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Multiplication tools: the list

If you want your group to be outward looking, the list is a powerful tool.

List
In CMA's Life Transformation Groups, each person makes a list of three to four people who are not followers of Jesus that they commit to pray for daily.

In T4T, each person is encouraged to make a list of all the not-yet-believers that they know, and divide them into groups of five. Each week, they pick a group and having prayed for them, try to tell their story to each person.

Do you have a list of people you know who are either not-yet-believers or who are not walking closely with the Lord? 

It's easier to think through the people you know by looking at your circles of influence:

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  1. The people closest to you: your family and closest friends. They don't have to live near you, but maybe you are in email contact with them. This week I offered to pray for a niece who isn't a believer and prayed for her via a facebook message.
  2. People from work: who do you know from work who is not following the Lord? The company president? The person who cleans the building? Your colleagues?
  3. Social acquaintances–people whose names you know and who know your name. Parents of those on your kid's basketball team? People in your neighborhood?
  4. Casual contacts, people you recognize but don't know their names. Your mailman, the girl behind the counter of the coffee shop where you get your morning caffeine fix. 

Practical application: Have the people in your group spend 15 minutes creating a list of all the people they know who are not following Jesus.  Suggest they commit to praying for them and if possible, telling them their story.

 

Multiplication tools: good invitations and better invitations

There are good invitations, but if you want to see multiplication, there might be better ones:

Invitation
Photo credit: Tracy Hunter (Creative Commons)

You've shared your story, using it as a bridge to a presentation of the good news of the Kingdom. What now?  

It's unusual for someone to say, "How can I become a Christian?" They are much more likely to respond to a specific suggestion from you. Hopefully you've made clear the cost of following Jesus when you shared to good news with them. You could say, "Would you like to invite Jesus into your life," but it might be better to ask, "Are you ready to surrender your life to Jesus?" The one might lead to a decision, the other to a disciple. 

Then teach the new disciple how to share his/her story with his friends and family, inviting them to become Jesus followers too. 

Do you ask the new believer to come with you to church?

There might be a better way. How about, "Do you have any friends who might be interested in learning more about Jesus too? Could we get together with them?"

If you invite someone to come to church with you, whether legacy or house church, you may miss out on the opportunity to reach their oikos, or circle of influence. The slow way to multiply is to add people to your group until it is big enough to multiply into two. The faster way is to start with an existing community and watch them become a church as a group together. So better to meet with the new disciple's existing circle of influence within their familiar environment.

Suggested activity: Would the people in your church know how to pray with someone to become a Christian? Have them practice this skill with each other.

 

 

Multiplication tools: the bridge

Telling our story is only a bridge to an explanation of the good news of Jesus.

Bridge

Photo credit: Southernpixel Alby (Creative Commons)

Another skill it is good to have in our toolbelt is the ability to explain the Gospel simple and concisely to a not-yet-believer. I'm not talking the Santa Claus Gospel here–invite Jesus into your life and he will give you everylasting peace and joy. I'm talking about  the real good news of the Kingdom–forgiveness of sin, the promise of relationship with God, belonging to a family, all dependent on a total surrender of our lives to the Lordship of Christ.

There are many different and good ways of explaining the Gospel–the Roman Road, the principles of the Four Spiritual Laws, and so on. All of them have their good points and also their drawbacks. They are tools. Useful ones. But have people in your church ever used them? Do they know how to use their story as a bridge to an explanation of the good news? Have they ever said to someone, "Can I explain to you what being a follower of Jesus is about?"

Suggested activity: Choose one pattern of helping someone to become a disciple. Make sure the people in your group thoroughly understand it and then have them pair up and practice explaining the Gospel to the other person in just a minute or two. Again, the other person is to stop them if either religious language is used or if there is something they think an ordinary person with no church experience might not understand.

 

Being a disciple

We in the church sometimes live as though Jesus died to give us meetings, and meetings more abundantly. 

Jesus died to give us life. Being a disciple of Jesus is not measured by how many meetings we go to–however informal they may be. It's measured by obedience to Jesus and his commands. It's demonstrated by what goes on in our everyday lives. It's lived out in what we pass on to others.

It's also about living for his Kingdom rather than for our own particular denomination, brand or structure of church.

