A book on the role of women

Many women in leadership have few peer friendships–the simple reason being that there aren’t that many  of us who take strategic leadership roles, and cross-gender friendships are often perceived as inappropriate. What’s a woman in church leadership to do?

Some years ago, I contacted several women  I knew who were in that position and we started “meeting” over the phone for fellowship and encouragement. Each of these women are apostolic/prophetic  and each has at least a regional influence. This group has been a huge blessing to me over the years.

Not unexpectedly, the role of women in church leadership has been a frequent topic of conversation. We spent months looking at the impact of women in revivals, we’ve discussed the Scriptures that apparently limit the role of women and we’ve wondered again and again, “What can we do to help change the traditional attitude of the church towards women?” We long to see women freed to be all that God has called them to be without the stereotypical prohibitions. And we certainly don’t want to come across as militant feminists in our attitude.

Here’s what we’ve decided to do. We are writing a book. It’s not just women who will be contributing. We’ve invited several men who we know stand with us to join us in our endeavor. The book is beginning to come together. The next few posts will take a look at some of the topics we’ll be discussing.

The potential title of the book is “The Role of Women: Fifteen questions crucial to the future of the church.” What kind of questions would you like to see answered?

The hemiplegic bride

The body of Christ in the West is hemiplegic. Hemiplegia is a medical term used to describe paralysis down one side of the body, for example, after a stroke. The body of Christ is present in our churches, but half of it–the female half–is significantly weakened.

Where are the women apostles? Where are the women who are prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers? Where are the female role models who dare to do great exploits for the Kingdom of God?  I’m grateful to count several like these as my friends, but in general, women in any form of strategic church leadership in the West are conspicuous by their absence.

It’s not that way in other parts of the world.

  • In China, around 80% of house churches are planted by ordinary women
  • In India there is a significant harvest being reaped by women of all castes. Two years ago, I met two women–ordinary, middle aged housewives–one of whom was responsible for starting 2,000 churches and the other, 6,000 churches.
  • In many nations where there is restricted access for the gospel, women are planting churches–they have easy access to homes and naturally share their testimony with others, pray for the sick and demonized and find persons of peace.

If women can do it in other nations, why not here in the West?

Are there women in this country who are willing to break out of the stereotypical role assigned to them by tradition? Who will follow the Great Shepherd into the harvest? Who will dare to break out of their boxes of convention, who will color outside the lines of expectation.

If God is using women in extraordinary ways elsewhere, (and he is) then why not here too.

Photo credit: Vici-Jane

Church Transfusion: Can a legacy church involve in organic church life?

I often get asked questions about whether or not it’s possible for a more traditional legacy church to become involved in organic/simple/house church life. Thankfully, I now have a resource to point them to.

 

I just finished reading  Church Transfusion: Changing Your Church Organically–From the Inside Out  by Neil Cole and Phil Helfer. Neil is a good friend, and I appreciate just about everything he has written. He’s had a huge impact on church planting both in this country and internationally. I don’t know Phil as well, but he works closely with Neil and I understand he has a legacy church that embodies organic principles.

I was a little concerned that in tackling this question Neil might be tempted to compromise on some of the principles he and we hold dear. I needn’t have worried. The book enumerates organic principles of multiplication and then applies them to the legacy church context:

  • The way to get big is to go small
  • The way to go fast is to start slow
  • The way to be strong is to become weak
  • The way to becoming rich is to give everything away.
  • The way to be first is to be last
  • The way to live is to die

I highly recommend this book to anyone in a legacy church who is wondering whether they can somehow move in more organic ways within a traditional context. Neil and Phil lay out the principles involved, giving practical suggestions as to how to grandparent organic movements by training and releasing church members into the harvest. A must read.

 

A tribute to my mom

My mother, Maureen English, was a remarkable character. During her 91 years of life, she witnessed enormous changes of lifestyle which she embraced with enthusiasm. As a child, she went to bed by candlelight. In her 80’s she became “techno-grandma” and learned to use the computer. She saw transportation shift from horse and carriage to cars and planes. communication move from letters and telegrams to telephones, television and emails. She was a wonderful, feisty, talkative, full-of-fun, adventurous lady.

A story to illustrate:  we had a vacation not so long ago, in Branson, Missouri. A go-kart track was a main attraction for the grandkids. Not to be outdone, my mom, approaching her eighties, joined the expedition. One of my favorite photographs is of her in a go-kart leading the pack. (We don’t mention the fact that all the kids were about to lap her!)

