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Becoming a Citizen

American_flag

On May 23rd 2008, I became an American
citizen. In a large gymnasium hastily
converted into a courtroom, before a presiding judge and with all due pomp and circumstance, I pledged allegiance to my new country and was granted the rights and
privileges that citizenship brings. 

It was a surprisingly moving ceremony punctuated by patriotic songs and speeches about freedom. There were around 1,100 of us, from 85
different nations. The immigration
officials several times spoke of the incredible stories—the hardships that some
people had endured to gain the privilege of citizenship. I was sitting next to a man from Bangladesh who
had not seen his wife in more than eight years in order that he could become an
American citizen and have her come and join him legally. For me, coming from a nation like Britain, I take
freedom and justice for granted, but many people were from oppressive regimes
or situations where the rule of law has no sway, and poverty and injustice are
a way of life. In becoming citizens of
the US,
they are liberated.

There were several judges and even a US senator in
attendance. An immigration official had
to swear on our behalf that all of us had been investigated and no just cause
was found whereby we might be denied citizenship, and we all had to raise our
right hands and solemnly promise that there was no reason we knew of why we
should not become citizens. We were then
informed of the rights and privileges we would automatically have as citizens
of the United States. These included such things as the right to
travel under an American passport, the right to vote and so on. We were also informed of our responsibilities
including the fact that any of us could be called on to fight for our country
if the occasion arose. America’s wars
are now my wars.

Finally, we had to give up any loyalty that we might have
had to “kings, potentates and other authorities” and swear allegiance to our
new country. We pledged allegiance to
the flag of the United States of America, and were all declared to
be American citizens, with a certificate to prove it. Then pandemonium broke out as the court
adjourned and everyone began celebrating.

I am very proud of my British heritage. But now I’m also proud to be an American. 

This is the second time I have changed citizenship. I was actually born into an oppressive
regime that sought to marginalize all its citizens. There was no justice; its citizens
frequently lived in fear, and breaking its laws carried the death penalty. At the age of 11, I had the opportunity to
change my citizenship and I appeared before a judge. This time, I could not claim that I was
worthy to be granted citizenship, but Someone came and stood in my place, and
my right to become a citizen of this new country was based on His righteousness
rather than my own. And so in the
courtroom of heaven, I relinquished my citizenship in the kingdom of darkness
and became a citizen of the Kingdom of light ruled by a good, righteous and
just King. However, I became more than
just a citizen; I was welcomed into the royal family with all the rights and
privileges, not just of citizenship, but also of sonship. 

Just like becoming an American, there are also
responsibilities tied up with citizenship of the Kingdom. I was born again into a nation at war. Like it or not, her wars are now my wars, and
God’s Kingdom is in the process of invading the kingdom of darkness. I also have the privilege and responsibility of acting as an
ambassador for this Kingdom wherever I go, and of letting others know that they can
be free from the oppression of the regime they currently live under.  They
too can change citizenship and come under the rule of a King who loves them and
is longing to welcome them into His Kingdom.

 

For a year now, I have been studying the subject of the Kingdom of God. This post is the first of several to discuss this subject. I will be very interested to hear your
comments too—I have not come to many set conclusions on the topic and am
aware it is one of those subjects that the Holy Spirit is bringing to people’s
attention.

 

More Trends

First, a quick update on Joy, the lady in India who was facing prison two weeks ago because of her activities for the Gospel and for whom many were praying.  YM writes:

"Dear brother and sister,
Greetings thanks for your prayers and concern. Joy
got bail yesterday by God's grace.
Thanks again for your prayers
YM"

Weather_vane_2

 

 

A couple of posts ago we looked at
six encouraging spiritual trends that a group of us from around the country are
noticing.  Here is a continuation of that discussion.  Again, these
are not in any particular order of importance.

 

7.  There are more answers to prayer and they seem
to be coming more quickly. Many are
experiencing a greater sense of God’s presence.

8.  Interdenominational co-operation: There seems to be an increasing amount of
collaboration between different denominations on ideas, conferences and
meetings. This is typified by come of
the co-operation on the Facebook website.

9. There
are some great movies out there that raise the right questions and give us more
tools to look at spirituality and a focus for discussion. Movies like Why Did I Get Married and Juno
would fit in that category. Even
Oprah’s “church” reveals the amount of spiritual hunger out there. (In our conversation, there was a caution
raised here. Windows of spiritual awareness
may close so we need to take advantage of them while they are open.)

10. The emphasis
on waiting in God’s presence which some may call “soaking” will cause the move
of the Holy Spirit to accelerate.