 

 

When it doesn’t matter who gets the credit: a story

While I was in the UK two weeks ago, a not-yet-Christian came to the church that meets in our home. She is friends with some of the students who attend regularly.  Apparently it was a very ordinary time. But at the end she was asked, "Would you like to give your life to Jesus?" 

"Yes," was her reply.

She very simply surrendered her life to Jesus, and was overcome with the peace and joy that only the Lord can give. Tony suggested that the students baptize her in their group that meets at the university.

Yesterday I heard the other half of the story.

I was at a Greenhouse, and met the student minister from one of the local churches. He shared that one of the students from his group had spent much of that day sharing about the Lord with this girl before she gave her heart to Jesus. Not only that, two of her friends had subsequently become Christians within his student ministry.

We rejoiced together at what the Lord is doing. We especially rejoiced at the fact that God's Kingdom is more important than either of our groups–that God is the one to get all the glory.

There are actually four groups involved in what went on.

  1. Student CPX, who trained some of the students who come to the church that meets in our home.  These students have started 
  2. a simple/organic church that is multiplying at a local university
  3. The local cell church with a student ministry
  4. The church that meets in our home

It reminds me of a passage in 1 Corinthians:

I planted the seed in your hearts, and Apollos watered it, but it was God who made it grow. It’s not important who does the planting, or who does the watering. What’s important is that God makes the seed grow. The one who plants and the one who waters work together with the same purpose. And both will be rewarded for their own hard work. For we are both God’s workers. And you are God’s field. You are God’s building. (I Corinthians 3:6-9)

What might happen if we build the Lord's house (the Kingdom) in preference to our own luxurious homes (our own churches) (Haggai 1)? What might happen in our cities if nobody minds who gets the credit? What might happen if a nameless, faceless generation allows God to get all the glory? 

Maybe, just maybe, we would see the move of God we all long for.

A lesson from my days as a physician: What are we building?

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Are we building our own luxurious houses or are we building God's Kingdom? (Haggai 1)

Are we more interested in holding a correct theological and ecclesiological position, or is our concern for the unity of the body of Christ? Do we believe that our way of being church is the right way and that everyone else is a little misguided? 

Back in my days as a physician, one of the highlights of my career was performing an EKG on a very well-known persecuted Christian from the underground church. As I placed my hands on the deep (at least 1 inch deep and a foot or so long) scars on his chest and back, I was in awe at the example of this joy-filled and gracious man! One of the things I best remember him saying was that in a situation where believers suffer severe persecution, denominations and theological divisions do not matter. What counts is the heart and the relationship with Jesus. In prison he had deep fellowship with some who, under normal situations, people would say were part of a cult, or certainly very unsound theologically.

I pray it will not take that kind of persecution to bring the body of Christ to unity.

Jesus is in the process of breaking down the barriers that we have erected between us. He is coming back for a pure bride, without spot or wrinkle. As life accelerates towards his coming again, I believe we will see Christians walking together without regard to which church they attend, or what theology they hold. Even so come, Lord Jesus!

What can we do as churches together that we cannot do on our own? Let's build his Kingdom rather concentration on living in luxury and comfort in our own houses. 

 

 

How our standard poodle was witness to my failure

Winston H. Churchill is the full name of our standard poodle. (Winston Churchill obviously stems from our British heritage. The middle initial, "H," stands for Houdini which we added after he twice escaped from a wire kennel, leaving the door bolted behind him. No, don't ask!)

Winston before
Winston: before grooming

One of the advantages of a standard poodle is that they do not shed. The disadvantage is that they need grooming. Let me explain what Winston and his dreadlocks have to do with God's Kingdom and church planting.

Six months ago I would have struggled to find the books of Haggai and Zechariah; now my Bible falls open to those pages. God has been speaking clearly and specifically to Tony and me from these books about many of the things we are involved in: our personal lives, the direction our business should take, what is going on with the simple/organic/house church movement. 

To understand these books, it helps to know a little of the history. The first waves of the Children of Israel have returned from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Led by Zerubbabel the Governor, and Jeshua the High Priest, they lay the foundations of the Temple in an attempt to rebuild Solomon's Temple, destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar invaded. But the local people (not Israelites, but others who have been relocated to their land) conspire to stop the work. For almost 20 years, the rebuilding of the Temple is abandoned. In the meantime, the Israelites settle back into their various towns and villages to rebuild their own houses.

