered they had been called to China (Penny at the age of 5), it was natural they would end up getting married and going together.

Donald and Penny

Penny wedding day

Since Donald had asthma, they were turned down by every mission agency they applied to, but God’s call was clear, and they decided to go anyway.

In 1948, with their two young sons, Andrew and Robin, they sailed on a slow boat to China. The trip took three months. Their destination was a small city needing a doctor. Their wages, Ten Sacks of Rice! But within 6 weeks of their arrival, the Communists took over their area, and they were forced to flee for their lives. They eventually landed in Taiwan, which is where my husband, Tony, was born.

Christian Clinic was the medical practice they founded, and it treated people from all over the island. But they also were involved in many other ventures. They helped bring Navigators, Scripture Union, Full Gospel Business Men International to Taiwan. They helped to start two schools, including Morrison Academy, the school from which their three sons graduated. Triple C Camps inspired many of the young people in the missions community to become lifelong followers of Jesus. Because they weren’t associated with any denomination or mission agency, they had wide acceptance from the missionary community as a whole.

Penny longed to know more of Jesus. In the mid 1950s, while waiting on God on her own, she was baptized in the Holy Spirit. She loved Jesus with all of her heart, dedicating her life to serving him. Some of the most formative experiences of Tony’s life occurred when the Holy Spirit spoke to her–like the time he was instantly healed of severe hepatitis in response to the prayers of her and a friend. Or the time when God revealed to her that Tony was at a movie theater (on a Sunday, which made it sinful!) and he had to ‘fess up and admit that she was right.

Donald and Penny moved from Taiwan to Hong Kong in the late seventies. Donald helped work with the Vietnamese boat people in the refugee camps. Penny became very involved with Women’s Aglow, even taking responsibility for their work in  SE Asia for a while. Then as China opened, they helped an organization founded by some Chinese businessmen to get professionals from around the world into positions within China.

In 1992, they moved here to Texas to be closer to us. Donald died in 1998, but Penny continued in fruitful ministry for many years. She started Bible studies in the retirement center where she lived until failing health prevented her from doing more.

Even in her last few months of life, she had a profound impact on some of those who helped care for her, including one person whose life was totally turned around by her contact with Penny.

Penny, we will miss you as you embark on your next great adventure!

Penny and Madi




A response to the refugee crisis

Jesus and his family were refugees. When Jesus was still a baby, his parents fled with him to Egypt to escape the irrational rage of Herod. Thankfully, Egypt did not turn them away.

The news about the Syrian refugee crisis can be overwhelming. Sometimes I weep as I watch families who have lost the dignity of jobs, housing, community, now lining up for handouts, hoping that some nation will offer them refuge.

I know that the responsibility of government is to protect its people, but fear dominates the reaction of many in this crisis. With Jesus, perfect love casts out fear.

My highly talented, musician brother-in-law, Robin Dale, has expressed it far more eloquently than I do. He wrote a song (Daniel’s song) and put together this video about the refugee crisis. (Daniel was his oldest son, who, before his untimely death earlier this year, invariably showed a heart and compassion for the outcast, the homeless, the marginalized.)


Paul Harvey: “If I were the devil…”

In 1965,Paul Harvey was a renowned radio newsman and commentator, his talks, at their height reaching as many as 24 million people per week. In 1965, he gave a talk entitled “If I were the devil…”

I was recently stunned by this talk when I heard it at a fundraising banquet. It is eerily prophetic. Remember, it was given 60 years ago when people couldn’t have imagined the culture we now live in. Check it out:


John White explains why he broke down in tears…

John White has been a friend for many years. We first met in 2001 when he came to our home to hear Wolfgang Simson speak–near the beginning of the simple/organic/house church movement in this country. John now runs a community for followers of Jesus around the world who explore rhythms of  life that result in vibrant churches meeting outside the walls of the building ( John is not normally an emotional guy, but he broke down in tears at “The Future of the Church Summit.” In this blogpost from the Lk10 site, he explains why:

Future of the Church Summit

I just returned from Loveland, CO where I attended a Conference sponsored by Group Publishing with about 130 church leaders on “The Future of the Church”.  On the last day, I was part of a panel and was asked to share a bit about LK10.  Click on my picture below to hear what happened when I started to talk…

(By the way, make sure you see more information about Josh Packard’s research below my video.)