11. Missional
businesses: There are more people
interested in Kingdom-minded businesses. We are hearing increasing stories of people starting businesses that God
is blessing so much that their time is being freed for the Kingdom.

12. Interest
from mega-churches: There have been
several instances of mega-churches being in contact with the simple church
movement with an amazing openness to what we are doing. One is asking how they can bless us, another
how they can get involved in starting organic churches and others wanting to
learn more. What would happen if the
mega and micro learned to co-operate?

 

 

 

 


Pray for Joy

Several of the last posts have been from an interview with a couple from India, YM and Joy, both church planters, who are facing considerable challenges because of the stand they are taking for the Lord. They have been charged with "converting" people to Christianity.  In their state, if you offer someone enticement to convert (like eternal life) you can be found guilty. 

I just received the following email from YM:

"Dear brother and sister

Greetings
Thanks for email and for prayers.Tomorrow Joy goes
to court for her bail.Please pray that she would be granted bail on the same
day.If judge rejects her bail then she will end up going to jail for a month
which of course will be unbearable for her.Pray that God will bring grace to us
and work in the heart of Judge.Pray that Lord will supply all the bail needs
too.
Thanks again.
YM with  prayers"

We in the West know little of this kind of suffering for the Lord.  Let's stand with them in prayer.

Trends

Man_with_binocularsEvery couple of weeks, I get on the phone with a few good friends for an hour or so of conversation.  We come from all across the nation from the west coast to the east coast, from the very north of the country to here in Texas.  We try to discuss things of relevance each time.  This past week we looked at different trends that we see occurring across the nation that are of relevance within the Kingdom and/or that affect simple churches.

We came up with 10 or so trends that between us we can see occurring.  I will mention a few during this blog and post the remainder in a few days.  What I am interested to know is if any of you are noticing the same things.  That would confirm what we are sensing.  I also find that hearing about these things raises my faith level and gives me an expectation that we will see more.

Here are the first six–in no particular order of priority:

  1. There is an increase in the number of healings. We are hearing stories of regular "no-name" people praying, and remarkable healings occurring.  These stories include healing from things like cancer, major abdominal problems etc.  Those praying are not those with a healing ministry, but just a group of ordinary Christians praying for someone with a physical or emotional problem.  Sometimes they are occurring out in the marketplace.
  2. There is an increased hunger to hear about simple church.  Many people are asking questions, searching for answers.  Many leaders within various denominations have become open to these concepts.
  3. Churches are being planted cross-culturally, both within different nationalities such as Afghan, Cuban etc and across cultural boundaries such as with the homeless.
  4. Simple churches are becoming more missional.  We are hearing stories of simple churches that started with people who left legacy churches now turning outwards and reaching out into their communities.  It's as though some have needed a period of time so they can experience some personal healing, but now that has been accomplished, they have become very Kingdom minded and outreach focused.
  5. More women are engaged in church planting.  We heard of one example of a group being formed for women who are planting churches.
  6. There are some great books out there that are becoming catalysts for conversation.  This includes books such as Frank Viola's Pagan Christianity (incidentally there is a hilarious spoof commercial for that book at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hslswIal9u4) and The Forgotten Ways by Alan Hirsch.

Don't forget, we would love to hear from you if you are experiencing any of the same sort of trends.  Are there books that you feel fit in that same category?  Do you know of examples of healings, simple churches being planted cross-culturally and so on.  Encourage us all!

 

Further conversation: the role of women

This blog continues the conversation with Indian church planters, YM and Joy  who are currently experiencing a church planting movement in their region of India.  They have much wisdom and insight to give us.  You may view previous sections of the interview with them in the archives.

Indian_women

 

FD: What about the
role of women—what can they do? 

Joy: Since this is an
oral culture, we train women who are married. In general we find that those aged 25-45 are best because they have good
access to the people. Women are not
limited—they can do anything. The women
baptize other women. In terms of
authority, a woman can do anything. They
can baptize, pray for the sick or plant a church. A woman will spread the good news to her
relatives and to the community. 

YM: In our movement,
Joy was the first one to demonstrate that women can baptize. She baptized 29 in a single day. Now she does not baptize people because she
has trained others to do so. She passes
that authority on to new church planters too. She has trained 305 women leaders. 

Joy: YM has trained
over 3,000 men in a seven year period. 

One of the major advantages a woman has is that in our
culture, a man cannot talk to a woman, so a man has limited access to a
household. The women have unlimited
access so they are more free than a man to plant a church. They are also more successful. The majority of women work on the farms and
in the fields. In the morning they see
to their livestock. At noon, when the
sun is overhead and people are resting, this is the time when our ladies catch
them. 

