Ways to see a greater harvest #2

 Are we willing to sit in the smoking section? (Neil Cole)

 smoking cigarette
 

Many of us believers are so busy with our Christian friends or with church related activities that we have no time to make friends with other people. Not only that, some have an inbuilt fear that we will somehow be contaminated by rubbing shoulders too closely with "the world."  (Love not world, neither the things that are in the world.) Or maybe we are concerned that we will not be able to resist temptation if confronted with it.  Perhaps we feel guilty for enjoying "worldly pleasures"  (I am not talking sinful situations here but the normal everyday pleasures of life.)  How sad!  The result is that we live isolated, legalistic lives, irrelevant to much of society.

Jesus himself related very well with the ordinary people of his day. Sinners loved him! Luke 15:1 says, "Tax collectors and other notorious sinners often came to listen to Jesus teach." Jesus was not scared to be in a compromising situation with the woman at the well  (think Jewish man alone with  Samaritan women of doubtful reputation); he did not mind when a prostitute washed his feet with her tears and then anointed them with perfume. He was accused of being a glutton and a drunkard, and a friend of tax collectors and other sinners (Matthew 11:19). Jesus preferred to risk being identified with sinners than with the religious.

We will ony see the world won for Christ when we are willing to leave our church pews or our sofas. Jesus said that the sick are the ones who need a physician. The challenge is to get out into a world that so desperately needs him, to get into the trenches in the dirt and guts of life. As Romans 10: 14 says, "But how can they call on him to save them unless they believe in him? And how can they believe in him if they have never heard about him? And how can they hear about him unless someone tells them?"

How do you make friends with someone? It takes time! People instinctively sense insincerity if we make them projects rather than having a genuine friendship with them. They rightly run away from this.

So where does that leave us?  Are we willing to risk our "good Christian" reputations to befriend the outcasts and marginalized of our communities? How do we form genuine friendships with not-yet-believers? 

What ideas do you have?


Ways to see a greater harvest #1


John-wesley-1   

 

 I recently reread the book, "destined for the throne" by Paul Bilheimer. The main premise of the book is based on a quote by John Wesley: "God does nothing except an answer to prayer." Bilheimer goes on to explain that God has chosen to limit himself in order that we might get on-the-job training for reining in his kingdom.

If this premise is true, then we need to rethink some of our strategy. In places where church planting movements are thriving, prayer plays a key role. David Garrison in his book "Church Planting Movements" lists the 10 features common to all CPMs. Prayer is high on his list.

We have friends in India who tried an experiment. They picked two villages; one they prayer walked, the other they did not. When they later went to do some evangelism in the first village, 45 families found the Lord. They were thrown out of the second village.

David Watson has seen many tens of thousands of churches planted in India and Africa. Recently, he questioned his top church planters to see if there were any common factors. He discovered that prayer was key to these people. Each of them prayed at least three hours per day on their own, and more time was spent in prayer with the team.

Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea was interviewed by Rick Warren. He stated that when he first started his church (at one time the largest in the world), in order to see the Holy Spirit work, he had to pray for at least five hours per day. He has now been able to cut this down to three hours.

I do not tell the stories in order to condemn us. Most of us lead very busy lives. How can we commit to that kind of time in prayer? What is God asking of us?

What do you think? Is it true that "God does nothing except an answer to prayer"?  What should our response be?

15 reasons why we don’t see harvest

Harvest
 

Here are some reasons why we may not see the kind of harvest we long for:

  1. We are so involved with other believers we do not have time for friendship with those who do not yet know Jesus.
  2. We are fearful of being "contaminated" by too much contact with the world. 
  3. Lack of the "apostolic mission" part of simple church DNA.
  4. Lack of prayer for the harvest.
  5. Lack of training.
  6. We do not "go and make disciples."
  7. We are fishing in the wrong place, or to change metaphors, we are seeking to reap a harvest where either the fields are not yet ripe or little/no seed has been sown.
  8. We invite people to come to our church.
  9. When someone becomes a Christian, we extract them from their community to join ours.
  10. We fail to work through a "person of peace."
  11. We are not preaching the gospel of the kingdom
  12. Lack of the supernatural.
  13. Sequentialism
  14. We do not train the new believer to pass on his story and what he is learning to his friends.
  15. We scatter rather than gather.