My mom enjoyed 55 years of marriage to my dad. I never once remember hearing them argue. That’s a precious heritage. Always the dominant character in the relationship, she loved and cared for my dad throughout his life, helping him recover from his experiences as a prisoner-of-war on the infamous “Railroad of Death” in Burma and then selflessly looking after him as he became blind in his later years.

Everything with Mom became an adventure. We never went on walks as kids–always on a “voyage of discovery.” We were never short of money–we had “economy campaigns” where we would find the best ways to save and to economize.

I just returned from an emergency trip to the UK. My mom had a stroke from which she never recovered. The Lord gave me a precious half hour with her being lucid. She could only communicate by squeezing my hand, but we said a lot to each other that day, and I was able to pray with her. Her memorial service was last Friday.

My mother lived an ordinary life in so many ways, but she has left a far from ordinary legacy. As I look at us–her two daughters, her six grandkids and her eight great-grandkids, I see that legacy written large for the future. We’ve inherited her zany, off-beat sense of humor, her enjoyment of the ridiculous, her sense of fun, her enthusiasm for life and new experiences, her ability to transform the mundane into an adventure. We’ve picked up her love of words–of reading and stories, of music and film. We have more than our share of vivid personalities, of passion for life.

We’ll miss her. Mom may be gone, but her legacy lives on.

Leadership: a picture

Photo credit: TheeErin (Creative Commons)

Why I’m taking a break from blogging

For the past few years I’ve blogged three times per week. But I’m about to take a break. The reason? I’m currently in the UK where my mom has had a serious stroke and isn’t expected to recover. Much of my time is spent in the hospital.

In answer to prayer, my mom had about half an hour of lucidity this afternoon while I was alone with her. I was able to share many things with her.

Please pray for my mom, Maureen.

In the meantime, I’ll link to some older posts.

Guest post by “Francis Drake”: Business and fellowship

Sometimes it helps people to get completely “out-of-the-box.”

For a number of years I ran a local fellowship for businessmen and women. Because they never thought of it as a “church” they didn’t come with their church straight-jackets on; consequently we had amazing results. The vision was never intended to be about getting people saved, although that did happen. It was about giving existing believers the confidence to walk in their anointing, as a normal way of everyday life.

The meetings were prophetic,  and everyone participated in a body style of ministry. We met monthly around a large hotel conference table complete with note pads and coffee. We started with open fellowship, words or prophecy as the Lord led. For many who would never have ventured outside their institutional church, hearing this genuine free relationship with the Lord was a complete shock.

Being the organiser (or facilitator), to ensure that everyone participated, I would ask all present to introduce themselves in turn, and give a run down as to where they were at that moment in their business, and what their needs and desires were, and more to the point, what was God saying to them. Whilst this happened, the others were encouraged to listen to the Spirit and make any notes for prayer and ministry later on.

As we grew, the start could often be a little slow, as usually it generated further conversation and questions, particularly when someone was going through the middle of a business crisis.

Next we would ask everyone to move out of their seats and pray for each others’ situations as the Spirit led.

Giving business advice was banned. Our purpose was to eat of the Tree of Life, to pray and to give encouragement through words from God, and to deal with the work of the enemy by deliverance etc.

People were shocked when they saw the Holy Spirit at work. “Why don’t we get this sort of teaching in church?” was a regular, indignant question. What they witnessed was the practise of faith through and through.

We saw amazing things happen in businesses once God was allowed in. A lowly gardener might have a deep prophetic word or vision for an engineer or doctor which would instigate a massive change in the man’s business. A small core group of Spirit filled business men and women were able to encourage the weaker members.

We never advertised, but it just kept growing as excited newcomers would return the next month with two or three others! Word of mouth from enthusiastic believers did all the networking for us. They came because they saw that when God was active in their businesses, He brought blessing. Their lives outside church changed. Passive Christians became enthusiastic believers.

Our times together gave many believers their first experience of seeing that God could actually change things in the real world. Many Christians have never experienced anything outside of Sunday church. This meeting enabled them to grow in personal faith, especially as they watched their brothers progress through business crisis and on to victory under the power of God.

We started with about ten people at the first meeting. We kept having to ask the hotel for a bigger conference room as it rocketed to sometimes 60 people, which was a bit too big to handle. We had in all about 130 members, but thankfully they never came all at once.

When people see the reality of God, their lives will never be the same.

Francis Drake has always been passionate about letting God reign in his everyday life, not just in church. If the word of God didn’t apply successfully in his daily work, then either it, or Francis was a fake! Learning to run manufacturing businesses as a prophetic venture is an excellent way to grow in faith. The effect of God’s involvement in the various projects Francis ran enabled him to overflow into helping other businessmen. The fellowship was one of the results.

