The single most important thing that makes house church meetings reproducible

One of the problems with the "Honey, I shrunk the church!" approach is that it is too complex to be reproducible, especially by new believers.  Since most people's greatest fear is of public speaking, that makes giving a talk a huge hurdle for people to attempt, even with a smaller audience.  What if there is not a skilled guitarist in the group?  Or no one is used to leading a meeting?

If we are to see rapidly multiplying churches, then the one thing that makes our times together reproducible is simplicity!

Let's apply that principle to what might happen in our times together.

Meals:  if we produce a gourmet home-cooked meal when we get together, then what it says to others is that they could only consider hosting something if they can produce something similar.   Anyone can arrange a simple potluck when everyone contributes.

Praying:  if someone prays 5 minute sermon prayers, this will inhibit anyone but the most experienced Christian from praying.  Brief sentence prayers are much wiser–everybody gets a turn, or even multiple turns.

Teaching:  this is an idol in many Western churches today.  Many pastors spend hours preparing a sermon–but according to research conducted by the Barna group, the typical attender cannot remember the topic 2 hours later.  No, the important thing is that people learn and apply Biblical truths, and they are far more likely to do that if they participate themselves.  People remember 20% of what they hear, 50% of what they see and hear and 70% of what they say themselves.  A participatory study of the Bible is far more effective than a talk or sermon, and there is no preparation required.

If simple patterns are introduced right from the start, then anyone can facilitate a simple/house/organic church.  We've even had believers who are only a few weeks old in the Lord lead simple church gatherings once a simple pattern has been demonstrated.

What is church? Three pictures

In the last post, we described that we are not looking for, "Honey, I shrunk the church," where someone leads from the front and there is pre-organized worship and teaching.

But before we look at what a church meeting looks like we need to answer an important question, "What is church?"  All of us know it is not the building, but how many of us think of it as the event,  the meeting, as in, we GO to church.  But church is never described as a meeting in the New Testament.

There are three main pictures of church given in the New Testament:  

1.   Body A body (Romans 12:5; 1 Corinthians 12):  All the members of the body are important, and so is the diversity.  The Corinthians passage makes it plain that we should celebrate our differences.  The body doesn't consist of all eyes, or all hands.  Each is important.  Not only that, greater honor should be given to weaker members of the boy.  As each person contributes what the Holy Spirit gives them and according to their gifting, Christ is more fully demonstrated in our midst.  Jesus is the head of this body and all of us are connected to the head.

 

2.   Temple OT A temple (1 Peter 2:5; 1 Corinthians 3:16; Ephesians 2:20):  A physical building cannot contain God (Acts 7:48).  We are living stones built into a temple.  God no longer dwells in buildings, but in this living temple.  Jesus is the cornerstone of this temple.

 

3.   Family A family (Ephesians 2:19):  You do not go to family.  Being family doesn't depend on meeting together, but on relationship.  Now healthy families will get together–often–but it is not the meeting together that makes us family, but our relationship together.  We are all sons/daughters of God (John 1:12)  Jesus himself is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters (Romans 8:19)

 

 

What’s the difference between a church that meets in a house and a simple/organic/house church?

All over the country, people are meeting in homes instead of in buildings as their main expression of church.  According to George Barna, that figure is about 5% of the adult population of this country!  Similar results were obtained in surveys by Ed Stetzer of the Southern Baptists and the Pew Forun.

Amazing!  Who would have thought…

However, just transferring the location of church isn't enough.  If all we do is exchange the pews for couches and the steeple for a chimney, we have done what our friend, John White, calls, "Honey, I shrunk the church!"  And we have missed out on the glorious freedom of simple/organic church.

Miniature church

We suspect that many people in house church still do what they used to do in the buildings–and usually they do it badly.  Someone has been asked to lead the worship, another person gives a talk, another is responsible for the kids.  Unfortunately, the lone guitarist lacks the professional expertise of the worship band that led worship in the building and the person who gives the sermon hasn't had hours to prepare a stimulating talk because he's been working at a job all week. To be honest, we might be better off staying in the building!

