Recently, God has spoken very specifically to Tony and me from the book of Haggai. His prophecy, "I am with you, says the Lord" was enough to get the Israelites to resume the work of building the temple after a 20 year hiatus.
Those of us in organic/simple church believe that the simplest and most basic building block of the church comes from the verse, "For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (Matthew 18:20) Jesus among us is church.
As Robert Fitts says:
"When two or three true, born-again believers come together in His name, Jesus is in the midst. Jesus in the midst is church! It is a different experience than Jesus within. We cannot experience Jesus in the midst when we are alone. We can only experience Jesus in the midst when we are in company with others–at least one or two others.
But is it church in the fullest sense of the word? Yes, it is church in the fullest sense of the world. It is the basic church. You can have more than two or three and it is still a church but it does not become "more church" because there are more than two or three. It only becomes a bigger church. (Saturation Church Planting)
Theologically we hold to this truth, that Jesus is with us when we come together in his name. But do we experience this as a reality?
So I've been asking God the question, "How do we recognize your presence in our midst?"
When Jesus and Nicodemus talked together about being born again, Jesus likened the Holy Spirit to the wind. You cannot see the wind; you just hear it. If you look outside you can see the effects of a breeze on the trees.
Many people seek a personal sense of God's presence through spiritual feelings when they come together But what the Lord seemed to say is that we will know he is present with us when we see the effects of his Holy Spirit being with us.
His presence in our midst looks like Rosaura finding the Lord and being set free from drugs and alcohol. It looks like the Lord answering Jose's prayers. It looks like a Hindu family coming to know Jesus. It looks like a person being instantly set free from crippling worries and anxieties. It looks like marriages being restored. It looks like the incredible sense of community we have together. It looks like new daughter and grand-daughter groups forming.
How do you know God's presence in your midst?
If there is one key skill in simple/organic church, it is listening to God. This skill is foundational in almost all we do.
In my experience, however, God tends to speak to me about the things I ask him questions on. So if I never ask him about finances, he is not likely to speak to me about money. If I never ask him about reaching out, he isn't likely to tell me who to speak to.
I often ask him questions about the things I'm learning about. A year or so back, I was learning about the Kingdom of God. This study raised a number of questions in my mind. One example: the Word is very clear that God is in control of everything, and yet it also says that Satan is the ruler of this world. How can both be true?
So I started asking God questions about his Kingdom. "Lord, show me how both these things can be true at the same time" A series of illustrations came to my mind which I wrote down. One of these was a picture of a drug infested housing project here in the States. Who rules that place? If you ask most of the people who live there, they will say the drug lords do. Yet actually the US government has final say. They could send in riot police to clean the place up, but they choose not to. So both statements are true.
When I spend time waiting on the Lord, I will usually ask him, "Jesus, what do you want to say to me today?" and most times what he says to me is relevant, Scriptural and occasionally very specific too. But I've also learned to ask very definite questions, and when I do that, I find the Holy Spirit often brings very specific answers to my mind.
The post on what is on God's heart for your organic church is an example of this being done corporately.
How about you? Do you ask questions of the Lord?
Have you seen the billboards showing someone well-known and with the title, "I am second"? They are all over the Dallas/Fort Worth area and in other cities too.
The message of the I am second movement is that Jesus is first. This message is promoted through films where well recognized people tell the story of how Jesus has impacted their lives. Websites and a small group curriculum help people to make disciples and start "I am second" groups (effectively simple/organic churches). It is proving very effective in producing multiplying house churches especially among young people here in the States.
They have a "leadership experience" coming up in January. More details can be found at www.wearesecond.comGoogle+
Simple/organic churches can be inward looking. But when we seek Jesus, making him the center of everything that goes on and we ask him what is on his heart, we may find things change…
A few months ago, our simple/organic church spent time learning to listen to God. Each week we did different activities to hone those skills. One week, our activity was for everyone to spend 15 minutes alone asking the Lord the question, "What would you say to us as a group?"
When we came back together again, more than 50% of the group had heard the same message. The word came in various different ways:
"It's time to be light in the darkness, to gain a vision for your city and your people."
"I had the story from Luke 14 where Jesus said to give a banquet inviting the poor, the crippled, the lame and the blind."
"The Lord showed me the verse in Romans 10:17, that faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God."
"John 15, that if we remain in him, we will bear much fruit, and that fruit is more disicples."
"Feed the hungry, but remain hungry for the Lord."
"Mark 16:15: we're to go into all the world and preach the gospel to every person. We're to have an impact wherever we are in our world."
Perhaps the clearest and the one that we have discussed on many occasions since then was a picture someone had of a small group of people next to a small fruit tree, which turned into a bigger group of people next to a bigger fruit tree, and finally many groups of people next to many fruit trees. The sense the person had was that if we listen to the Lord, a lot of fruit will come. As we follow his instructions, groups will multiply.
