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

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You are a house of prayer: Guest post by Jared White

Some time ago, Jared White wrote a comprehensive and detailed review of  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. I was amazed and blessed at the amount of work he put into it–it might easily be the best review I’ve seenSince that time, he and I have corresponded over various matters. So when he offered to write a guest post for me, I jumped at the opportunity.

Here’s what Jared writes:

When you hear the phrase “house of prayer,” what do you think of? The famous scene where Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple? Perhaps a special event at your church? Your own house? Pancakes…I mean, IHOP (aka the International House of Prayer in Kansas City, MO) or related movements?

Follow me on a little rabbit trail, and I’ll paint a picture for you that may surprise you.

When Jesus drove the money-changers out of the temple because of their greed and hypocrisy, he quoted from the prophet Isaiah:

“My house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples.” (Isaiah 56:7)

The common understanding of this passage is that Jesus was referring to the Temple in Jerusalem since that’s where the incident took place. But this understanding is based on an Old Testament mindset, not a New Testament revelation of Jesus. Numerous times in the Gospels, Jesus prophesied about the nature of the Temple, and this is the what He said:

“Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” (Matthew 26:61, Mark 13:2, Mark 14:58, John 2:19)

Furthermore, Jesus foretold the destruction of the Temple, saying “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another that will not be thrown down.” What was Jesus talking about?

In A.D. 70, 37 years after Jesus’ death, the Temple in Jerusalem was demolished by the Roman army. To this day, there are no sacrificial offerings being made in a Hebraic Temple in Jerusalem. Thus, the temple Jesus referred to when He said “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” was not a building or a location. He was referring to Himself!

Yes, Jesus is the Temple! Indeed, He was destroyed by dying upon a Roman cross at the instigation of the religious authorities, and He was raised up on the third day by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, the true date of the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem was not the year 70 (the time of its physical destruction), but the year 33 (the time of its spiritual conclusion). What am I talking about? At the moment of Jesus’ death, the veil in the Holy of Holies was ripped in two (Matthew 27:51, Mark 15:38, Luke 23:45), signifying the religious system as established in the Old Testament had been fulfilled in Christ as the complete and final sacrifice for all sin for all time, and that God’s Holy Presence would be with all of His people—now a Holy Priesthood offering spiritual sacrifices through Christ. (1 Peter 2:5)

There is much more to be said about the significance of this revelation, and the letter written to the Hebrews in the New Testament goes into it in great detail. It would be glorious indeed if our story stopped there and we grasped the magnificence of this doctrine that Jesus is both Temple and High Priest. But the story continues!

The Apostle Paul takes things a step further in his first letter to the church in Corinth. In the context of addressing divisions and jealousy in the church, Paul makes this startling statement:

“Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy him. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.” (1 Corinthians 3:16-17)

Crazy talk! What is Paul really saying? That you are the holy temple of God? You?!?! Not a church building, not a place to congregate, not a sacred altar in a sacred location, but you?

Incredible, isn’t it? Your very person, your very life, is a vessel which God prepares to receive Himself through the process of sanctification. When you believe in Jesus Christ and are born again by the power of the Holy Spirit, you are transformed into a sacred place, a dwelling place for the Divine.

Paul repeats this again a little later on, this time in the context of sexual immorality. Paul entreats the people in the church to glorify God in their bodies by fleeing from sexual immorality, saying “Do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Now I realize that we all have at various times felt shamed or guilty due to this verse. It’s not a comforting thought to think of our messed up lives as a temple of God. “Gee God, your temple is looking pretty shabby and in disrepair.” But Paul reminds us that we were bought with a price. What price? “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life.” God loves us, even in the midst of our pain, our barrenness, our shame. It is Christ who cleanses us and makes us clean, not our own efforts. He paid a high price to make you His Temple, to make me His Temple.

