Women and the harvest

According to Jesus, if there’s a lack of harvest, it’s not because the harvest is especially difficult, it’s due to lack of workers.

The harvest is great but the laborers are few. (Luke 10:2)

Jesus’ solution? We pray for workers for the harvest. These workers are not only existing Christians, but also those who don’t yet know the Lord. However, in the church, we often sideline half the workers for the harvest—the female half. Their engagement in the harvest is limited to inviting their friends to attend church with them. (I recognize this is often true for the men too.)

If we truly want to see great harvest, then women need to take on roles usually assigned to men. They need to make disciples and baptize them, to teach and train, to start churches, to give Communion, to strategize and plan for the harvest.

 

 

Guest post by Bruce: One line conversation starters with not-yet-believers

I have a job in a very busy, very intense human services setting. I often do not have more than 10-15 seconds to talk to a person. I always have a brief ‘teaser’ line that might elicit interest, and a quick follow up line that gives more info that can lead to a conversation.

Sometimes I say that I am a writer, and that my materials help people understand God a little better. I have a short booklet that I wrote about Jesus that I keep copies of to give out, and people are often interested in something that I wrote myself.

I often get prophetic words for co-workers, and that itself leads to conversations. Or I tell them that a lot of my time is spent helping people get closer to God. Or that I pray for a lot of people, and see God doing exciting things. I offer to pray for anyone, for anything.

My rule of thumb is to have a handful of very short ‘one liners’ and a matching follow up line that an interested person can follow up on later. This has worked well for me.

Sales people are trained to give their ‘elevator speech’.  We should be trained to give, not necessarily the gospel in 15 or 30 seconds (though that has its uses) but a 5 second comment that can give us an indication of who might well be approached later for more specific questions or comments, as a possible person of peace.

My teaser line is a way for almost anyone (even one as naturally timid as me) to ‘safely’ feel out the territory without being (or feeling) overtly or blatantly ‘religious’. The follow up might be a more definite comment or a question about spiritual beliefs.

Long ago, a friend from the South, when asked “How are you?” would often say, quietly and sweetly, “I’m blessed.”  That line, never heard in the region where I live, usually raises an eyebrow when I use it, and can give an indication of interest.I usually save that one for people that i suspect of a spiritual interest.

David Watson once blogged that he would say something like, “I feel like God may have spoken to me in a dream last night.”  or, “I recently realized something really powerful, that i never saw before.” and just let it sit, without another comment. If the other person didn’t say a word, he would not follow up with another word about it.But if they did, he gently followed up with comments to the level of the person’s interest, but never beyond it.

Just saying “God bless you” when finishing a brief conversation and watching reactions can also show who to follow up on.

Offering prayer about a personal situation shared in the workplace often leads to grateful responses, and lots of openings to share the goodness of God later on.

Bruce teaches church planting principles, working in many countries where security is an issue.

Photo Credit: procsilas (Creative Commons)

 

Commercial fishing (part 2)


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As I investigated the Scriptures on the subject of commercial fishing in the Gospels, several things became apparent.  There are several passages that talk about fishing:

  • Matthew 4:18-22 and Mark 1:16-19  Jesus calls the four disciples who are fishermen and tells them he will make them fishers of men.
  • Luke 5:1-11  Jesus tells the disciples who had fished all night but caught nothing to put down their nets again into the deep and they catch two boatloads of fish
  • John 21:3-11  After Jesus’ resurrection, seven of the disciples go fishing.  Again Jesus tells them where to cast their nets and they catch 153 large fish
  • Matthew 17: 24-27  Peter uses a rod and line to catch a fish that has money for the temple tax in its mouth.

There is obviously more than one way the disciples are fishing.  In the Luke example, they were in a boat and let down their nets.  In the John example, they throw out their nets.  In the Matthew and Mark examples they were fishing from the shore.  Further investigation reveals that although in English the word net is used in every example, in the Greek, different words are used signifying different types of nets.  For example, in the Matthew and Mark examples a specific purse net is described.

Commercial fisherman (which is what the disciples were) would have understood that you use different kinds of nets depending on the circumstances and the kind of fish you want to catch.

So in terms of the harvest where we are fishers of men, there may be different ways that we approach  “catching fish.”  What may work in other nations may not be best here in the West

There is one more passage.  This comes in Matthew 13 where Jesus tells a parable.  The kingdom of heaven is like a fishing net (literally a dragnet or seine which is a type of net used to catch large numbers of fish) let down into the water…

The question I am pondering these days is, “How do we ‘let the kingdom of heaven’ down into the community around us?  Especially here in the West where people are jaded and inoculated against the Gospel.  What kind of fishing net will catch a multitiude of fish?

Any ideas?

Commercial fishing

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Modern day fisherman on the Sea of Galilee

While we were in Mongolia a few years back, I had a dream which over has had a profound effect on my thinking.  In the dream I was handing a small group of people a book.  “It’s about how to be a commercial fisherman,”  I told them.  The only other thing I remember about the dream was telling them that the important principle was to fish where Jesus told them.