So what should we do differently?  What's the difference between a church that happens to meet in a house, and a simple/organic/house church.  Watch this space…

 

“Follow” by Floyd McLung: a book worth reading!

I just finished reading Follow the book Follow by Floyd McClung. This book discusses the basics of discipleship, teaching us how to disciple not-yet-believers into the Kingdom.  These disciples become world changers by reaching out to their communities and starting D-groups (precursors to simple churches). 

Floyd is not interested in mere believism.  He is looking for those who are totally surrendered to Jesus and have a love relationship with Him and his people.  He challenges all of us to die to our own selves—our desire for comfort and ease—and to get involved with the poor and marginalized.  His own life reflects this passion.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to multiply disciples and create healthy communities that will transform their world. 

Here’s a quote from the book that I find very thought provoking: ”We disciple the lost to be converted, not convert the lost to be discipled.”

 

The ultimate source of healing

This post will conclude the series I have written on Kingdom skills: dealing with inner hurts.

As I mentioned in the first post on this topic, I spent two years researching the area of inner healing–at least in part because so many people we came across were wounded in various areas.  At the end of that time, I was excited and thrilled to come to the conclusion that there is a single source for healing of the inner person–the death and resurrection of Jesus.

Take a look at this passage from Isaiah 53, and see how many of the problems we have discussed are actually dealt with by Jesus' death (links take you to the relevant post).

 3 He is despised and rejected by men, 
      A Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief. 
      And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him; 
      He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 
       4 Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows;

      Yet we esteemed Him stricken, 

      Smitten by God, and afflicted. 

       5 But He was wounded for our transgression
      He was bruised for our iniquities
      The chastisement for our peace was upon Him, 
      And by His stripes we are healed. 
       6 All we like sheep have gone astray; 
      We have turned, every one, to his own way; 
      And the LORD has laid on Him the iniquity of us all. 

Add to that the victory that Jesus won over Satan and his demonic forces when He died and rose again:

Then God made you alive with Christ, for he forgave all our sins.  He canceled the record of the charges against us and took it away by nailing it to the cross.  In this way, he disarmed the spiritual rulers and authorities. He shamed them publicly by his victory over them on the cross  (Colossians 2:13-15).

All that we need for emotional wholeness is ours through what Jesus has done for us.  When we apply these truths to our lives, we can be set free and we can set others free!

 

The battle for the mind

For several posts now we have been looking at the various causes of emotional problems from a spiritual perspective with the aim of equipping people to help those who are challenged in these areas.  (More of the tools in a later post.)  

The ground where the battle needs to be won is the inner man–which as we saw in a previous post, includes the mind, will and emotions. If a person can win the battle there, and have these areas of life controlled by the Spirit, then he/she can be set free from oppression, fear, depression etc.  So someone may have been set free in response to our prayers for them, but they need to know how to continue to win the battle in their daily lives.  

There are two especially relevant verses here.

Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think. Then you will learn to know God’s will for you, which is good and pleasing and perfect. (Romans 12:2)

Scientists tell us that our brains are wired so that if we develop a habit of thinking a certain way, it becomes automatic.  It's as though there are channels in our minds that our thoughts may run along. So we may be healed, for example, from fear, but we have to retrain our minds in the opposite direction to fear. Meditation and proclamation of various verses from the Word of God is especially relevant here–for example, in the case of fear, 2 Timothy 1:7 is a useful verse.  

The second passage comes in  verse is 2 Corinthians 10 and shows that there is a battle for the minds of men:

We are human, but we don’t wage war as humans do. We use God’s mighty weapons, not worldly weapons, to knock down the strongholds of human reasoning and to destroy false arguments. We destroy every proud obstacle that keeps people from knowing God. We capture their rebellious thoughts and teach them to obey Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3-5).

Although this is primarily talking about seeing unbelievers come to faith, the principles apply to seeing people set free in their inner man too.  If we want to see changes in the inner man, spiritual warfare may be necessary.  What are our spiritual weapons?  Praise (Psalm 149:6-9), the Word of God (Matthew 4:1-11), our testimony and the blood of Jesus (Revelation 12:11).