So, a quick recap: Jesus Christ is the Temple, and as little christs (Christians), you and I are temples of the Holy Spirit. Which brings us back around to my original question: what do you think of when you hear the phrase “house of prayer” now? Here is what you should think of:

You!

Me!

Every Christian!

You are a house of prayer. There is no religious obligation to attend a house of prayer at your church or a “missions base” or anywhere else in order to commune with the Almighty. God has no desire to dwell in a house built by human hands. To the contrary, “the Most High does not dwell in houses made by hands” (Acts 7:48) but “we are His house if indeed we hold fast our confidence and our boasting in our hope.” (Hebrews 3:6)

Now let me clarify, I am completely in favor of gathering together for prayer. To those saints who labor day and night in prayer meetings seeking the Lord, be blessed mightily in Jesus’ name! My point here is to present an ecclesiology which places a low emphasis on buildings and programs and events and a high emphasis on spiritual relationship and identity. Our very identity as Christians is that we are a house of prayer and we are God’s Temple. (2 Corinthians 6:16, Ephesians 2:21)

On a practical level, what does it mean to be a house of prayer? I’ll be honest with you. This is where I am still “in process” and learning what God wants me to know about this rich topic. I can say this, however—when this revelation of being a “house of prayer” first came to me, my prayer life which had previously been rather stagnant entered into a new renaissance! You see, I’d had this idea that prayer is something I do. Now, I’m beginning to realize that prayer is something I am. Before, I thought, I had to bring to God an impressive-sounding list of petitions and conjure up a lot of faith for Him to notice. Now, I simply bring myself and my heart. Prayer then is simply me and God being together, sharing each other — hopes, fears, concern for others, desire to love more, everything.

I’ll leave you with these verses to meditate on:

“I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Romans 12:1)

“As you come to him [the Lord], a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious, you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.” (1 Peter 2:4-5)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, by the new and living way that he opened for us through the curtain, that is, through his flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.” (Hebrews 10:19-22)

—-

About Jared

I am a writer, musician, visual artist, and dad. I regularly publish blog posts, essays, music, and art about the things I’m deeply passionate about on my website. Follow me on Twitter

Jared White

In memoriam: James Rutz

In 1996, a coach at our kids’ school handed our son, Jon, a small brochure written by Jim Rutz. It had a lion on the front cover, and was about a different kind of church that Jim envisioned and called “open church.” Our hearts resonated with the message, because it described a kind of church that we had tasted back in the UK but had searched in vain for here in the States.

It was a joy to meet Jim shortly after this when he organized a conference to discuss these ideas (with the Dunns from New Zealand). Jim quickly became a firm friend. We loved his quirky sense of humor (his home had cartoon characters on the blinds), his hunger to know more of Jesus, his loyalty to his friends. He was generous to a fault–the videos that our son, Tim, made for House2House were only possible because of Jim’s generosity.

Jim started an organization to promote the ideas behind open church–a church where Jesus was the leader, all of us were participants, the Holy Spirit was the MC. He held conferences around the country that many of us who were later involved in the house/simple/organic church movement attended.

We were part of a different group with Jim that met for several years with no vision and purpose except to wait on God and hear what he said to us. They were extraordinary times, and Jim was an integral part of them. Jim stayed with us in our home several times, and we had the privilege of staying in his amazing home with spectacular views over Colorado Springs. We’ve had many a conversation about the Kingdom lasting late into the night.

Jim’s book The Open Church touched many lives and was perhaps the forerunner to the house church movement in this country. His other well known book,  Megashift: Igniting Spiritual Power impacted people around the world, demonstrating (with copious citations and footnotes) that Jesus still works miracles and heals people today.

It was with surprise and great sadness that we learned two days ago that Jim had gone to be with the Lord he loved and served with all his heart.

We’ll miss you, Jim, but rejoice that you are now in Jesus’ presence, face to face with your Lord. One day we’ll meet again….

Jim Rutz

Who leads your church?