This dream seemed to be more than a post pizza (or in the case of Mongolia, mutton) dream and it started me thinking.  For Peter, Andrew, James and John, who were all commercial fishermen, when Jesus told them, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men,” they would have understood this in the context of commercial fishing.  They would not have thought hook and line (ie one fish at a time), they would have assumed fishing nets catching large numbers of fish.

I started investigating the different Scriptures on fishing in the Gospels.  More about that later.

Shortly after this we went to India and one of the people we were with works with fishermen on the coast of India.  So I asked him about how they fish.  (These would be primitive fishermen, probably very little different from fishermen in Jesus’ day.) He told me that they have different kinds of nets depending on the circumstances and what they are trying to catch.  They have a funnel net which is the kind of net they use when they don’t have boats.  They also have a drag net which is maybe 800 to 900 yards long for when they have more than one boat. There are actually several different kinds of nets that are used.

So what does it mean to be a commercial fisherman in the context of Jesus’ comments to his disciples?

More to follow.

Fast multiplication: principles behind an abundant harvest

No farmer would expect to reap a harvest of wheat in a field where he had not sown seed.

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Photo credit: CIMMYT (Creative Commons)

Why do we believers expect to reap a harvest of souls where we haven't sown spiritual seed?

There are similar principles of multiplication behind both physical and spiritual reaping and sowing. If we expect to see people become followers of Jesus without sowing the seed of the Kingdom, we are deluding ourselves.

What does this look like? According to Luke 8:11, the seed of the Kingdom is the word of God. In Matthew 13:38, the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom.

While at the Verge conference, I had the opportunity to attend some T4T training with Ying Kai. The T4Tmovement has seen more than 1.7 million baptisms and 150,000 new churches start since 2001.

What is the difference between what they see there compared to what we see in the West? They sow seed. Not just the occasional seed here or there. They sow abundantly.

The foundation behind their training is that each new believer is trained to share the good news of Jesus in simple ways right from the day they become a disciple. And not just once or twice. Each person is encouraged to share their personal story as a bridge to the Gospel, five times per week. 

Is it surprising that they reap a big harvest?

 

Ten positive signs of God at work in the church

God is at work across the nations, and I see many positive signs that he is at work here in the West too. Here's a little of what I see going on currently (in no particular order of priority):
  1. People understand the importance of listening to God and doing what he says.  The prayer movement and 24/7 prayer has an impact.
  2. Many churches are becoming more missional rather than attractional. Luke 10 principles are being applied by many across the church spectrum. Legacy churches are starting missional communities. Simple/organic churches are using these principles to produce daughter and grand-daughter churches.
  3. Churches are engaging in their communities with a resultant impact for the Kingdom.
  4. We've rediscovered some of the principles that result in multiplication rather than addition at every level. Simplicity and reproducibility are key.
  5. Discipleship that reproduces more disciples (rather than conversion) is of increasing value. 
  6. There's a blurring of distinctives between groups of people–charismatic/non-charismatic, organic/legacy, clergy/laity.
  7. Women have an increasingly equal and valued role.
  8. Legacy churches and simple/organic churches are working together with a focus on the Kingdom of God. Who knows what might happen if nobody minds who gets the credit.
  9. The separation of sacred and secular is waning. Ordinary work and its potential to be of impact for the Kingdom is valued. Church is happening in the workplace.
  10. God is working in supernatural ways; we are seeing miracles, healings and deliverances.
  11. God is raising up apostolic and prophetic leaders who serve from the foundations rather than rule from the rooftops. He is giving them his strategies and plans for their areas.
  12. We recognize that God is working in other parts of the world  and we're willing to learn from other nations.

What am I missing?

If I were a missionary…

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Photo Credit: rogiro (Creative Commons)

Some people might say that Tony and I are already missionaries.  Firstly, we have crossed cultures from the UK to the USA. (I sometimes wonder why here to the affluent West which is already so heavily Christianized when we would have willingly gone to any country in the world.)  And secondly, we are missionaries in the sense that all of us are. John 20:21 says, "As the Father sent me so am I sending you." The word missionary simply means "one who is sent."

We have the privilege and opportunity of traveling to many countries around the world. Wherever we go, we train local people how to reach out to their own spheres of influence, making disciples and starting churches. We don't mind how small the group is; all we are looking for is the one or two who are "John Knoxers" for their area. (John Knox is famous for praying, "Give me Scotland or I die!") These people take what we say and translate it into their own context, sometimes with results that far surpass anything we could have imagined.

But supposing we were called to leave the West to live and work in another culture?

Here's what I would do–hopefully being led by the Lord. In this scenario, language study is happening, finances are taken care of, either by support from home or through a business venture in the new country.