We have different strategies that we follow. For the first five weeks of church planting
we just try to create a relationship. We
let the people know we are here to pray. We prayer walk the area. Then for
3-6 months we concentrate on the relationships. When we have created a
relationship we pray for people and tell stories of the things God has done for
us.We have a story for every need. Usually at around the six month point, people
are ready to become a Christian. In
general, it takes us around 6 months to start a church. 

In Hinduism there is no concept of sin. They are justified by their work and
karma. We use chronological story
telling so that people realize they are a sinner who needs a savior. We teach repentance and salvation and baptize
people, then give them the authority to do the same and make disciples. We tell them, “You know Christ and you are
saved. You are a disciple. Now do the same for others. We teach them, “Be one and bring one. Bring an unbeliever with you to the training
for new Christians.”

Continuing the Conversation…

Here is more of the interview with YM and Joy:

FD: You are seeing
many miracles: Tell me a story. 

YM: You reach a tipping
point in a situation when you see an answer to prayer.  Miracles play a vital role in planting churches.
The Book of Acts has come alive.

Joy: A lady came to one
of our women’s trainings by following a crowd to where we were baptizing 29
women from a Brahmin background. (We baptize women if they are ready to take
baptism. because it teaches them the importance of immediate obedience.) The lady
was mentally ill. She came from around
150 kilometers away and she survived by eating garbage. On the third day of the training, we taught
about healing prayer and when we prayed for her she was healed—back in her
right mind. On Day 5 she was
baptized. On Day 6 she went home. Now her whole family has come to Christ. There are three other believing ladies in her
area and they get together with her. They
have talked with her husband and because she was healed from her madness, the
whole family accepted Christ. Her son
was 2 years old when she left and for 18 months she was completely crazy. The family is very happy—the father has his
wife back and the son has a mother again. 

Another lady had been bitten by a snake and her whole hand was
swollen. She went to a village healer. He cut her hand to take blood out and told
her she would be fine. Later her hand
became hugely swollen and very painful. As soon as we prayed for healing, the pain disappeared and the swelling
went down immediately. Then she went
back to her village. When we called her
to see how she was doing, there were whole families who had become Christians
because of her testimony. “What do I do
now?” she asked. “What did we teach
you?” we asked. “The Great Commission,”
she answered. “Can I baptize them?” “If they are ready,” we answered. This lady is non-literate. 

YM:  Back in the 1990s I had one traditional church which was
dismantled by Victor. Now in that same
city there are 73 churches. Joy is
involved in training them. In May 2007,
we had a gathering of 45 women house church leaders. A militant Hindu outfit came. They surrounded the area and they wanted to
beat the ladies for their activities. The newspapers and radio were there too. Joy called me and asked what she should do. “Go and stand by these ladies.” Joy went there. During that time the ladies stood for their
faith. The newspaper printed that these
ladies said, “We will worship who we want to worship.” They did not run away but stood their ground
for their faith. They were not weak but
even threatened to retaliate. The newspaper
reported that 60% of ladies of the area are Christian, and that the women are
brainwashing them because now all the ladies are following Christ.

FD: Training
obviously is very important to you. Tell
us something about your training. What
do you cover?

YM: We had a 40%
attrition rate before we started training. 

FD: How do you
account for this attrition rate? 

YM/Joy: There are
several reasons: 

  1. Because not enough leaders are raised in the church. When the main pastor figure leaves a church, the church dies because there are no leaders. There need to be enough trained leaders to sustain the church.
  2. Because there is no other church in area. There must be another church in the area because in that way if the leader leaves they can join the other house church and keep multiplying.
  3. It sounds strange, but miracles can work as a negative. Lets say a person is healed when he came
    to Christ. If he is not rooted deeply into the Word and something else happens and he is not immediately healed, he may go to a witchdoctor or faith healer. We used to teach them that God is a God of miracles. Now we teach that there will be suffering, that it is always a path of thorns.  

After we started more vigorous training, our attrition rate
dropped from 40% to 10%. We recognize
various different levels of leadership and the training for each is different. 

Type 1 and type 2 leaders are basically leaders of house
churches. Type 1 leads an individual
house church and type 2 is a leader of 5-10 house churches. With them we cover topics such as

  • Their identity in Christ—they are a new creation, a son of God, a friend of God and fellow worker with God.
  • They are an ambassador of God for the Great Commission.
  • Everyone is a church planter and disciple maker. (They are not just sitting in chairs.)
  • How to conduct a house church
  • Accountability as an elder
  • Good stewardship of money (50% of the money given goes to support a level 3 leader, 20% goes to house church maintenance and 30% goes to raise up a new missionary.) 