 Some of these topics will be covered more fully in future posts. 

Can you think of any other reasons why  we are not seeing harvest? Let us know!

Individuals versus households

Although Jesus sometimes dealt with individuals, in the book of Acts, there are only two examples of individuals becoming disciples. In Acts 8, Philip leads the Ethiopian eunuch to the Lord, and in Acts 9, Saul is converted on the road to Damascus through Jesus' supernatural intervention. Other than that, all the examples given show either households or groups of people becoming believers/disciples. For example, Cornelius and his household became believers; in the city of Philippi, both Lydia and her household and the Philippine jailer and his household found the Lord.

In
many other cultures, the group is more important than the individual. It is
only here in the West that we have such an emphasis on the individual. This
would certainly have been so in New Testament times. The word oikos usually
translated household, implied much more than the nuclear family. It would have
included the household servants and their families as well as the extended
family. 


What
is the modern day equivalent of
 oikos? I think it is the individual plus
their sphere of influence — their friends and families, the people they work
with, the ones they interact with on a daily basis.



 Rod and line
 

In our Christianized church culture, we are very satisfied when a single person commits to Jesus. Our expectation usually ends there. We do not anticipate groups of people finding Christ.  We are content to fish with a rod and line rather than expecting an abundant catch.

There are a number of strategic reasons why this happens which we will examine in future posts.

Becoming a commercial fisherman (part two)

 Continuing the topic of church planting:

I immediately went through the Gospels looking at every
reference to fishing. There were several. Even though in Mongolia, I did not
have a concordance, it became apparent that several different methods of
fishing were described. Sometimes the disciples threw or cast their nets into
the water (e.g. Matthew 4:18), at other times they let down the nets from the
boat (Mark 5:4). Sometimes they fished from the shore; at other times they were
in deeper water.

Soon after this, we went to India. There we met with a
friend of ours, a church planter who works with fishing communities along the
coast of rural Andhra Pradesh. So we asked him about the fishing practices in
these primitive villages. He immediately told us about different fishing
techniques that these people use. He described a net that looks like a
butterfly net that they use to catch fish along the shore. He described a long
dragnet, or seine, a net several hundred yards long that two boats would let down
in a circle. This net would catch large numbers of fish at a time.

Fishing nets
 

When I returned home and could access the Internet again, I
looked up fishing nets in a concordance. To my surprise, I found that different
words in the Greek were translated as "fishing net" in English. There
was a word that implied a net like a purse. Usually a generic word for fishing
net was used. 

But perhaps the most interesting scripture occurs in Matthew
13:47-48 where it says, "Again, the Kingdom of
Heaven is like a fishing net that was thrown into the water and caught fish of
every kind. When the net was full, they dragged
it up onto the shore, sat down, and sorted the good fish into crates, but threw
the bad ones away.” The word used for fishing net here, is dragnet or seine.

Becoming a commercial fisherman

It may have been the salty yak milk tea, but I had a vivid
dream one night when we were in Mongolia. In the dream, I was with a small
group of people. I handed them a book saying, "This is a book on how to be
a commercial fisherman."

Fish
 

The clue that this was a dream with some spiritual
significance as I woke up, was the overwhelming realization that Jesus has to
tell us where to fish.

The effective of this dream on me was extraordinary. For
weeks I could not stop thinking about it. One of the first things to strike me
was that the disciples he was speaking to were commercial fishermen. When Jesus
spoke to them on the beach as they were preparing their nets with their fishing
vessels anchored close by, "Follow me, and I will make you fishers of
men," they would have understood this in the context of their working lives.
As commercial fishermen, they were not interested in catching individual fish
with a hook and line, but in pulling in nets teaming with fish. Because of
their profession, they would have instinctively known that they were to
influence many people.

The votes are in!

Votes

 Last week, I sent out a tweet asking people to vote on the next topic I will be covering in this blog. The votes are in! By a 2 to 1 majority, people would like to hear more about the subject of church planting. So over the next few weeks, I will be covering that topic.