It's been interesting to watch what has happened to us since then. There are probably four new groups that are in the process of forming as people listen to the Lord and obey what he tells them to do, reaching out into the world around them.
What is God saying to your group? Have you asked him?
Now is such a time.
The ideas began around some discussions about Ffald-y-Brenin, a retreat center in Wales where not-yet-believers often encounter God just by walking onto the land. Could we know the presence of God in such a way in our home, in our gatherings, at work, that not-yet-believers would experience Christ just by being with us?
Each believer has the Lord dwelling within them by his Holy Spirit, but there is a difference when we come together. Then we have the Lord among us. Perhaps that is what characterizes church more than anything else–God among his people.
"For where two or three gather together as my followers, I am there among them." (Matthew 20:18)
Throughout the Scriptures, we see God's desire is to dwell with his people.
From Genesis 3 we see that God walked and talked with Adam and Eve in the garden. Other passages from the Old Testament make this equally clear. For example:
Exodus 29: 45-46: Then I will dwell among the Israelites and be their God. They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them. I am the LORD their God.
Leviticus 26:12 I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
In Ezekiel 37:27, the promise comes again: I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.
We now live in the fulfillment of that promise. Even the very name, Emmanuel, means God with us (Matt 1:23). Here are some other Scriptures from the New Testament:
For we are the temple of the living God. As God has said: “I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (2 Corinthians 6:16)
And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:22)
We know the theory: when we are together, God is with us. How can we live it out on a daily basis?
Are any of you thinking about this topic too? I'd love to hear some of your ideas.
For those of you who are not aware of the extraordinary story of Jose and his mother, Rosaura, you can read it here.
Jose has been in hospital for two weeks now and he and Rosaura miss church–so last night we took church to them. It was a precious time. We ate and shared and prayed with Jose and Rosaura. A new friend had brought his guitar and we worshipped together.
Rosaura shared with us how, just a few weeks ago, if she hadn't met with Jesus, she would have dealt with the current situation by getting high. She is now completely set free and is fearless in sharing with others what the Lord has done for her. Just a few days ago, she had us praying with one of the other patients–a young girl with inoperable cancer–and her mother.
Another of the young men shared how his life has been transformed by meeting Jose–how his life used to wracked with fears and anxieties, but now he wakes up every day spontaneously praising Jesus. He and Rosaura agreed: liberty is the best description of what Jesus has done for them.
Jose is not out of the woods yet. I've delayed a report on his situation because there is, as yet, no definitive diagnosis. For those of you who are praying for him, here is a medical update. The tumor was about 85% removed. Pathology shows that most of it was a benign tumor that can be treated with medication, but there were also some undifferentiated cells present that may represent something more sinister. The doctor was not happy with the initial pathology diagnosis and has sent the biopsy off for a second opinion.
Jose's pituitary was destroyed by the tumor and it has left him with a host of hormonal complications. For example, he no longer produces the hormone that regulates his fluid balance. During the year before his diagnosis, because the tumor destroyed the part of his brain that tells you when you have eaten enough, he gained over 100 lbs. Jose now has to measure everything he eats and drinks and has to take hormones to compensate for the absent pituitary.
Please continue to pray with us. Jose will be discharged in the next day or so. He and Rosaura have to work together as a team as he tries to live within the necessary food and fluid restrictions. (Jose is a 16 year old teenager!) And obviously we continue to seek the Lord for his complete healing.Google+
Following our 3am wake up call, Tony and I have been praying through the book of Haggai. One of the most effective words of prophecy in the Bible, and certainly one of the briefest, occurs in this book.
"I am with you, says the Lord " (Haggai 1:13)
This word was enough to encourage the Israelites to resume the work of rebuilding the temple–a task which had stalled for almost 20 years.
A couple of years ago, I sensed the Lord asking me to write a book–different this time from the others I have written in that it is to be a novel, one that would introduce not-yet-believers to the Kingdom.
I have stalled on this project. I am not a fiction writer. The task is daunting to say the least.
What would I do differently if I truly believed this is something from the Lord and that he is with me?
Are there things God has given you vision for that you haven't started or not yet completed? What difference would it make if you knew God was with you?
Vision is one of our greatest challenges here in the West. We think too small, and act accordingly. Our dreams are limited by what we believe we can accomplish. This post is the second part of a vision statement put out by an apostle from Asia who is constantly seeing things that amaze us. You can read the first part of his statement here.
Among all the issues and challenges, lack of vision is the greatest weakness. With all our small thinking, hiccups, resource crunch and other failures and hang-ups, is making 10 million new connections doable in three years? Just by mobilizing your disciples to catch one person per month and training them to do the same, can your disciples add 10 million to the Body of Christ in 3 years? Can we agree to this target for 2012-15?!!
Is it possible to reach the whole world and bring them to faith in the Lord Jesus in this generation – the answer must be ‘Yes!’ Simply by being obedient to two of the commands of the Lord Jesus – Follow Me and Make Disciples!!