A type 3 leader is a church planter too and has
responsibility over many churches. He is
responsible to train type 1 and 2 leaders. We train the type 3 leaders quarterly. These are the topics that we cover: 

  • Leadership is influence. How will they lead others? What does good leadership involve? We start with Paul and show how he did not control others but released them.
  • Good stewardship. How to be accountable to others.
  • Prayer—how to pray and the different kinds of prayer. 

A type 4 leader is what we call a master trainer. He or she is responsible for training the
others.

When it comes to finance, we oversee the money but we do not
handle it. We do not have a prosperity
gospel—we teach that you have to lose what you have. We live like the people so they feel at home
with us. We have created a situation
where nothing is for show, but it is real life.

Our church planters have now started releasing others. Our thinking process has changed. We network
with others. We bless those who poach
our people because we are building the Kingdom, not an organization. The Lord is the one doing the building—we are
just a tool in His hands.

Pray for YM and Joy

Yesterday evening I received this email from YM:

"Dear friends and prayer partners,

Greetings to you all in the mighty name of Jesus.

First of all I would like to thank each one of you for
specially praying for us during this one of the most difficult time of our
Christian life.  As most of you know, we are facing a court trial in which
we are falsely accused. But we thank God that He has counted me and my wife
worthy of His suffering.

On 20th of Jan, I reached home early afternoon. That evening at 7.20 p.m. four cops came to
our residence and they were carrying Non Billable Warrant for me and for my wife.
Cops executed the warrant (my wife had a narrow escape on that day being
arrested). I was taken and put behind the lock up. The whole night I spent on
concrete floor with just one blanket. Lock up was literally a dungeon. I was
taken to court on 21st Jan by 2.00 p.m. and then I was sent to district jail. I
would share my jail experience only when I meet personally. On 22nd my first
bail petition was rejected by lower court. My wife moved to session
court for my bail and my bail there was rejected on 5th Feb. Then with the
help of friends my wife and colleague  filed my bail petition in High Court. I was finally released on Feb 23rd.

At this point of time I would thank all the friends those
who prayed for us and helped
 us. 

This incident has made us
stronger in our faith and Christian walk. We have grown closer to God. In my
days inside I found my friend Jesus always with me and my Bible was a great
source of inspiration. I spent my time praying, reading Bible or sharing my
faith to fellow prisoners.
 

At the end of the letter I would
request you to pray for my wife, Joy, whose bail petition will be filed in High
Court soon. As there is possibilities that she may get bail without being put
into prison. But God knows what is best for us.

Trusting God for His grace"

Please pray for this precious couple. 

Church Planting in India

Indian couple

Towards the end of last year, we had the privilege of hosting a young Indian couple in our home.  For security reasons, I will call them YM and Joy.  They are seeing a remarkable move of God happening in their area.

One afternoon, I sat down and interviewed them.  The following few blogs will be the transcript of that interview.

FD: Tell us something about the move of God that you are seeing. 

YM:  N India is where we are focused. From the year 2000 onwards we started seeing many people respond to the Gospel. Prior to that it was very hard.

 

FD: Can you account for the difference? 

YM: At first we did not know any strategy for church planting.  When I first met Victor Choudhrie, I was pastor of a traditional church. He asked me if I was satisfied in traditional church. At that time we had 60 families in the church. He went on to say, “No, this is not your calling. You are called to be an apostle, not a pastor." It took me two years to say yes. One day Victor visited our church again and basically dismantled it. 

I went to his place and trained for 10 days. Then I started to church plant using a strategy based on Luke 10. I decided to test prayer walking. I adopted two villages. In one I prayer walked and in the other I did nothing. After a few months, the village where I prayer walked had 45 families come to Christ. I was chased out of the other village!

Our strategy is to prayer walk for three to six months. During that time, houses start opening. People ask why we are praying in their village. They come with prayer requests. “My son is sick; can you pray?” We see miracles. From 1989 to 2000, I started just one (traditional) church with 60 families. With the new strategy we now have 962 churches in 7 years. Our definition of a church is that it has to have 10 baptized members. If it has less than that we do not call it a house church but a house group. We have more than 1,500 house groups. Each house church has five or six families so there are 20 to 30 people in a typical house church. We now have 20,000 baptized people in the movement. 

FD: Why are you so specific about the numbers? 

YM: We do not want the work to come into disrepute because we have exaggerated the numbers. These groups have all been verified. There may be even more than that. 

FD: How much of this growth do you think is the method and how much God’s intervention? 