The key skill to making disciples and planting churches is an ability to recognize God’s voice. Do we know when he is speaking to us? Can we distinguish his voice from our own thoughts? Many of us have learnt how to do this on an individual basis, but how many churches put into practice the fact that “we have the mind of Christ”? Together we can hear his plans and directions for us. Is Jesus the one who leads your church? The church that meets in our home is in a transitional phase. We have become a very close-knit group over the time we have met together. We are now fairly sure that the Lord is leading us to multiply out into various different groups with an emphasis on reaching out to those who do not yet know him. So last Friday, when we came together, we set aside part of our time together to listen to him about the future of our church. God spoke clearly. Each of us spent time on our own listening to Jesus and asking him the question, “Jesus, what is your vision and plan for us as your body?” When we came back, some had pictures,others had a series of words, there was a clear passage of Scripture. And there was a common theme. Although we need to spend more time weighing what the Lord said to us, the general sense was very clear. We will need to ask the Lord more questions about how to put into practice what he has told us to do, but “we have the mind of Christ.” Listening

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The fascinating pairing of men and women in the Gospel of Luke

I’ve been reading a fascinating book by Kenneth E. Bailey recently. The title, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes: Cultural Studies in the Gospels is an accurate description of the contents. Bailey has spent decades in the Middle East and he brings a very different perspective on many stories and ideas—such as the parables of Jesus, the Beatitudes, etc. It’s a book well worth reading.

I came across this throwaway comment in the book:

In Luke’s Gospel, I have identified twenty-seven cases in the text of the pairing of men and women.

This was an intriguing idea I had never heard before. In a quick skip through the Gospel of Luke over a period of about an hour, I found fifteen of them. Here are some examples:

Chapter 1:
An angel appears to Zechariah before the conception of John the Baptist
An angel appears to Mary before the conception of Jesus

Zechariah’s prophecy
The Magnificat

Chapter 2:

Simeon and Anna in the Temple.

Chapter 4:

Jesus gives the example of Elijah and the widow, and Elisha and Namaan—both Gentiles–one a man and the other a woman.

The healing of a demon-possessed man and the healing of Simon’s mother-in-law.

Chapter 5:

The parables of a patch on a garment and wine in new wineskins

Chapter 7:

The healing of the centurion’s servant and the raising from the dead of the widow’s son

Chapter 8:

The deliverance of the Gerasene demoniac and the raising from the dead of Jairus’ daughter

Chapter 15:

The parable of the lost coin and the parable of the lost sheep

 

There are so many of these examples that I wonder if it has to have been a deliberate policy on the part of Luke. Fascinating, huh? What do you think?

The key skill we need to multiply disciples

There is one key skill that each of us needs to develop if we want to multiply disciples.

I was spending time with the Lord one morning, watching two squirrels play a game of tag in the oak tree outside my window, when, out of the blue, a thought came to mind.

“You are to walk Oltorf.”

Oltorf is a street about a 20 minute drive from our house. I didn’t know anyone who lived there, had no reason to ever go there.

The end of that story was a church built out of the harvest in a low income housing project on Oltorf.

As I mentioned in the last post, the job of the disciples in Luke 10 was to listen to Jesus and do what he said. If we want to see multiplying disciples and churches, then we need to learn to do the same.

But how do you hear God?

The first thing to understand is that God wants to communicate with us. Following Jesus as a system of rules and traditions is merely religion. Jesus wants to have a vital, living, vibrant relationship with each one of us. Living that way becomes an adventure! In John 10, Jesus tells his disciples, “My sheep hear/recognize my voice.”

I could be in a room with 100 people all speaking at once, but I would instantly recognize Tony’s voice–and not just because he has a British accent. I recognize his voice because I delight to spend time with him. There’s no one on earth who I would rather be with. It’s the same with Jesus. As we develop intimacy with him, we recognize his voice amidst the myriad of thoughts going through our minds.