Many years ago, back in the UK, we had a trainee nurse staying with us.  She had developed abdominal pain that was so overpowering it would cause her to black out.  Despite full investigation at her teaching hospital, the doctors had been unable to find a cause, and had decided to send her to see a psychiatrist.  Obviously her nursing training was in jeopardy.  But before referring her to the psychiatric department, her Christian doctor asked if she could spend a few days with Tony and me in the hope that we might find a cause for what was going on.

One morning as I was praying for her, the thought came into my mind, "Ask her if she hears voices!"  When I did so, her reply was immediate:  "Yes, but they've told me never to tell anyone!"

The following story came out.  As a teenager, she became troubled by voices in her head.  These became more and more insistent, and the only way she could find to block them out was to lose consciousness.  It was very simple to pray for her and see her delivered and set completely free.

Thankfully, we had warned her that Satan might try and attack her again, and we taught her how to use spiritual weapons if the happened.  About a week later, she experienced another attack, but she was able to praise and pray her way out of it.  It was the last attack she ever had.  We heard from her around 10 years later.  She had been completely set free since that time, and her nursing career was going well.  Praise God!

 

 

 

The 5 “S’s” that give Satan a legal right

Continuing the series on Kingdom skills: helping those with inner pain and problems.

In the last post we looked at the first of the 5, rather contrived, "S's" that allow Satan access to our lives–namely sin.  Here are the remaining four.  


Letter s
 
Seance:
This “S” refers to where we
have given Satan access to our lives by involving in any form of the
occult.  A friend of mine, years
previously as a student, had gone to a séance with the intention of praying
against it.  She hadn’t thought
about it for years, but when she realized that her contact with this might have
affected her, she asked Tony and I to pray about it with her.  A few days later she came to us, amazed
at the difference the prayer had made. 
Without knowing it, her life had been oppressed—a sense of being under a
cloud—and our brief prayer had set her free.  
Dabbling with the occult is expressly forbidden in
the Scriptures.  There are many
different forms of it including things such as Ouija boards, palm reading and
so on.  Also included in this
category are mind-altering drugs which sometimes allow the enemy access.

Shock: Debbie and her boyfriend went to visit his
uncle one day.  When they knocked
on the door, no one answered but finding the door unlocked, they went on
in.  They discovered the uncle dead
on the floor—natural causes, no suspicious circumstances.  But from that day on, until we prayed
with her, Debbie was overcome by fear. 
She was afraid of opening doors. 
She was afraid in any kind of unfamiliar situation.  Satan had taken advantage of the shock
of finding a dead body and supercharged a natural reaction to give her a major
problem with fear. 

We know that God doesn’t give us a spirit
of fear, but of power, love and a sound mind.  Any time fear is present, it’s worth finding the source and
dealing with the enemy.

Subtlety
In the Garden of Eden, Satan is described as subtle (Genesis 3:1), and
he tricks us.  For example, you are
watching some innocuous program on television, and when it ends, you drift
without thinking into whatever program comes on next.  Before you know it, you are into a topic you would never
have chosen—semi-pornography, or graphic violence.  I remember praying with a friend who was feeling under
oppression—nothing very major, just that all wasn’t right.  In those days we lived in a very
socially deprived, inner city area of London, where every kind of crime was
committed on an almost daily basis. 
When she traced back to find out when the problem had started, she
realized it stemmed from reading our local paper, which was full of accounts of
murder and crime.  When we prayed
against it, she was set free.

Siege: Sometimes Satan lays siege to us.  Take for example, a situation where finances are an issue.  Month after month, they are a source of concern and worry, and over time, the burden gets heavier and heavier.  In Daniel 7, one of the kings is described as wearing out the saints of the Most High, and this perfectly describes the activity of the enemy.

  

Kingdom skills: causes of emotional problems #5 (when Satan has a legal right)

Continuing the series on skills for Kingdom builders: dealing with emotional problems.

