Praying the price (part 2)

Are we praying the price?

David Watson, whose book Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery I featured here, once asked his top 100 church planters–those who were starting at least 20 churches per year–a series of questions to find out the common elements among them. They found many similar factors, but there was only one present in every team: a high commitment to prayer.

Here’s what is described in the book:

These leaders spent an average of three hours per day in personal prayer. They spent another three hours in prayer with their teams every day. These leaders were not all full-time religious leaders. In fact, most of them had regular jobs. They started their days at 4:00 a.m., and by 10:00 a.m. were at work.

These top performers also spent one day per week in fasting and prayer. The whole team spent one weekend per month in fasting and prayer.

One group had started more than 500 churches the previous year.

I’m not talking about legalism here; we cannot earn a move of God. But I firmly believe we will not see the move of God we long for in this country without praying the price.

Children praying

Photo Credit: amslerPIX via Compfight cc

Praying the price (part 1)

We will not see the move of God we long for unless it is preceded by a prayer movement. Are we praying the price?

In 1983, Tony and I had the privilege of going to Korea where we spent time at Full Gospel Central Church. At that time, it was the largest church in the world and  Dr Paul Yonggi Cho was the pastor. Our question going there was two fold. Was this work “an inch deep and a mile wide,” or, if it was deeper than that, what, if any, was the secret to the remarkable things they were seeing?

The first night we were there, we went to their all night prayer meeting. We arrived an hour early to find the place (which seated about 10,000 at the time) already filled with people praying. Every seat was taken and there were more on the floor in the aisles. Mothers had babies on their backs, children were sleeping on the ground. There were older people, younger people, all praying and worshipping.  We didn’t understand a word of what was going on, but the presence of God was so real it felt almost tangible. When the meeting started, everyone began praying loudly and simultaneously.  The whole auditorium was on its feet, storming heaven, arms raised, some with fists clenched, tears running down their cheeks. A few were kneeling, their tears dripping to the floor. It was profoundly moving. At one point I looked at my watch. Forty minutes later, someone rang a bell and the praying stopped. Then another topic was announced and off they went again. This went on all night with the occasional break to sing a hymn.

A couple of days later we visited their “Prayer and Fasting Mountain.” Some people fasting for forty days. Some were there to pray until they received healing. Because it was so cold (13 degrees F) many were lying on the floor in sleeping bags. We visited the tiny cubicles cut into the mountain, where people stayed to fast and pray until God met them.

We heard story after story of the miracles God did in response to prayer. Healings, businesses restored, lives transformed by meeting Jesus.

At the end of our time there I was convinced we were seeing a genuine and deep move of God. And the reason? The people there were praying the price.

Full Gospel Central Church

Photo credit: www.economist.com

Contagious Disciple Making (Thomas Nelson, 2014)

It’s (relatively) easy to write a book. But to find a book backed by the hands-on experience of  David and Paul Watson is rare–rare in that it is unusual to have authors so incredibly qualified to write such a work. David has seen church planting movements numbering in the tens of thousands in India, thousands in Africa and now he and Paul are seeing multiplication here in the West too. By reading Contagious Disciple Making: Leading Others on a Journey of Discovery, we can all learn from their experience. Seeing multiple generations of multiplying disciples is what many of us in the simple/organic/house church movement long for. For some time, I, personally, have believed that this is going to be the next move of the Holy Spirit in this country.  In Contagious Disciple Making, David and Paul enumerate the principles involved in a clear and concise way. They don’t minimize the cost–they have paid a high price at times. And they give us proven tools that any of us can use. Let’s read and learn… Contagious Disciple Making

When ideas go viral

John White loves to create practical ideas that go viral through story-telling. The Luke 10:2b prayer is just one example. It is going all around the world–in fact, just this morning I had an email from someone in India who is using it. I have no idea where he may have heard of it.

Another idea John helped to create is Lk10. This is a community of  practice for church planters  that revolves around rhythms that focus on what Jesus is doing as people start simple churches. We love what they represent.

Here is a video of John interviewing simple church network leader, Jim Mellon.

How to catch a virus

There’s a virus that going around the world. It’s a dangerous virus that could change your life. Unlike most other viruses, I hope you catch it.

This virus is the 10:2b virus. It comes from Luke 10 and verse 2.