YM: If a strategy is from the Lord it will work. This is God’s time for India. People have never been so responsive before. In the city where I live, up until the year 2,000 the Christians were 0.17% of the population. Now after 7 years it is 0.67%. It has grown by three times. This is an indicator of God’s movement. We are seeing miracles in every village. We are now a pre-Christian nation.

 

FD: Tell us something about the lifestyle of the believers.

Joy: In our movement we meet twice a week, not necessarily on Sunday. It depends on which day the people have off.  They meet together in the evening. Hindus worship in the early morning and make offerings to the sun or to plants. Believers use this time to get into the Bible and to pray.  In the evenings they come together for Bible readings, to sing songs and pray and to bring in their neighbors. There is praise and worship. We use Hindu music but with Christian words. Many of them are oral learners so they do not learn by reading the Bible in their meetings.

One of the biggest changes when people become believers is that the believers keep their homes clean. Before they became Christians they were very dirty—they threw their garbage outside the house and the houses were very dirty. Now they clean everything. Their houses are clean. They send their kids to school. They try to dress neatly. They take out the pictures of Hindu gods and goddesses that they used to have on their walls and replace them with Bible verses. Anyone can see they have transformed from one religion to another. 

They are always eager to share Gospel. We have trained them in this from the beginning. 

70% of the people in our area are non-literate. When we are forming a relationship with someone we pass on testimonies. We use dialog and other tools to teach them. They will not understand if we just recite Bible verses,so we use story telling. We have a story for everything. We go through the stories and then ask questions. We go through chronological stories so we tell them about creation, sin, repentance. They learn what Jesus wants and who we are in the sight of Christ. 

YM: Hindus do not have a concept of sin. If you ask a Hindu if they have sinned, they will ask, “What is sin?” They think they have never sinned. We have to tell them that idol worship is sin. All of them have worshiped the sun and plants and animals. Then we teach them about other sins. We pray with them to break any curse going back three to four generations and then lead then to accept Christ as their personal savior.

The first thing we emphasize after this is relationship. We try to teach through own lives and experience. When they come to us with problems we start to discuss it with stories. We explain to them the principle and morals of the stories. We relate the stories to their needs. We also disciple through dialog.

As part of the discipleship process we teach the new believer, “You are also a church planter. We immediately release them to plant churches. 

For example, we recently started training some secret disciples from Bhutan. The only thing we knew about them at the beginning was that they were believers. On the last day of the training we told them they are church planters, and that this is the Great Commission. This command was not given just to Jesus’ 12 disciples but also to the 500. We told them they can baptize. They said to us “Our pastor will never release us. He will say ‘No, you are trying to break the church.’”

Since that time they have planted 16 churches in Bhutan.   

 

My wife, Joy, has trained 305 women. She said to me, “You are doing everything for the men. If you teach a man you just teach that man. If you teach a woman, you teach a whole family. If you tell them,  'Don’t tell anyone but your relatives,' the first thing they do is to tell the community."  So we find it we reach the women, the whole community comes to Christ. These 305 ladies started 763 verified house groups within 10 months. 

To be continued…

There’s some great stuff out there…

Over Christmas I was asked by a friend, "How do you find good blogs to read?"  Although I have not done much on this blog recently, I have been reading the blogs of other people and there is some really good stuff out there.  Consider this quote from David Watson's blog, TouchPoint:

"In a recent meeting of the top 100 church planters in our ministry,
we looked for common elements among these high producing leaders.  Each
of these church planters, along with the teams they led, started more
than 20 churches per year, each.  One group started more than 500
churches in the previous year.  The only common element we found in all
these church planters was their commitment to prayer.  There were other
common elements, but the only element that was present in every team
was a high commitment to prayer.

These leaders spent an average of three hours per day in personal
prayer.  They then 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
AM, and by 10:00  AM 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."

If you are interested in church planting movements, David also has a great posting entitled, "The secret ingredient of church planting."  You can see his blog at www.davidwa.org.

Another blog you might be interested in is that of Jaeson Ma.  Jaeson runs an organization called Campus Church Networks that is looking to see 24/7 prayer and the planting of simple churches on campuses across America and elsewhere in the world.  Read how they saw more than 30 students baptized in a hotel fountain pool recently.  You can read "Jaeson's Journal" at http://jaesonma.com.

Another blog that I always read for its interesting insights is that of Guy Muse, a missionary in Ecuador.  You can read "The M Blog" at http://guymuse.blogspot.com.

More on UK house church history

For those interested to pursue this further, Phil Walters from Australia responded with a comment on the post on the British House Church Movement.  He has written an article on the subject on his website.  It is far more eloquent than my post and provides a great perspective.  You can read it at:

Deja Vu

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