A Year of Biblical Womanhood

In 2010, Rachel Held Evans decided that for a whole year, she would attempt to obey all the commands given to women in the Bible. Her long-suffering husband, Dan, played along. As a result, amongst the other crazy things she did, Rachel didn’t cut her hair for a year, learned to cook, made her own (purple) dress, camped outside “at the worst time of the month,” cared for a computerized baby and sat at her city gates with a sign saying “Dan is awesome!” Her book, A Year of Biblical Womanhood: How a Liberated Woman Found Herself Sitting on Her Roof, Covering Her Head, and Calling Her Husband “Master” is the result.

  1. Laugh-out-loud funny:  Maybe it’s my warped British sense of humor, but there are few books that cause me to chuckle aloud. I mostly read the book in bed in the evenings and  I’d periodically have to nudge Tony, (waking him in the process) to say, “You’ve got to hear this!” and we’d both laugh together at her wit and humor and the ridiculousness of what she did .
  2. Serious: Rachel examines at the good, the bad and the ugly of what the Bible says about women in a thought-provoking way, sharing the wisdom and insights she gained. It might have been tempting for her to dismiss a number of topics as being culturally applicable only to Biblical times, but each subject is researched for the principles involved, and how they can be applied today.
  3. Vulnerable: The subject matter is tackled in a disarming and compelling fashion. As Rachel shares her candid reaction to what is going on, she draws you in on her emotional journey too.
  4. Challenging: The book challenges us to rethink our what the passages about women in the Bible really mean.

Not just highly entertaining, this book is a thought-provoking look at a topic that’s gaining traction across the church spectrum–the role of women in the Kingdom of God.

A remarkably accurate prophecy

In the mid 1970′s I read a book called  Battle for Israel by Lance Lambert from the UK. In it, he describes a prophecy. The story behind this prophecy is that a bishop of the Russian Orthodox church, Bishop Aristocoli,  handed it to Mother Barbara shortly before she moved to Israel in 1911. It’s a political prophecy, and, with the benefit of hindsight, especially considering when it was written,  absolutely remarkable for its accuracy. (You can find the prophecy in several places on the Internet.) When I first read it, only some of it had been fulfilled and over the decades I’ve often thought of it as I’ve watched world events unfold.

Here’s what the prophecy says:

“Not one country will be without trial – do not be frightened by anything you will hear. An evil will shortly take Russia and wherever this evil comes, rivers of blood will flaw. This evil will take the whole world and wherever it goes, rivers of blood will flow because of it.

It is not the Russian soul, but an imposition on the Russian soul. !t is not an ideology, or a philosophy, but a spirit from hell.

In the last days Germany will be divided in two. France will just be nothing. Italy will be judged by natural disasters. Britain will lose her empire and all her colonies and will come to almost total ruin, but will be saved by praying women.

America will feed the world, but will finally collapse. Russia and China will destroy each other. Finally, Russia will be free, and from her believers will go forth and turn many from the nations to God.”

In 1911, who could have imagined the impact of Russian Communism? Or that Britain would lose her empire? (I believe Britain was saved by praying women–Britain was at the brink of financial and political ruin when Lydia prayer groups began, and Margaret Thatcher was a woman who prayed.) Who could have imagined that Germany would be divided in two? What are we seeing in America?

However, this is not the total prophecy. It was prefaced by some words concerning women:

“Tell the women they must belong absolutely to God. They must believe in the great things that are happening and that God is doing on the earth. They must prepare their souls, their children and their husbands. And they will have very much work to do for God. Oh, what a great work the women will have to do in the end time, and the men will follow them.”

Makes one think…

What implications do you think it has for today?

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The responsibilities of being a citizen

I’m on jury duty this week–one of the responsibilities of being a citizen of this great country. But it may mean this is the only time I post this week. Here’s how I became a citizen.

Photo Credit: ladybugbkt (Creative Commons)

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 act as jurors or 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. My heart is still there. 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.

 

On CPMs and DMMs

It seems that the terminology is changing. People now are referring to Disciple Making Movements (DMMs) rather than Church Planting Movements (CPMs).

After my last post on this subject, one where I am just beginning to explore the differences, a few people, who have far more experience (at least of DMMs) than I do, commented. Their comments were so insightful, I decided to post them where more people are likely to read them.

John King: 

Multiple factors have produced this change in terminology. Some suggested it because Jesus directed “make disciples,” while he is the one who builds his church. Churches (communities of faith practicing the “one another” passages) will result when people are discipled to Jesus. Secondarily, the shift happened because CPM terminology was being hijacked by folks who are not seeing rapid, multiplicative and indigenous growth. When terms are used to mean whatever you want them to, they really mean nothing (sort of like the guy shooting the side of his barn and then painting a bull’s eye around where the shot landed).

Intentionally discipling disciple makers forces you to:

  • Use only resources, tactics and strategies that the indigenous people group can readily replicate.
  • Strip away all the catalyst’s cultural “over-hang” and trust the Holy Spirit to guide family/friendship groups to contextualize the gospel as they learn and obey it (since different cultures already have strong, deep views of the context in which spiritual activities transpire and how they are conducted, that will impact the kinds of gatherings they develop and eventually call “church”).
  • Model and train discovery of who God is and how he wants us to live at every level of growth and maturity. Jesus’ discipling of the 12, 72 and 500 was as much through the flow of life as it was what he said. (Here we assume giving people new information will result in transformation. It won’t. On-the-job training, just in the nick of time additional training is critical to DMM).