Josh Packard

Josh Packard

While there were many presenters at the Summit, the most important, by far was Josh Packard.  Josh is a sociologist who’s research has uncovered the fact that 65 million Americans (31% of the adult population) are what he calls the “Dones”.  These are people who were once part of a church. In fact, they were often leaders, the “best and the brightest” according to Josh, but they are now “done” with church as they have known it.  What’s more, these people, for the most part, aren’t going back.  I can’t tell you what a staggering statistic this is!

The picture that came to me was Morpheus talking to Neo in the movie “The Matix”.  (Although Josh is nothing like Morpheus!)  Morpheus:  Let me tell you why you are here.  You are here because you know something.  What you know you can’t explain.  But, you feel it.  You felt it your entire life. That there is something wrong with the world (or the church?).  You don’t know what it is but it’s there.  Like a splinter in your mind.

Click on the photo to watch this 5 minute clip of Morpheus talking to Neo.



For a long time, a great many people have had this “splinter in their mind” regarding church but they couldn’t explain it.  And, now Josh has pulled the cover back and exposed what is really going on.

Two ways to hear more of what Josh has uncovered…

  • 8 minute video describing the “Dones”  (“They are not “casual Christians” or occasional attendees.  Most were in some leadership position in their church.”
  • 90 minute video.  In depth interview with Josh Packard about the “Dones”.  (“Most of these people are not coming back.”)

Back to the Future

While the Dones are not going back to the institutional church no matter how much it is “tweaked”, most of them have not abandoned God.  In fact, some say that they have left “the church” to preserve their faith.  And, the kind of church they are interested in looks surprisingly like the church portrayed in the book of Acts.  Here are some of the characteristics of that church…

  1. All the churches in the Bible met in a home and functioned like a small spiritual family.  The current institutional church, by contrast, spends a great deal of energy and money getting and maintaining a church building.
  2. The churches in the Bible were simple.  We describe “simple church” as a way of being/doing church where any believer could say, “I could do that!”.  (“they were astonished that Peter and John were unschooled, ordinary men”  Acts 4:13)  The institutional church, by contrast, requires highly educated, highly school (seminary, etc) highly creative people to be successful.  (Think Rick Warren, for instance.)
  3. In the NT churches, everyone used their gifts.  In institutional church, only a few, highly gifted people (worship leaders, preachers, etc.) use their gifts.
  4. In NT church, Jesus brought the agenda for the meetings.  In institutional churches, a few, very smart people design the worship experiences.
  5. In the NT, churches were started in a few hours or a few days.  Institutional churches require a great deal of planning and resources and take months or years to start.

Next step?

Want to learn more about doing/being church outside the institutional church?  Check out a free four week course called Church 101.


Tears for the Motherland: a poem about gender violence

Anita Scott is a good friend of mine–a teacher who makes a profound difference in the lives of the kids she teaches. (You should hear her stories.) Anita is passionate about justice, especially for women, and the problems of gender violence.

I’ve blogged about her before–how she brought a meeting I was at to a stunned silence with a poem about sex trafficking.

I’m not usually one who goes for poetry. Too many obscure poems I had to find meaning in as a student perhaps. But Anita’s poetry is amazing, challenging, thought-provoking, inspirational….

Here is another one of her poems, this time about gender violence. Let its message sink into your heart.

An awesome example of living in community

In the late 70s and 80s, Tony and I lived in the East End of London, an area of London where people ended up when there was no place lower to go. (The PBS series, “Call the Midwife” took place right where our medical practice was. We were there a couple of decades later, but most of the same socially deprived conditions still existed. That part of London has since become gentrified.)

