Five vows

In my late teens/early twenties, I came across AW Tozer’s “Five vows for spiritual power.” I’ve tried to live my life by them ever since. At times they’ve been inconvenient, I’ve certainly broken all of them at one time or another, but they’ve formed a compass for my life. They’ve simplified decision making. They’ve convicted me. They remain a guide.

Here they are:

  1. Deal thoroughly with sin
  2. Never own anything
  3. Never defend yourself
  4. Never pass on anything about anyone else that will hurt them
  5. Never accept any glory

The Black Swan Effect: A response to gender hierarchy in the church is a clarion call for a New Reformation encompassing the whole body of Christ–Leonard Sweet

Jesus Feminist

With a title like Jesus Feminist: An Invitation to Revisit the Bible’s View of Women, especially with the further subtitle of “Exploring God’s Radical Notion That Women Are People Too,” I expected a book that was strident and argumentative. But I was instantly won over by the welcoming and gracious, generous and vulnerable writing of Sarah Bessey.

It’s hard to know how to describe this book. Perhaps the thing that comes across most strongly is Sarah’s love for Jesus that permeates every page. Written with poetry and beauty, the book is a clarion call for women (and men) who long for freedom to step out into the fullness of their giftings and potential.

While she doesn’t gloss over the problems, Sarah encourages women to forgive and leave behind the limitations and hurts they may have experienced in a patriarchal system, and to move on into a work of healing and loving, of justice and community. Over and over again, she affirms the worth of women, commissioning them to go and heal others, to disciple and minister, to set others free. While the arguments she uses are Biblically sound and thought provoking, they are seasoned with such grace that they are somehow less confrontational and more winsome.

One of the signs that God is on the move concerning women in our generation is the number of books that are coming out on the topic.  Jesus Feminist is one of those books. It’s written from a different perspective to many of the books on this topic–more personal, less combative. Well worth reading.

 

Rethinking giving

Until a few months ago, the church that meets in our home did what I suspect the majority of simple/organic churches have done with their giving.

Nothing!

That’s not to say that people haven’t been giving. They have–generously. (A few years ago, a friend of ours did research on how giving within simple/organic/house churches compares with the traditional church. Well over half the people give more than 10 percent of their income. The typical American Christian gives 3 percent.) But most people don’t tend to give via the house church. They give to friends they know on the mission field, needs within the church as they have come up and various other charitable/spiritual projects they have wanted to support. All of it good.

The issue was forced on us recently when a couple told us they wanted to do some of their giving via the church.

What to do?

As a church, we sought the Lord and had the sense that he wanted us to be more strategic in our giving. It’s not that one or two people should make the decision about where the money should go. As his body, together, we were responsible for asking him what he would like us to do with any  money collected. Even with people continuing to give their regular support to projects they are committed to, with no buildings and no staff, there’s a lot of money available.

So we opened a bank account, and each week we have a pot available for people to put money in.

In the past three months, as a church, we’ve spent time seeking the Lord as to what we should do with the money collected. Each time, there’s been a general consensus as to where it should go. We’ve given to missions, we’ve helped some people within the church who had overwhelming financial need, we’re helping one of our young people go to camp over the summer and we’re giving a proportion (rather than a set amount) regularly to House2House.

The most strategic network of churches I know of regarding finances is in Killeen, Texas. Last time I heard, they’d given more than $1.2 million since their inception.

What if the rest of us were to be strategic with our giving too? What if, as a movement, we were strategic with our giving? What more could God accomplish?

 

 Photo Credit: borman818 via Compfight cc

Rethinking movements

I’ve had the incredible privilege of being part of various moves of the Holy Spirit–most recently, the simple/organic/house church movement. Right now, I’m putting considerable thought into the topic of movements. The reason: Others have encouraged me not to just sit back after publishing The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church but to consider whether God might want to do more.

I’ve begun wondering if what is going on with women may turn out to be a move of God. I recently met with Alan and Deb Hirsch, both of whom feature in the book, and they, too, encouraged me to explore it further. My longing is certainly that men and women partner together as co-equals for the Kingdom.