Enter the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They prophecy to the leaders and to the people telling them that many of the challenges they face, from financial difficulties to crop failures to drought, stem from the fact that they have neglected to rebuild God's temple. When Haggai and Zechariah prophecy the promise of God's presence and blessing  (I am with you, says the Lord (Haggai 1:13)), it is enough to galvanize Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the Israelites back into action. Within four short years the Temple is completed.

The church in our nation  is in rapid, overall decline.  Christianity is fast becoming outdated and outmoded. It's time for us to rebuild the Temple. I'm not referring to physical bricks and mortar here, but to the Kingdom, God's spiritual temple built with spiritual stones. These spiritual stones are people, followers of Jesus (1Peter 2:5).

The Lord has been convicting me over recent days through the book of Haggai and through T4T teaching that I need to be more vocal about my faith. How will we ever see a move of God here if no seed of the Kingdom is sown? If I preach the importance of speaking about our faith, then I must live it too.

As I looked at my day early yesterday morning, the one occasion I was likely to get to chat with a non-believer was when I took Winston for his end-of-winter hair cut. I determined I was going to find an opportunity to share my spiritual story with the lady who grooms him.

I failed. Completely. Someone else was in the store and I chickened out!  (Yes, I know. It's all about listening to the Lord and speaking to those he tells us to talk to.) 

God help me!

Winston after
Winston: after grooming

 

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.

Seed

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?

 

What might it look like when big and small work together?

Rabbit and elephant
Photo credit: brendan.wood (Creative Commons)

The rabbit and the elephant have very different strengths. Different sized churches do too.

Rabbit sized churches:

  • Can penetrate into every nook and cranny of society reaching people who would never darken the door of a church building
  • Have the potential to multiply rapidly along relationship lines
  • Foster community and every member participation

Elephant sized churches:

  • Are highly visible
  • Can produce larger-scale events 
  • Have many resources of both people and finance

Many larger churches are adopting simple/organic principles when it comes to reaching out into their communities with the good news of the Gospel. They actively encourage their members who are more entrepreneurial in terms of church planting to start new groups outside the four walls of the building. These"second tracks" (often called missional communities) are effectively simple churches with a missional emphasis. Often there is no expectation that these groups will feed new disciples into the main church.

It seems that God is working these principles right across the denominational lines. What can we do to support and involve with each other? Are there ways in which those of us who have been involved in simple/organic practices for many years, can stand together with the churches who are beginning to explore these areas?

What might happen in our cities if no one is seeking to get the credit?

The Rabbit and the Elephant

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There are two types of churches that seem to be growing more rapidly in the United States–the very large and the very small. A few years ago, Tony, my husband, felt very strongly that we should try and get some dialog between the two, and so we arranged a meeting for about 20 leaders from both styles of gathering to come together for two days of conversation. Northland: A Church Distributed,  in Orlando hosted the time together. Northland is a multi-site church that has consistently found ways to bless the house church movement. 

The most poignant moment occurred some time into the conference when Dan Lacich, one of the leaders at Northland shared. He effectively said, "Can you not trust me to have heard from the Lord that he is leading me to stay within the traditional church structure?"

When we feel very strongly about a topic, it's easy to assume that others just haven't seen the light yet. If only they would seek God more, he would show them what he's shown us.

Not so. 

For a long time, since we first realized that God was going to do something major with the simple/organic church movement, we have been praying that God would overturn church history. Usually when a new move of God occurs, its primary detractors are from the move that came before it. So we began praying that God would cause traditional churches to bless the simple/organic/house churches, and that we in turn would only speak well of and bless the churches we have come from. It's for this reason that we like the term "legacy" churches (originally coined by our friend Kent Smith).

A few years ago, Tony and I wrote a book with George Barna entitled, "The Rabbit and the Elephant." (This book has since been republished in paperback under the title, "Small is Big.") The obvious analogy is for small and large churches, and refers to the ability of the small to multiply quickly. Because of where the Lord has led us, the book is primarily about the principles of how to make disciples and gather them in simple/organic churches.

God is far more interested in our hearts than he is in our structures or correct doctrine. Rabbits and elephants are not renowned for cooperating together in the wild, but can we, as large and small churches and everything in between, find ways of cooperating together synergistically for the sake of the Kingdom of God? 

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