Food, food, food… Starting a church in the harvest

Continuing the series from Luke 10.

 Both verses 7 and 8 of Luke 10 talk about food


Potluck
 

Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. Do not move around from house to house. When you enter a town and are welcomed, eat what is set before you.

What is the importance of food?  Why is it important to eat what is set before you?

Food creates relationship–in every culture of the world.  If someone offers you food, they are generally offering friendship and relationship.  

There are very few times when the same concept is mentioned in two consecutive verses in the Bible.  This is one of them.  It's not just an optional extra.

If you reject food, you are doing far more than saying you don't want to eat.  You are rejecting friendship.  There have been times when I would have preferred to refuse food.  (You try eating a hamburger you have just watched a cockroach walk over!)  If you want to see disciples made in the harvest, swallow your squeamishness and eat what is set before you!

Don't forget the 2010 National House Church Conference http://bit.ly/adpZ54



How do you recognize a person of peace?

The person of peace is the one who will open up the harvest to you, so it is very important that we learn to recognize a person of peace.  It helps if we have a mindset where we are always looking for such a person. The Lord delights to answer the prayer, "Lord, lead me to a person of peace for this harvest field."

The answer comes in verse 7 of Luke 10. Stay in that house, eating and drinking whatever they give you, for the worker deserves his wages. 

A person of peace offers you hospitality. What does that look like in today's society? You may not get invited into a home (although in my experience, that is not uncommon). Let's say you have just started a new job, and after you've been there a few days, the lady in the office who everyone seems to revolve around says to you, "Some of us from the office go out for drinks on Fridays after work.  Would you like to join us?"  What has she done? She has offered you hospitality.  She's opening up her circle of friends to you.


Beer
 

So what do you do?  You could say, "Sorry, I don't drink.  Not this time."  In which case you've closed the door on a great opportunity.  Or you could go and drink a beer (or a soda) and get to know the people in your office at a social level. She has opened up the office to you.


The person we are looking for

Continuing the series on Luke 10:

Luke 10:6 says this:  If a man of peace is there, your peace will rest on him; if not, it will return to you.

The person of peace is a key concept in working in the harvest.  It's the person we've been praying to find from verse 2.  

So what is a person of peace?  It's a person of influence, of reputation, who is open to your message and who will open up his/her circle of influence to you.

Let's think of some Scriptural examples of people of peace.  Cornelius was a God-fearer, who introduced his whole household to Peter and the good news.  He was a man of good reputation (Acts 10).  Lydia is another person of peace of good reputation who opened her circle of influence to Paul (Acts 16).  The woman at the well is a person of peace of, to say the least, dubious reputation.  But everyone in her village knew her, and she opened up her whole village to Jesus (John 4).

The person of peace is the one who will be the laborer in the harvest.  Usually a church will start in his/her home.  

In the next post we will look at how you recognize a person of peace.


Why compliments help in planting a simple/organic/house church

Continuing the study in Luke 10.

Sadly, we Christians are renowned for our negative attitudes.  According to David Kinnamen in his book, UnChristian, we are thought of by 'outsiders' (ie those who are not involved in church) as firstly, antigay (91%), secondly, judgemental (87%), and thirdly, hypocritical (85%). 

Luke 10:5 says: “Whenever you enter someone’s home, first say, ‘May God’s peace be on this house.’ 

So what does it look like to say, "Peace to this house," in a context where that is not a typical greeting (as it may have been in Israel at that time).  Surely there is a way to give a blessing to anyone we meet.  We can find something to compliment, no matter what their lifestyle. And a compliment, (or blessing) is acceptable to anyone.


Thumbs up
 

Tony likes to tell the story of a business friend of his who is openly gay.  When this man first came to know Tony, they needed to take a plane trip together to a business appointment, and so had plenty of time to chat. This man was very surprised to find a Christian who did not condemn him but actively appreciated and complimented him on certain aspects of the gay community, such as their creativity. And when he did not encounter criticism, he was willing to open up about his life.

How can we say, "Peace to this house" in other ways in a Western context?



How many $$ to start a church?

Continuing our study of Luke 10.


Bag and sandalsI tried without success to find out the average cost of starting a church in this country.  If my memory serves me right, it's in the region of $350,000 by the time you include buildings and the training and salary for a pastor.  (If anyone has an accurate figure, I would be interested to know.)  Then there's all the paraphernalia surrounding a church plant: a marketing strategy, the new worship team, Sunday school and so on…

Contrast this with Luke 10:4, remembering that this passage in Luke 10 is Jesus' pattern for reaching out to communities of people.

"Do not take a purse or bag or sandals; and do not greet anyone on the road."

Why would Jesus tell us not to take anything with us?  Surely we need some money and other resources to reach out to a new community? 

There are a couple of reasons why not.  First, if we take nothing with us, where is our dependence?  It has to be on the Lord to provide for us.  Where is that provision going to come from?  Out of the harvest!

This is a huge paradigm shift for those of us who have been involved in traditional church life. All the resources for any new work are going to be in the harvest.  The premises will come from the harvest.  New leadership will come from the harvest.  The workers for any new area are probably not even believers yet.  