Photo Credit: Amoooo (Creative Commons)

A story: Child of Promise

It seems that wherever we turn at present, God is doing amazing things.

Yesterday we held a baby shower: here’s the story behind it.

Shama is a new Christian from a Hindu background. She and her husband had been trying for a baby for several years, but with no success. When they finally consulted an OBGYN, tests showed she would need surgery before conception was possible, but with the various things going on in their lives, they knew they would have to delay.

One evening this last January, when Shama was feeling especially despondent about this, she flipped open her Bible and said., “God, I’ve no idea if you speak into this kind of situation, but will you show me something from your Word?”

Her Bible fell open at a passage in 2 Kings 4–not a passage that a six-month old believer usually reads. In this story, a Shunammite woman has prepared a small “prophet’s chamber” for Elisha. When Elisha asks what he can do for her in return, his servant, Gehazi, suggests that he prays for her to have a child. They call her in, and as she stands in the doorway, Elisha tells her, “Next year at this time, you will be holding your son in your arms!”

This verse was a huge encouragement to Shama, who took it very literally. She brought it to the church that meets in our home, and everyone prayed for her using this verse as the basis.

One Friday in April, Shama came back to church looking very solemn. The only sign that something might be going on was that her husband was holding a video camera. We usually start our times together by asking what the Lord has done in anyone’s life that week. Shama started. “Do you remember how three months ago, I read to you that passage about Elisha?” she said. “I’d like to read it to you again.”

She read the passage, very solemnly. I remember thinking, “Oh no! She’s past the time when that verse could be fulfilled.”

Then all of a sudden, she bursts out with a huge grin, “I’m pregnant!!”

Pandemonium broke out in our group as we realized that the Scripture was going to be fulfilled literally. One year from the Lord giving her that passage, Shama will be holding her son (and yes, it’s a boy!) in her arms.

Praise God.

Photo Credit: Etolane (Creative Commons)

The easiest way to plant a house church

It’s probably not what you think!

Most Christians, especially those from a more traditional form of church background, assume the obvious way to start any kind of church is to invite a few Christians to their home for fellowship. As other believers join them and the group gets large enough, they will multiply out into two churches and so on.

This is not the best way for several reasons:

  1. The Christians will bring all their preconceived ideas about church with them. It will be more of a challenge to think in the fresh, out-of-the-box ways that simple/organic church requires. The temptation will be to do “Honey, I shrunk the church!”
  2. It is more difficult to be missional–existing believers tend to focus on the gathering. Many Christians don’t have non-believers within their sphere of influence.
  3. You are trying to create community where a natural one doesn’t exist. Yes, there is a “fellowship of the Holy Spirit” with all other believers, but as you add people to a group, it will take time for people to share their everyday lives together outside of meetings.
  4. Multiplication usually occurs very, very slowly.

It is far easier to make disciples of those who don’t yet know the Lord, and to work within their existing sphere of influence. As their family and friends find the Lord, multiplying churches are the natural result. The advantages:

  1. The problems and issues that come up are those of life, not theology or ecclesiology.
  2. Community already exists and their shared lives will continue outside of the meeting context.
  3. New disciples have a natural mission field all around them and evangelism follows spontaneously along relational lines.
  4. It’s easy to create a vision and expectation of multiplication.

What has been your experience?  Can you think of other reasons to primarily work with not-yet-believers?

Photo Credit: Tense (Creative Commons)

 

 

How to find a simple/organic/house church in your area

One of the most common communications I get is this: “I live in ——. Do you know of a house church in my area?”

It can be difficult to find a simple/organic church. We don’t put a sign outside our house saying “Church Meets Here.”  We’re not listed in the Yellow Pages under “Churches.” Contact usually happens by word of mouth.

The best way I know to find a simple/organic church in your area is via House2House. It has a “find a church” map where if you type in your zip code it will list the simple/organic churches near you. If you already have a church, why not submit your church’s information?  You’ll find people contacting you who are looking for fellowship.

But I think there’s a better way.

Most of the people who contact me with that request have been Christians for years. They don’t need to find a simple/organic church where their needs will be met and where they will be well taught. They are mature believers. They have much to give. Why don’t they pray about starting a church themselves?

Don’t know how to start a church? Go to one of CMA’s Greenhouse conferences. Or go through this online 6 week church planting course. The House2House site is full of useful resources and are always ready to help anyone who contacts them.

Anyone interested?

 Photo Credit: Arty Smokes (deaf mute) (Creative Commons)