  • Pray! I remember a story Dr. Yonggi Cho told of starting a church in Japan. He sent what he described as "a mediocre Korean woman." She spent 40 days in prayer and fasting, and followed this by riding the elevator up and down in an apartment building, talking to the residents and helping them where she could. Within a short time, she had started a church with, if I remember the facts right, two hundred people–very successful for that nation.
  • Work with local people. It doesn't matter how well we speak the language and understand the customs, we'll always be outsiders. We may become trusted and accepted in time, but it takes insiders reaching out to their friends to see a viral spread of the Gospel. We'd train local people in Luke 10 principles, giving them the skills needed to make disciples and start churches in ways that can be multiplied. A good example is Guy Muse who works in Ecuador.
  • Help the poor and disadvantaged. This one would be very much as led by the Lord–I don't see it as essential, merely helpful in many contexts, especially in the Third World. I think of a couple of examples: Michele Perry, a good friend of ours, works with orphans in Southern Sudan. She takes them off the streets, giving them a home. Some of them go with her when she takes the Gospel to other villages. She has amazing stories of what God is doing. Another friend is working in a war-torn area of Russia with people who have been severely traumatized by the fighting. She brings them to her center, sees them healed, trains them and sends them out to plant churches.

What else would you do?

A simple/organic contribution to global mission

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Photo credit: Gravitywave (Creative Commons)

Over the past few months, we have had several people from a more traditional church background and who are in the process of leaving for the mission field visit the church that meets in our home.

The exchange has been valuable. Our “Jesus family” has rubbed shoulders with people sold out for the Kingdom who are literally giving up everything they know in order to take the good news into cultures that may be hostile to the Gospel. And those visiting us have tasted a simpler, relational style of church that seeks to follow the Holy Spirit when they come together and that is reaching out using Luke 10 principles into the different spheres of influence that people represent.

Many churches and mission agencies are using simple/organic church patterns on the mission field. These days, mega-churches and denominations do not ususally plan to replicate traditional Western styles of church when they get into a cross-cultural context. Mission sending agencies recognize that the most effective evangelism uses a simple/organic model of church that multiplies along relational lines.

Current experience shows that simple/organic patterns of church are less likely to provoke persecution in environments hostile to the Gospel.

The problem for many of the people going abroad as missionaries is that they have no experience of simple/organic church, even though that is what they plan to do on the field. So when they arrive on the mission field, they not only have to cope with a totally new cultural environment–language, customs, lifestyle; they also expect to work within an unfamiliar style of both evangelism and gathering.

This leads me to two conclusions:

  1. People who have been involved in simple/organic expressions of church in their home countries are well-suited to involve in cross-cultural mission. If they have been involved in a healthy expression of organic/simple church, they are already accustomed to Luke 10 principles of mission and an informal, home-based style of gathering. But a single simple church or even network of simple churches, even though they may be able to provide financially, may not have the resources or experience to provide the cross-cultural training and support on the field necessary for someone going out as a missionary.
  2. One of the contributions that the simple/organic movement can make towards global missions is to willingly work with mission-sending agencies, giving prospective missionaries a taste of what they are likely to experience on the field.

Are there ways we can partner together?

 

Simple/organic church needs simple/organic mission

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Photo credit: Abdallah (Creative Commons)

For some time now, I have been pondering the question, "What does it look like for simple/organic churches to get involved in mission?" I'm referring here to the role of what is usually known as "the missionary"–one who is called to leave their own culture and live in another nation, either short or long-term.

Here are some of the questions I have:

  1. How, if at all, are simple/organic churches currently involved in missions?
  2. How could/should their involvement differ from traditional mission work?
  3. What is the most effective church planting training they can receive?
  4. Who are the most effective people to reach unreached people groups?
  5. Are there any mistakes of traditional missions that we can learn from and avoid?
  6. How can this be financed?
  7. How can people be supported in the field?
  8. What language and cross cultural training is needed?

What other questions do you have?

Why is food important when it comes to church planting?

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Photo credit: CarbonNYC (Creative Commons)

A post about food seems appropriate after the amount I've eaten over the past two days!

Food is very important in the context of seeing multiplying churches. Luke 10 is our signature passage on how to reach out to those who don't yet know the Lord. It tells us that we are to look for people of peace–those who have influence and are open to our message. We can identify them because they offer us hospitality.

Luke 10:7-8 says this about the person of peace:

Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you. 

What is the importance of food?  Why is it important to eat what is set before you?

Food creates relationship–in every culture of the world.  If someone offers you food, they are generally offering friendship and relationship.  

There are very few times when the same concept is mentioned in two consecutive verses in the New Testament. This is one of them.  It's not just an optional extra.

If you reject food, you are doing far more than saying you don't want to eat.  You are rejecting friendship.  There have been times when I would have preferred to refuse food.  (You try eating a hamburger you have just watched a cockroach walk over!)  If you want to see disciples made in the harvest, swallow your squeamishness and eat what is set before you!