We experienced a remarkable move of God while we were there. It was characterized by community. We lived “from house to house.” Most of us with homes had other people living with us as part of our families. We shared cars and lawn mowers. I never knew how many people would turn up for our evening meal and so usually cooked for around 10 people–it was rare that we didn’t have that many. We had different home groups meeting on many streets in the area–at one time or another, 17 contiguous streets had home groups. When one of Tony’s patients became a follower of Jesus, there was usually a group within a street or two of where they lived to refer them to. You couldn’t leave our house and walk to the nearest subway station without meeting other believers. And people became followers of Christ.

I’ve never experienced community like that again.

Until a few weekends ago, that is.

I had been invited to do a Black Swan Effect round table for a network of house churches called Common Thread in Birmingham, AL. What Tony and I experienced there was hugely encouraging–especially since I’ve been asking the Lord what he’s doing with simple/organic/home churches around the nation, and sensed him telling me to look at the situations where we were invited to speak.

A group of around 150 people live in the inner city, sharing their lives together. Most of those with homes have others living with them as part of their family. They have more than 25 “micro-churches.” Some of these are in homes, others in businesses, others out in the community. They share their faith in an incarnational way on a daily basis. They have started businesses like lawn care and house cleaning to help those who cannot find employment–a great way to disciple new believers. They have homes for single guys who need help getting off drugs. They are about to start a home for pregnant unmarried women. They have a coffee shop, which is now the number one coffee shop in their city, with an associated coffee bean roasting business. They use fair-trade coffee which has necessitated them visiting the coffee plantations in Indonesia, and they are about to send their first “missionaries” to work there. The “Hub” is a shared space for several of their businesses.

Their sense of community is awesome! Although two or three families live in the suburbs, some of them live in the very poorest area of town. They hang out and play football in the local park, getting to know the local residents who now accept them as part of their community.

We felt right at home. An awesome expression of the body of Christ.

And, by the way, the round table went great too.

Common Thread Coffee Shop

Letters from My Father’s Murderer: a story of forgiveness

From time to time, I come across people with such painful issues in their background that they find it almost impossible to forgive the person who has wronged them. It’s easy for me to advise them that forgiveness is a choice, that Jesus will help them, and so on. Yet despite an apparent willingness, they have an ongoing struggle to truly forgive and find freedom.

I remember watching an interview with Christian actor, Tyler Perry, who said that in his experience it takes as much strength and time to forgive as it did to go through whatever they went through originally.

Forgiveness can be tough for some people.

Now imagine that the person they need to forgive murdered their father.

When I was offered the opportunity to review Letters from My Father’s Murderer: A Journey of Forgiveness by Laurie Coombs, I was intrigued by the title, which is why I agreed to read the book. It’s not often that I find a Christian non-fiction book almost impossible to put down. But more than being a page-turner, this book gives an amazing first-hand account of grace and forgiveness, and dealing with anger, hate and a desire for revenge. It shows Jesus’s power in what seems to be an impossible situation.

It’s a book I’ll be recommending ….

On another note, I rarely talk about our personal finances. Recently, Tony and I had the privilege of being interviewed by Ali Eastburn of With This Ring, an organization that teaches radical generosity. They asked us to tell stories of how costly giving has affected our lives. You can listen to the interview here.

Letters from My Father's Murderer

Heroines of the faith: Olympia Morata and Marie Durand

As a young Christian, I was profoundly influenced by the biographies of various women and men of God. Remarkable saints of God like Hudson Taylor, Amy Carmichael, James Fraser and Helen Rosaveare were the ones who mentored and discipled me through their stories and writings. So I’m firmly convinced of the effectiveness of  the biographies of heroes and heroines of the faith.

I was recently sent two books by author, Simonetta Carr. Weight of a Flame: The Passion of Olympia Morata and Marie Durand are the inspiring stories of two women who suffered greatly for their faith.

Beautifully illustrated and well researched, Marie Durand aims at younger readers and tells the story of a nineteen year old who spent 38 years in prison for refusing to recant of the “crime” of having a brother who was a Protestant preacher. 

Weight of a Flame describes the life and love story of Olympia Morata, a renowned scholar whose world is turned upside down by the religious turmoil taking place in Europe in the 1550s. It is aimed at slightly older readers.

My take: It’s really good to have readable stories of heroines of the faith. Both of these books would be especially great for homeschoolers.

Marie Durand

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