If you ask our Indian friends why you don't take things with you, they will add another reason too.  You don't take anything extra with you because you don't plan to stay!  Again, that's because the workers for the harvest are in the harvest.  You do not move to a new area to lead a church, but you will mentor the new worker from the harvest who will lead the church.

Why do you not stop to greet anyone on the way?  We are looking for a specific person, and Jesus tells us later in the passage how we will recognize that person.  Again our Indian friends have a different perspective.  They say that if they talk to the wrong person, they stand a good chance of being beaten up! It's best to let Jesus reveal the right person.


Wolves and a world at war: a story

Continuing thoughts around Luke 10.

Luke 11: 20-22 says this: But if I am casting out demons by the power of God, then the Kingdom of God has arrived among you.  For when a strong man like Satan is fully armed and guards his palace, his possessions are safe— until someone even stronger attacks and overpowers him, strips him of his weapons, and carries off his belongings.


Captive set free

Like it or not, we were born (again) into a world at war.  We minimize the danger to our cost.  When Jesus sends us out (ie we are on the offensive) as lambs among wolves,  we need to be aware of the spiritual warfare we go into and take precautions accordingly.  

What are the possessions and belongings of the strong man in the above verse?  They are the people who are held captive by Satan. Part of our warfare is binding the strong man and plundering his goods which is what happens when we prayer walk (Luke 10:2). As we enter into spiritual warfare, we need to go fully armed (Ephesians 6) and not ignorant of his (Satan's) devices (2 Corinthians 2:11). 

A story from India:  We were speaking at a conference with a well known Indian church planter.  One of the activities he had the attendees do was go out prayer walking around the temples and shrines in the local area at 4 am in the morning.  The reason for the early hour was to be before the devotees of other religions.  (I would like to tell you that Tony and I participated in this, but it would be a lie–we were sleeping soundly!)  Later that morning, we were all gathered on a flat rooftop and people were recounting their experiences as they prayer walked.  Suddenly there was a commotion.  We didn't understand what was going on until someone explained to us that the kitchen, which was on the next floor down, was on fire.  We went and looked and sure enough, flames were exploding out the door.  Apparently a propane tank had been wrongly installed.  Everyone was praying.   It took the local firemen 20 minutes and a full tank of water to put the fire out.  

However, the amazing thing was when we went to inspect the damage later, there was none.  There was one singed blanket and a melted bucket. There were glass jars immediately above the stove; they were not even cracked.  There was no evidence of any smoke damage and the flames had apparently touched nothing!

What had happened?  When we asked our Indian friend, he said that our prayer walking had stirred up opposition. (He had understood that there would be people praying protection on those prayer walking, but the organizer of the conference had failed to arrange this.) Hence the fire.  But the prayers of the saints had prevented anything or anyone from being harmed.

Should we be alarmed by such a story?  No!  We are on the winning side.  We have complete authority over the enemy and he cannot harm us (Luke 10:17-19).  The battle is not so obvious here in the West as it is in India, but we need to put on our armor when we go out against the enemy.

If we are going where and when Jesus has told us (Luke 10:1) then even when we go to the wolves, Jesus is with us. And we can see the captives of the strong man set free.


 

Choosing to become the wolf’s lunch?

Continuing principles from Luke 10:

Wolf fodder There are other principles tied up with Jesus sending us out as lambs among wolves (Luke 10:3).

Lambs make lunch for wolves!  So why did Jesus send us out as lambs among wolves rather than wolves among lambs? What kind of shepherd is he?  Would a good shepherd do that?

Evangelism can be an exercise in, "I'm right, you're wrong!" "I have made the right choices in life, you're on the wrong path!" "I'm going to tell you what you need in life." All of which makes us appear superior. To be honest, that isn't very attractive. People intensely dislike being made to feel inferior.

Lambs are vulnerable and weak compared to wolves. So how does this effect our reaching out? It's much more attractive (tasty even!) if we appear vulnerable when we talk to others about the Lord. If we are willing to mention our own weaknesses, to open up about our failings, then we become much more approachable.  People feel they can confide in us, are willing to let down their guard and let us into their lives.  I'm not talking about wallowing in our own guilt and sin, but being honest.  Then we have the opportunity to share the difference that Jesus has made.  "He is the one who has made a difference in my life and he can change your life too."

If our attitude enables someone to open up about the problem areas in their life, this then gives us the opportunity to pray with them and demonstrate the Kingdom.  And a demonstration of the Kingdom gives us the right to tell people the good news (Luke 10:9).

National House Church Conference 2010 http://bit.ly/adpZ54

Sent to the wolves: how to start a house/organic church in the harvest

Continuing a study of Luke 10.

Luke 10:3 says this: Now go, and remember that I am sending you out as lambs among wolves.

Jesus told his disciples to go–or more accurately, "be going."  Yet we usually ask people to come.  "Come to our church," "Come to our special meeting!"  Even in our house churches we ask people to come.  