These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields.

The 10:2b virus started when a couple of friends of ours, John White and Kenny Moore, were discussing one morning over breakfast how to find more church planters for their state. As they chatted, they remembered the verse in Luke 10 where Jesus commanded the disciples (both the 12 and the 72) to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into the harvest. They decided to try it for a week–calling each other daily on the phone. The week extended into months and eventually years of prayer together on a daily basis.

The results were so life-changing in terms of the number of people starting churches in their state as a specific answer to this prayer, they knew it needed to spread.  And so the idea of the Luke 10:2b virus was born. As John and Kenny told their story everywhere, others joined them, praying in pairs daily over the phone that the Lord of the harvest would thrust out more laborers into the harvest. Many people set the alarm on their phone for 10:02 am or pm to remind them to pray.

Luke 10:2 comes from Jesus teaching to his disciples on how to reach out to others. Luke 10 is a foundational passage for disciple-making and church planting movements around the world.

  • According to Jesus, the problem isn’t the harvest.   In another place, Jesus says to the disciples, “You say there are still 4 months left until harvest, but I tell you, the harvest is ready now” (paraphrase of John 4:35).  We give God excuses as to why the harvest isn’t ready–”My area is too hard, no one is interested,”  As soon as I finish this, (think of an excuse) I’ll go out and find a ripe field.”  But the Lord of the harvest says, “Now’s the time!”
  • The real problem is too few workers.  But hold on.  Jesus had 72+12= 84 workers.  That’s 42 pairs of people who were going out into the harvest.  Surely that’s enough!  If we had that number of committed church planting teams here in our area, we’d be thrilled.  But according to Jesus, that’s inadequate for the task.  It reminds me of the old story.  How do you get a herd of cows to produce more milk?  Do you feed them better food, give them extra vitamins, play them soothing music in their stalls?  That might help a little (well the food and vitamins, anyway).  No, the best way to significantly increase milk production is to add more cows to your herd!  It’s a bit like this here.  It’s easier to see more harvest by increasing the number of workers than by trying to persuade the existing ones to work harder or smarter.  
  • Jesus’ solution to the problem is this:  Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the harvest.  We are to pray (beseech, beg) the Lord to send out more workers.  The Greek word used her for “send out” is ekballo which has an element of violence in it.  It’s the word used for casting out a demon. This is not a quiet, gentle prayer. It’s a violent, take it by force prayer.

We won’t see a disciple-making movement without a prayer movement.  

fireworks

Photo credit: Christophe Pasqual (Creative Commons)

An Army of Ordinary People

Which is more effective in the long term? A highly skilled evangelist (think Billy Graham or a gifted pastor) or An Army of Ordinary People sharing the good news of Jesus everywhere they go?  Much as I appreciate and value evangelists, I believe equipping people to do the work of an evangelist (which, according to Ephesians 4:11-12 is what an evangelist should do) will have a greater impact.

In my experience, while it obviously needs the work of the Holy Spirit, there are three main contexts in which a person is likely to become a follower of Jesus:

  1. When Jesus meets them at their point of need–eg after prayer for healing, or for finance etc. (Luke 10:9)
  2. In response to our story and the story of Jesus (Acts 26)
  3. As they explore the word of God is a participatory (Discovery) Bible study. This is the context in which we’ve seen whole groups find Jesus. (Hebrews 4:12-13)

Therefore, there are some skills we need to acquire:

  1. How to pray in faith–which means taking risks
  2. How to tell our story in a way that is neither religious nor self-righteous (nor full of Christianese) and then bridge into the story of Jesus
  3. How to introduce people to and lead them in a participatory Bible study

All of this can be simple enough that a new disciple can train others too.

What do you think?

Iwo Jima

Jesus, Disciple, Mission, Church by Chris Jefferies

For many people,the books of Alan Hirsch have been a gateway into the world of missional thinking. Alan has been a friend for many years, but it was The Shaping of Things to Come which he wrote with Australian missiologist and theologian, Michael Frost, that was my introduction to his writing. Alan writes with clarity and insight and is often used by God as a catalyst to cause churches to think “outside the box”–or at least outside the four walls of the building–when it comes to reaching out to the world around us.

The Forgotten Ways is another of Alan’s books. It is a foundational classic that describes the six elements of missional DNA. These six elements, Hirsch believes, are essential to the creation of transformative missional movements.