My thoughts on this so far are very non-technical and only just beginning to take shape:

A movement occurs when the thoughts and actions of a group of individuals begin to impact the prevailing culture.

There are various different ways a spiritual movement begins:

  1. God begins to speak to different people in various places about the same thing. They find each other, and begin co-operating together. Examples would include the house church movements of both the UK and the US, both of which had a profound influence on the church culture.
  2. Austrian philosopher, Ivan Illich was once asked whether the best way to transform society was by revolution or reformation. His reply was, “Neither. You tell an alternative and compelling story.” Example? Luke 10:2b prayer went viral across the nations through the power of story.
  3. People actively engage in principles that are known to create transformation. Many church planting movements overseas are this way. There are well recognized principles to multiplying disciples and churches.

Obviously, we cannot manufacture movement. It takes a sovereign work of God. But we can co-operate with him. Many  Spirit-led movements are a combination of all three of these principles.

[Other secular movements may rely on resistance. For example, Gandhi or Mandela and peaceful collective action. The civil rights movement and the LGBT movements would also be examples. The people initially involved deliberately developed  strategies that changed nations.]

I have no idea if God will create a significant movement of men and women working together as co-equals, but I long that he does so. The indications are there. To me, it feels very similar to the beginning of other movements I’ve been part of.

What do you think?

If any of you are interested in hearing further developments as they arise (for example, there’s a round table happening later this month to discuss these issues further), you can sign up for email updates here. (If you’re already on the list of those praying for  The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church, you’ll automatically be included.)

Jesus Now

Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ is Frank Viola’s latest book. I love Frank Viola’s writing. He is always scriptural, always Jesus-centered and he always makes me think. So I was delighted when he sent me a copy to review.

Over the years, I’ve read many “deeper life” books. The writings of Andrew Murray, Watchman Nee, and AW Tozer and many others have impacted me. In many ways, Jesus Now reminds me of their works. It places Jesus front and center; it challenges the reader to make Jesus Lord of everything in life; it reveals how Jesus transforms and strengthens the believer.

We all know what Jesus did when he was here on earth. He healed the sick, cast out demons, raised the dead. But what is he doing now? He continues to work in our lives. Jesus Now: Unveiling the Present-Day Ministry of Christ details the current ministry of Jesus as our High Priest, Chief Shepherd and Heavenly Bridegroom. Just these chapters alone could transform the lives of many believers as they are set free from guilt and condemnation.

But the book doesn’t stop at the level of the individual follower of Jesus. In a way that few books do, Frank takes these concepts further into the ministry of Jesus in the body of Christ at large. Jesus is the Master Builder and the Head of the Church. This has implications for how we meet together and how the church interacts with the world.

Although this book is a fast read, I believe Jesus Now is destined to be a classic! I highly recommend it.

Frank has a great offer for us. If you purchase the book between May 5th and May 8th from Parable.com, you will not only get it at 50 percent off, you will also get a study guide for free. Here’s where you can get it.

Nation-impacting women

Floyd McClung is another contributor to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. He wrote an amazing chapter in the book about the nation-impacting women God has used throughout the world and down through history. Here’s an excerpt from his chapter:

I have had the privilege of traveling in 192 countries and have met amazing women in all walks of life. The world knows about Mother Teresa and accepts her radical impact. But what of the tens of thousand of unknown women who are silent heroes of the Kingdom? Take away their service and the the Kingdom of God become half or less of what it is today.

I estimate more than 65 percent of the mission force and leadership corps of the church worldwide is female. Serving as Bible translators and church planters, women have opened up unreached groups to the Gospel, taught men to lead and read, made disciples, trained leaders, and ignited church planting movements.Some of these same female leaders have subsequently stepped back as second-generation male leaders took charge, watching silently as men went on to take the credit for what women had actually done.

Floyd McClung

Women: mission critical

I am so grateful for the guys who have contributed to The Black Swan Effect: A Response to Gender Hierarchy in the Church. The fact that they are willing to stand with us means that book won’t be perceived as written by militant feminists. It’s a prophetic statement of God’s desire for women and men to partner together for the sake of the Kingdom.