Why did Jesus tell us to go?  If we go, we are the ones who are crossing the cultural barrier.  We are the ones to get uncomfortable.  Think about it: what is it like for someone who has never been in church to come to one of our meetings.  It is a total culture shock! We may ask them to sing songs they don't know, to listen to a monolog or take part in a discussion they know nothing about.  There are reasons we are told to go.  

Jesus may send us to places where we don't naturally feel comfortable.  But Jesus was known as a friend of sinners.  He was willing to mix with people that the upright religious people of his day refused to have anything to do with.  He was comfortable with tax collectors and prostitutes.  Notorious sinners hung around him (Luke 15:1-2). Are we willing to risk going to places where "sinners" hang out if Jesus asks us to?

Then Jesus tells us that our going is like throwing lambs to the wolves!

 
Sheep and wolf
 

What kind of shepherd would do that?  Send his lambs to the wolves?

What is the protection for a lamb?  As Neil Cole likes to point out, it's not their superior intelligence, or their camouflage, or their speed.  They have no natural defense but their shepherd.  When we go to dangerous places, Jesus himself is our protection.

Power tools for church planting

This is a break in my series on Luke 10.  I will get back to this passage in the next post!  


Power tools 2

When we first moved to this country, we had no means of making an income. (No one wanted to employ two unlicensed physicians).  So we became involved in a business that taught us a lot about American culture.  We also learned some very positive principles, many of which had their basis in Scripture. One of the things emphasized to us was the importance of tools. The value of tools is that they make a job easier.  You can hammer in a nail using a rock, but it is much easier to use a hammer.  Even more useful are power tools.  

The National House Church conference is a tool. You can start a simple/organic/house church without reading the books or meeting others who have already done it.  But it is a whole lot easier if you can learn some principles from their experience and avoid some of the mistakes they made!  At the conference there is plenty of opportunity to talk with people who've been on the journey for a while, as well as different breakout sessions devoted to various helpful topics–for example, a couple who transitioned their legacy (traditional) church into a network of house churches will share the principles that guided their journey.  

Here's a brief descriptio of the conference which will take place over the Labor Day weekend:

According to recent Pew Foundation Research, 7% of American Christians now identify a house church as their primary expression of church.  This is exciting news but it also points to a significant problem. An increasing number of believers are now meeting in homes but they are bringing with them leadership patterns from their traditional church background.  The result?  Burned out and confused leaders and struggling house churches.

The 2010 National House Church Conference will be addressing just this problem at several levels.

  • Wayne Jacobson will be helping us think through what it looks like when you really believe that following God is a 24/7 description of walking with Him.
  • Our breakout times will explore everything from basics of house church life to understanding the transition process for pastors from traditional setting.
  • Tim Bach will be talking to us about iconcity, the adventure that God has him and others engaged in as they seek to bring transformation to a small town in Oregon. Tim and other members of the team spent time in various Christian bands, including Petra. From “I’m with the band” to helping homeless kids – it’s quite a story!
  • The House2House board/team will be exploring with us the role of transformational leadership teams to help provide infrastructure to fresh moves of the Holy Spirit.  Infrastructure is generally not seen, not noticed, but vital to the functioning of society. Godly, servant leadership is like this!

Why not bring a group of you from your church?  Details can be found here.

What have cows to do with church planting? How to start a simple/organic/house church (2)

Cow
 

God's maths is not our maths.

Continuing the discussion on Luke 10.

 Luke 10:2 says this: "These were his instructions to them: “The harvest is great, but the workers are few. So pray to the Lord who is in charge of the harvest; ask him to send more workers into his fields."

A number of key points come out in this.

  • According to Jesus, the problem isn't the harvest.   (See my post on how to recognize a ripe harvest at http://bit.ly/a8tbOW)  In another place, Jesus says to the disciples, "You say there are still 4 months left until harvest, but I tell you, the harvest is ready now" (paraphrase of John 4:35).  We give God excuses as to why the harvest isn't ready–"My area is too hard, no one is interested,"  As soon as I finish this, (think of an excuse) I'll go out and find a ripe field."  But the Lord of the harvest says, "Now's the time!"
  • The real problem is too few workers.  But hold on.  Jesus had 70+12= 82 workers.  That's 41 pairs of people who were going out into the harvest.  Surely that's enough!  If we had that number of committed church planting teams here in our area, we'd be thrilled.  But according to Jesus, that's inadequate for the task.  It reminds me of the old story.  How do you get a herd of cows to produce more milk?  Do you feed them better food, give them extra vitamins, play them soothing music in their stalls?  That might help a little (well the food and vitamins, anyway).  No, the best way to significantly increase milk production is to add more cows to your herd!  It's a bit like this here.  It's easier to see more harvest by increasing the number of workers than by trying to persuade the existing ones to work harder or smarter.  
  • Jesus' solution to the problem is this:   Pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more workers into the harvest.  We are to pray (beseech, beg) the Lord to send out more workers.  The Greek word used her for "send out" is ekballo which has an element of violence in it.  It's the word used for casting out a demon. I'm sure most of you are familiar with the story of the Luke 10:2b virus (which I tell in detail in "An Army of Ordinary People") and how a prayer movement is producing amazing results in terms of church planting around the country. We minimize the importance of prayer to our cost!