My friend, Chris Jefferies, from the UK, has written an excellent and comprehensive primer/guide that sets out Alan’s teaching in The Forgotten Ways in a simple and accessible way. Entitled, Jesus, Disciple, Mission, Church, it is designed for groups to use and provides many useful questions for discussion.

You can get his free workbook here.

The mystery of healing

Some of you who have been reading my blog for a while will remember the amazing story of Rosaura and her son, Jose (and another story here).

Healing is a mystery! As a church, we’ve many times seen the Lord step in and heal. But not on every occasion. This time,  Rosaura is instantly healed from 30 years of alcoholism and drug addiction with no withdrawal symptoms. On the other hand, within a week, her son, Jose, is diagnosed with a brain tumor.

Today, Jose had his fifth major brain surgery, this time to completely remove the tumor. In the past, the surgeon had deliberately left some of the tumor in order to preserve Jose’s eyesight. Today, the surgeon found “a mess” when he operated. One piece of good news. What they thought was tumor pressing on his optic nerve turned out to be a blood clot. But as he was operating to remove the remainder of the tumor that had entwined around a major blood vessel, a small blood vessel burst, and there was a large amount of bleeding. He was only able to clamp the vessel and quickly end the operation without being able to remove all the tumor.

The danger is that Jose has suffered a stroke from the bleed in his brain.

Jose is an outstanding young man who loves Jesus with all his heart. He has a delightful sense of humor, is a natural leader, and was set on becoming a nurse until the latest set of complications occurred and he had to give up his place in nursing school. I have no doubt that God has plans for Jose’s life.

Please pray with us for Jose. Pray he makes a full recovery with no signs of stroke. Pray that we, his church family, learn all we need to about the mystery of healing. And pray that the Master-Physician steps in and heals Jose completely, and that he, alone, gets the glory for a miracle.

Update: I just received a video from Rosaura showing Jose raising both hands in the air. Thank you, Lord!

How I reversed osteoporosis

Just over a year ago, I had my annual medical. After a routine bone-density scan, the diagnosis came back: osteoporosis. The doctor offered me an array of pharmaceutical options.

I am no stranger to osteoporosis. Both my mother, and my mother-in-law, have suffered collapsed vertebrae–a very painful condition. In my  90-year-old mother’s case, she had to give up independent living and reside in a nursing home.

So when the doctor told me I had osteoporosis, I took it very seriously.

“Will you give me one year to try natural ways of dealing with it?” I asked.

He agreed, but told me that one year later, he would repeat the scan, and if he saw no change, I would have to take medications.

At home, I reviewed the medical websites, and altered the regimen of vitamins and minerals I take accordingly.

I knew that exercise needed to play a key part in what I did. The kids had some P90X videos lying around the house, and I decided to try them.  P90X is a series of more than 12 videos, and I love the variety. Disclaimer: P90X is an intense and extreme workout–not to be used by someone who is unfit. I do not come from a particularly athletic family, so exercise has never been a large part of my lifestyle, but a few years back, the Lord spoke to Tony and me telling us we were to get fit, so I had at least been working out from time to time before I started.

I took the P90X videos very slowly, starting with tiny weights, and gradually increasing. I still do most of the push-ups on my knees, and the pull-ups using a resistance band, and I modify many of the activities. Would you believe that my favorite video exercise is kick-boxing? I’m way fitter than I used to be.

Last month, I had my annual medical again.

I no longer have osteoporosis! Thank you, Jesus! (The doctor said he’d never seen that extensive a reversal before).

It feels like I did nothing special. All I did was be consistent. I showed up, and kept showing up all year. One hour of exercise per day, usually five or more days a week. And it has made a very significant difference.

For some reason this has felt very empowering.

I realize how often just showing up and doing a little has created accomplishments in my life. Like writing books: you eat an elephant one bite at a time. For example, as a student, I went through the Navigators Topical Memory System, and for several years learned three verses a week. (I just wish I could still remember the references too!) Often when the Lord has used me it’s been the end result of consistent small steps.

So at the beginning of this year, I’m asking the Lord, what goals do you have for me this year, and what small steps do you want me to take consistently?

Take small steps

Photo Credit: deeplifequotes via Compfight cc