I often hear the comment, "Jesus did not tell us to plant churches, he asked us to make disciples." This is indeed true. However, the phrase, "make disciples," only comes once in the Gospels, or indeed in the whole of the New Testament for that matter, and that is in the Great Commission in Matthew 28.  But both disciple making and church planting are very clearly demonstrated throughout the book of Acts. The two are inseparable. When disciples were made, a church was the result. The job of the apostolic teams that were sent out was to preach the good news of the kingdom. The result? New disciples gathered into churches.

On another note, I am excited to see that the new book by Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet is in the Amazon top 10! (http://amzn.to/9j6hqd) Congratulations to both!

 

Social media; becoming a trust agent

I've been reading a book recently called "Trust Agents; Using the Web to Build Influence, Improve Reputation and Earn Trust" by Chris Brogan and Julien Smith. I would have downloaded a picture of the book but my technological expertise failed me yet again! 

There is no question that social media is here to stay.  Facebook has over 103 million users in the US (more than 400 million worldwide), and is now the most visited website in the country, and Twitter is gaining influence daily. Social media has overtaken porn as the number one activity on the web. 

I have read several books on social media, but "Trust Agents" stands head and shoulders above the others. The book not only gives practical suggestions on how to get involved without it taking over your life, but also examines the importance of integrity and values in this medium. If you want to have influence,  become a trust agent by saying something of value that is designed to help others; promote others rather than yourself; create relationships rather than mere contacts. Reading this book helps you to understand the practicalities and the potential of social media.

The question is, how will we in the simple/organic/house church movement engage with our culture within this framework?

“Imaginary Jesus”

Imaginary Jesus
 
  

 I recently read the book "Imaginary Jesus" by Matt Mikalotos and George Barna. It was a book I could not put down (rare in the Christian genre). Matt uses an "almost fiction" approach and brilliant humor to lower our defenses and then hits us hard with the truth. We often either create Jesus as we want him to be or believe in a Jesus that others have invented for us.

Will the real Jesus please stand up!

A response to the discussion on women in leadership

The following comments were made by Carolyn Spence in response to a very active discussion on simplechurch.com on the subject of women speaking in meetings. They illustrate what the last few blog posts have been trying to do.

“This discussion has allowed freedom to develop in me, because it wasn't until I had to answer the claims of the "scholars" that I understood what God had been saying to me all along. It hasn't been the posts that really spoke to my situation. It was answering others’ dialog and discussion that brought out some things the Lord wanted me to see. I began to see what I had avoided because I wanted to "fit in." It has been really fun to ask God, "Well, see what he is saying? How do I reply to that?"  and then to find a new perspective on a scripture that I had not seen before.

In that process, I also saw that I was living and practicing a form of submission and quietness which I didn't really believe was what God had planned. I am not sure why I don't believe it, because there are certainly enough passages that could be interpreted the way I was conforming to them. But, I began to see that something deeper was working in me. 
 
The freedom for which Christ came to set us free began to well up in my heart, and I saw areas of responsibility in which I have allowed others to assume roles that God has placed in my authority. I own a business, and have about 18 associates who work for me. I have often deferred to males within my own company and God has been shining a light on why, in those areas, he was not able to bring me into the fullness of peace and skill and prosperity that he had planned.

It is beginning to really crystallize… the understanding of my place in business, and family, and in the coming together of the body of Christ to worship him and to manifest his presence, his gifts, and his kingdom. My place is never really under another although we really do submit to one another in love. It is under the Lord Jesus Christ. It is directed by the Holy Spirit. It is founded on his word, and it doesn't matter whether it is business or simple church. I am to be what he has called me to be in every place.

I have tried for four years to get something going, but it fizzles every time. At last I see why. When you won't take the role God has given you, and when you won't move in the authority he has placed in your hand (you will know it if your heart is right) then he will not help you go forward to accomplish his plans. I will no longer look for a man to start church planting, but now rather I will be a part of that "army of women" who will announce the good news. 

Timing is everything. Yesterday Peg (Batcheller) arrived from Albuquerque. I had heard some consider her a woman apostle, and after talking with her for hours, I must agree. There is in her the capacity to begin things, and to develop them, and to lead, and to admonish. She is here to help us begin to walk in simplicity of form and in depth of relationship with God and with each other. I believe God has prepared hearts, and that we will see the kingdom of God in a new expression among the body of Christ in our area, and all over our area. It is time.