Larry:

That is a great observation Felicity. Having been involved in a CPM in India I would say from my observation that to a certain extent a CPM is a disciple making movement. You can’t have a CPM without leaders developing leaders several levels deep. The exponential growth is a result of leaders being developed and trained to reproduce. To me that is a level of discipleship. You can’t make disciples without being first a disciple. However, I think the real question is depth of discipleship. You know the old saying, “A mile wide and an inch deep”. So on one hand a CPM is in itself a DMM to a certain level. But on the other hand, there is a need for the next level of a DMM to help sustain and grow the maturity level of each church.

Jay Pratt:

My study of CPM’s & DDM’s is that they are driven by what I call Ordinary Christians. They are non-professional, with no special theological training, who are average people but love to spend lots of time with Jesus. Many of these ordinary christians are just months or even weeks old. Another form these kinds of movement that has started in the US is the T4T Training with Jeff Sundell in North Carolina. He’s a former IMB Missionary who ignited a movement in Nepal but now is igniting one in N. America.

Anyone else with experience of DMMs like to comment?

The Rabbit and the Elephant from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

 

 

What is a church planting movement

One of the areas I’m exploring at the moment is the difference (if there is one) between a church planting movement (CPM)  and a disciple making movement (DMM). My impression is that they both result in multiplying churches, but there are subtle differences in how they come about. Many of those involved in CPMs now seem to be emphasizing DMMs.

The CPMs I’m most familiar with are in India. They use Luke 10 principles to find a person of peace and start a church in their home. For example, a few years ago, I met with two middle-aged housewives, one of whom was responsible at that point for having started 2000 churches and the other 6000 churches. The movement they are part of has seen 750,000 baptisms each year for the past several years.

In David Garrison’s book, Church Planting Movements, How God Is Redeeming a Lost World,  he defines a CPM:

A CPM is a rapid and multiplicative increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.

Three key points to note:

  1. It’s rapid–things happen quickly and appear out of control.
  2. It’s multiplicative–not growth by addition.
  3. It’s indigenous–the church planting doesn’t occur because outsiders come in (although they may be catalytic in the early stages) but because local, indigenous people are starting churches.
It’s further defined by David Watson as having at least 100 churches, three generations deep that have occurred within 2 years.

There are CPMs all around the world, but none that have been labeled as such here in the States. Church Multiplication Associates led by Neil Cole is probably the closest in this country. CMA has trained more than 45,000 people around the world since its inception.

Church Planting Movements are also characterized by things such as intense prayer and abundant evangelism, small groups usually meeting in homes, Bible study and discipleship. The churches themselves plant other churches.

Have any of you studied these areas? What have you found?

 

3 predictions for 2014

For most of us, the New Year is marked by a sense of anticipation. The old year is done with; what will 2014 hold? Here are three of my ideas for what 2014 might bring for those of us in the simple/organic/house church movement (or those with an interest in the role of women in ministry).

  1. There will continue to be an increasing emphasis on disciple-making movements. Profoundly effective disciple-making movements are beginning to emerge in this country, with, at this stage, hundreds of new believers stretching several generations. This is an exciting development, and one that I believe will continue to gain momentum. More to come on this in future posts.
  2. The simple/organic/house church movement will maybe lose some people as those who joined it to be fashionable drop out. However, it will become a foundational platform for other things God is doing–for example, discipleship in the marketplace, Kingdom finances etc.
  3. The conversation about women in the Kingdom will increase in intensity and become a (probably controversial) focal point.

Am I right? Only time will tell. What do you think will happen in 2014?

What will 2014 hold

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Getting to know us…

It is rare that I post anything personal about our family on this blog.

However, I’ve just had 10 days of glorious family fun and chaos with our whole family together for the first time in 18 months. Our four kids are among our best friends, and our daughters-in-law/son-in-law are amazing! Our nine grandkids range in age from 14 to four months. Over the last two weeks we’ve shared our lives together, laughed a lot, eaten way too much, played games, walked, entertained kids, sat in the hot tub…. It’s been a blast. What a blessing and a privilege.

The day after Christmas we had a photography session. As you can see, we’ve done our best to obey the command to “be fruitful and multiply”:

 

 

 

 

Remembering the reason for Christmas

Here’s an inspiring video that brings Christmas into focus. Enjoy.

Have a wonderful and blessed Christmas!

Does the Bible command that men rule over women?

The other day, the excellent editor I’m working with on the book I’m compiling, The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church, asked me a question on the manuscript.

I’d written “God nowhere in Scripture commands men to rule over women.”

Her comment was, “This is a big statement. Do we know it is true?”

There was only one verse in Scripture that I was aware of that might say this. In Genesis 3,  God says to Eve that one of the consequences of the Fall was that her desire would be for her husband, and he would rule over her. I’m persuaded this is descriptive (ie God is telling what will happen) rather than prescriptive (this is the way God wants it to happen. If it is prescriptive, and knowing that God is always consistent with himself, how do you explain Deborah, Esther, Priscilla, Phoebe, let alone a host of other women God has used in positions of leadership down through the pages of history.)

I couldn’t think of any other verses. But was I totally sure without any shadow of a doubt?

So I posted the question on Facebook and had a slew of fascinating responses. I’m very thankful for all of them. Most were very thoughtful and one produced some verses I’d never thought of in this context. Nearly everyone agreed with my statement, and I was very grateful for the person who contacted some theologians on my behalf, who also agreed with me!

Assuming, then, that the statement is true, what difference does it make in our churches?

 

Interesting church statistics

According to a good and informative 2013 year-end status report by Leadership Network providing statistics on the state of mega-churches in this country, almost 10 percent of Protestant churchgoers attend a mega-church.

According to a Pew Forum report in December 2009, (if there is a more recent report, I am not aware of it), 9 percent of Protestants “attend religious services in homes.”

Just saying…

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