Perhaps the best pattern I know of listening to God comes from Mark Virkler. I first read his book, *Dialog with God* probably 30 years ago and it’s formed the basis of how I hear the Lord ever since. He describes a four step pattern:

1. Free yourself from distractions
2. Focus on Jesus
3. Listen for a flow of spontaneous thoughts
4. Write them down.

For me, the “flow of spontaneous thoughts” often comes as an idea, apparently out of nowhere, like the idea that I should walk Oltorf. I’ll find myself thinking, “Where did *that* come from?”

Sometimes I see a picture, often very fleeting, but that encapsulates an idea that God then elaborates on. For example, one time in a gathering I had a picture of ball moss (a kind of moss that attacks trees in Texas and eventually kills them.) The Lord spoke to the group through that picture that we should get rid of distractions and things that are seemingly small and inconsequential but that were choking our spiritual lives.

Sometimes God speaks through a word of Scripture. In our business, for example, we’ve several times found ourselves guided in how to pray by a story or book from the Bible.

Occasionally God communicates through dreams, or prophecy.

At this stage you don’t try to judge what you’ve written down. Later, you can weigh what you wrote against Scripture. I try and do this several times a week. Mostly, what I write down is Scriptural, encouraging, but nothing out of the ordinary. But sometimes, God speaks incredibly clearly and specifically.

When we’ve learned to hear his voice in times set aside for doing that, then we can hear his quiet whisper:

“Go sit down next to that person on the bench over there.”

“Prayer walk this apartment complex.”

“This is the people group you will be working with.”

“This coffee shop is to be the place where you hang out.”

“That person needs prayer–her husband has just left her. Go start a conversation with her.”

Listening to God, recognizing his voice so that we can respond in obedience, is the main, key skill we need if we are to multiply disciples and plant churches.

Key
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A successful pattern for multiplying disciples

It’s 2001, and Tony and I are in India where we are speaking at a conference. Another of the speakers is from India, and he’s someone we’ve wanted to meet for a long time because we’ve heard that he’s in the middle of an extraordinary, multiplying church planting movement. So in every break, I take the opportunity to pummel him with questions.

One of the first is this: “Where do you find the principles that are leading to the extraordinary growth you are seeing?”
His answer? “They come in Luke 10.”

In fact, it doesn’t matter where in the world you go, if you ask the people who are seeing exponential church multiplication, they come back to this same passage.

So let’s take a look at Luke chapter 10. Note that there are similar principles discussed in Luke 9 and Matthew 10. It seemed to be Jesus’ modus operandi when reaching out to places he hadn’t yet visited. We’ll meander through these verses over a series of blog posts.

*The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.* (Luke 10:1)

Often when we train people, we’ll have them study this passage looking for four symbols: a question mark (is there something you don’t understand?); a light-bulb (what was an “aha” moment for you in this verse, something that seemed to make things come clear?); an arrow (what do you need to do or change in order to obey this verse?) and an ear (who do you know who needs to hear what you’ve been learning? Who will you share it with?)

Here are some of the points that usually come out of verse 1.

1. Jesus chose 72 others. Who were they “other” to? The twelve (see the beginning of Luke 9). So in all, he had 84 disciples he was working with.
2. He sent them ahead of him to all the towns and places he planned to visit. If Jesus sends you somewhere, for example, if you change jobs, or move house, it’s because he wants to touch the new workplace or neighborhood via you.
3. He sent them out in pairs, not in large numbers. Often, when an established church is trying to reach a new neighborhood, they send out a team of people including a musician, someone who can teach, people to take care of the kids etc. That wasn’t the way Jesus operated.
4. Why in pairs and not alone? For support and accountability.

Jesus had a plan for that area and a strategy for reaching it. He sent the disciples out—“You two can go to this village. You two will meet someone at an inn on the road to this city….”

What did the disciples have to do? They listened to Jesus and then they obeyed him.

Does Jesus have a strategy for your area? Of course!
How do we find out Jesus’ strategy? We listen to Him and we obey him.

multiplication

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