What will it take for you to start this chain reaction and for it to go viral?
- Debunk all existing myths surrounding the traditional church, even the house churches that are not multiplying. Go for the flexible “Third Place Discipling Church” that happens wherever you spend 8 hours of the day. That way no one will have the excuse of being too busy. Focus on small group discipling as worship rather than on large group gathering and singing as worship.
- Filter out all those who have excuses. Don’t waste time on them but invest time and resources only on those who are willing to invest their own time and resources. Most of the resources are in the harvest field. Regional training and apostolic visits are the only times you may need external resources.
- Opening of e-gates. Use mobile phones and the Internet which are now ubiquitous (five billion mobile phones in circulation worldwide; companies are planning to add another billion customers in 2012). Provide facilities for downloading Bibles in their language, God story and Christian music (Great Commission songs ). Send SMS to non-believers instead of sending wonderful gospel messages to well meaning but non-performing Christians. Use mobile phones not just for voice communication but for multi-tasking. Can be used for discipling, providing privacy and safety to both the mentor and the mentee.
- Focus on young people. All the disciples of Jesus and Paul were young people.
- Focus on women as they are relational and have access to closed doors in restricted communities.
- Focus on the supernatural rather than on a cognitive, academic, intellectual approach.
- Focus on “Church Planting Movement Planters (CPMPs)” rather than on evangelism.
- Focus on discipling rather than on preaching, where Christ has not been named.
- Focus on rapidity (instant baptism) rather than on stability (the same people gathering every Sunday).
- Be intentional in sparking a CPM (Church Planting Movement) but it must end out of human control. spontaneity (Holy Spirit driven).
- Focus on developing local leadership and passing the baton to them, but keep the connexion.
- Periodically monitor to see that the goals are being achieved and if necessary, do a course correction.
- Measure your success not by buildings, bodies and budgets, not even by the missionary force on the field or graduates coming out of your Bible schools. Instead measure it by disciples made, baptized, equipped, sent, People Groups reached and territories possessed….until the kingdoms of this world have become the Kingdom of our Lord and his Christ.
We often hear stories of the extraodinary things God is doing in other nations.
"Why doesn't this happen here in the West?" we ask ourselves. Part of the reason is that we don't yet have the vision and passion that many in other nations do. We get distracted by so many things that we think are important (our own houses–see the last post) rather than God's Kingdom.
The following vision for harvest was just sent to me by an Asian church planter who is seeing incredible numbers of people swept into the Kingdom of God. He has asked that I not use his name for security reasons. I''ve had the privilege of interacting with this apostle over the past few years, and if the past is anything to go by, by faith he will make his goals.
Catch his heart for the harvest.
Shoot for connecting 10 million new followers of Christ.
Possible or not possible. Humanly speaking: impossible. But we believe in a God who is God of the impossible.
The mandate- Multiply: And God blessed them, and God said unto them, be fruitful, and multiply, and replenish the earth, and subdue it: and have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over every living thing that moves upon the earth. (Genesis 1:28)
Command to become a thousand: IA little one shall become a thousand and a small one a strong nation: I the LORD will hasten it in My time. (Isaiah 60:22)
Victory Assured: And five of you shall chase an hundred, and an hundred of you shall put ten thousand to flight: and your enemies shall fall before you by the sword. (Leviticus 26:8)
Chain Discipling: And the things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also. (2 Timothy 2:2)
All Nations: Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost. (Matthew 28: 19)
Go Global: But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth. (Acts 1:8)
God’s End Vision: And behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands, saying, Salvation belongs to our God that sits upon the throne, and unto the Lamb. (Rev. 7:9,10)
Leavenize your Generation: “It is like unto leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal, till it was all leavened.” (Luke 13:21)
People across the nations have adopted a Judeo-Christian culture, dress code, language, food habits, education-medical systems, and business practices. They use tools, technology, transportation and governance developed in Christian countries. But they are still in darkness and heading for a Christless eternity. All that is needed is for Christians to be salt and light to their colleagues and neighbours and connect them to Christ.
500,000 babies are born every day. 78 million people are added to the world every year. 250,000 die into a Christless eternity every day–all because we Christians are not doing anything significant for the lost. Yeshua came to seek and to save the lost. (Luke 19:10)
It is not enough to be saved. It is not enough to be follower of Christ. It is important to graduate into being fishers of men otherwise you will be an incomplete and an unfulfilled disobedient Christian. Yeshua said, “Follow me and I will make you fishers of men.” Matthew 4:19
The concept of each one catching one for the Lord every month and teaching and training them to catch one new person for the Lord every month – evidence that we are truly ‘Followers of the Lord Jesus’. The amazing thing is that if you catch one person each month and train them to catch one person each month and train them to catch one and train one each month, by the end of twelve months there will be 4,096 new believers!!Google+