Here’s a quote from Dave Ferguson.

My feelings about the issue of women in leadership began to change when my oldest daughter, Amy, started looking for colleges. Like many 18-year-olds, she wasn’t sure what she wanted to declare as a major, but student ministry was toward the top of her list of interests. So with ministry as a strong consideration, we began looking for a Christian college that would be a good fit.

I had two criteria in mind as we began our search: first, I wanted her to find a school with a strong commitment to the authority of Scripture, and second, I wanted her to attend a school that would encourage her as a female leader to fulfill her God-given potential.

With each college visit, there was a growing realization that finding a school where my daughter could get  solid theological education along with positive encouragement to use all of her gifts was going to be very hard. That’s when it got personal and something began to change in me. The issue of women in leadership went form being something that was theologically right, but not mission critical, to both theolotgically correct and  critical for accomplishing the mission of Jesus!

It was like my eyes were opened–for the first time, I realized that 50 percent of the leaders God had gifted for this mission were not mobilized or utilized. I don’t know how I missed it before. It was like the church was trying to show off by doing everything with one hand tied behind her back! The more I thought about it, the more ridiculous it seemed. I began to look at the world through the eyes of my daughter (and other women) and saw very limited possibilities for her to use her gifts. It was suddenly personal and emotional.

Three generations listening to Jesus

Over Easter, Tony and I spent time with our oldest son, Jon, his wife, Amy, and their four incredible and amazingly talented children ages 6 to 14. (And yes, I’m biased–very!)

Jon and Amy live in a small town in the mountains to the west of Colorado Springs. It’s incredibly beautiful. There are views of Pikes Peak from much of the town. The mountains were all snow-capped, the sun was shining, there were deer grazing in the front yard. We spent our evenings gathered around a wood fire roasting marsh mallows and telling stories.

Jon and Amy normally get together with a group of friends for church on Sunday mornings, but this week, people were out of town for Easter, and it was just our family. So we had church together.

Jon and Amy have taught their kids how to listen to God. After a brief recap of the Easter story, we all spent a few minutes listening to the Lord on our own. Then the kids shared what Jesus was saying to them. Jon and Amy shared. Tony and I shared. The whole blended together to become a beautiful narrative of what the Lord was saying to us all. It was simple–nothing earth-shattering. It was easily understood by everyone, including the six year old. It was profound. It was Jesus.

What a privilege. Jesus speaking to three generations of Dales who are listening to him together. Family doesn’t get better than this….

When women champion men…

As part of some correspondence, a pastor’s wife, Kathy, wrote the following. I LOVE what she says here!
My prayer is that one day, women will “champion” the men who are brave enough to come out of the “male only” leadership box.

I believe that women who are free are the ones who will be used by God to open the doors for men (and other women) — so that they walk in freedom.  The slaves cannot free themselves.  I am no longer enslaved by the lies of the enemy about my position in Christ.  

I have permission from God– God’s Female Image is free and equal to His Male Image.
Complete freedom and peace came for me to live and minister as God’s Female Image — when the Spirit clearly revealed to me that God had opened the door and I realized satan was keeping me in bondage because I thought that my husband or “the Elders” had to give me permission to be free.  

I stand on Galatians 5:1 – 

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

Happy Easter

This Easter weekend commemorates the most important event in history–the death and resurrection of Jesus. We celebrate the victory Jesus accomplished for us over sin and death and the forces of darkness.

The Easter story is also one where the role of women comes to the fore:

  • A woman anointed Jesus for burial
  • Women watched as Jesus died
  • Women followed Joseph of Arimathea to see where Jesus was buried
  • Women bought and prepared spices for his body
  • Women were first to the tomb after the Sabbath
  • A woman was the first person to whom Jesus revealed himself after his resurrection
  • Women were entrusted with the message that Jesus had risen

Have a blessed Easter!

Photo Credit: arbyreed via Compfight cc