The last four posts have dealt with different categories of
causes of problems in the inner man: our sin, inherited tendency to sin, where
we are sinned against and griefs and sorrows.  Satan loves to supercharge any of these areas, taking them
to the place where we no longer have control.

But he is able to work in other ways too.  Satan is a legalist, and there are a
number of things that give him a legal right to a foothold in our lives.  The easy way to remember them, even if
slightly contrived, (and the way I first heard them from the doctor who first
taught us about these areas), is that they all begin with the letter S.

  1.      .  Sin

All the areas described above, so sin in
any form, whether our own or not, can give Satan the right to access in our
lives.  And he doesn’t play
fair.  Take, for example, the
situation where an unmarried teenager discovers she is pregnant.  Her first reaction is shock and shame.
She doesn’t want her life inconvenienced by a baby.  Will she have an abortion?  Her sin (sex outside marriage) affects the unborn baby and
he or she may grow up to have problems with rejection. 

Ephesians 4:26 is an interesting
verse.  It says, “Be angry but do
not sin.  Do not let the sun go
down on your anger and thereby give the devil a foothold.” 

Anger
 

There are some useful principles here that
I first heard from John Wimber. 
It’s as though there are different gradations of demonic activity in a
person’s life.  From this verse, we
have the impression that a person can be angry without sinning.  Take, for example, Jesus anger against
the moneychangers in the temple. 
It was a righteous anger, and there are situations where this is an
appropriate reaction (eg with social justice issues).  However, the verse goes on to say that if a person allows (unrighteous)
anger to continue, it becomes a problem.  Let’s imagine a scale of 0 to 10 with the problem of anger.  

  • Something happens and a person becomes
    angry and doesn’t deal with it immediately.  It’s as though they are at a grade 1 or 2 on the scale.  When they realize what’s happened, they
    can easily deal with it through repentance.  
  • Now suppose anger is a recurring issue.  Maybe they are at 3 or 4 on our
    scale.  It  will require some spiritual warfare on
    the person’s part before it can be fully dealt with.  
  • If it is allowed to continue, he or she becomes an angry
    person where anger is the default emotion and no longer under control.  This may be at 6 to 8 on our scale. Most
    of us probably have probably come across people like this who have a very short
    fuse and anything tends to make them angry.  This person is probably unable to be set free without others
    praying and doing spiritual warfare with them.  
  • At 9 or 10 on the scale, the anger has led to major
    problems/crime.  Maybe they are in
    prison for some crime committed during an outburst of anger.  They may need major deliverance from an
    obvious demonic problem. 

Praise God, when Jesus died on the cross, he
won total victory over Satan.

Kingdom skills: causes of emotional problems #4 (griefs and sorrows)

Continuing the series of skills for Kingdom building: inner healing

Swimming pool
 

Diane came to see me with depression.  The cause was obvious.  About five years previously, her young
son, around 2 years of age, had drowned in their swimming pool.  He had only been out of sight for just
a few minutes while she was caught on a phone call. But the situation was much
worse than this.  Because the child
was physically handicapped (to this day the parents have no idea how he got to
the pool) the police accused her of murdering her son.  Imagine: she was not only facing the
grief of her son’s death but now an investigation too!

The charges against her were eventually dropped, but the
grief and horror of the situation remained.  Diane couldn’t drive anywhere near the cemetery where he was
buried without being overcome with anguish at what had gone on.  In her mind, there was a continuous video
that she replayed again and again of the moment when she discovered her son’s
body floating in the pool and the subsequent events.

Situations like this, or like the lady in the last post, can
cause intense grief.  There is no
sin involved, but the pain of such events can be incapacitating. 

Isaiah 53:? Says, “Surely He has borne our griefs and
carried our sorrows.”  In the same
way that Jesus dealt with our sin, he also takes our sorrows.  So our sorrows can be handed over to
Jesus.  He doesn’t remove the
memory, but he robs it of its power and sting. I often tell people to give the
incident to Jesus, to hand over to him the mental video of events so that they
no longer have the need to replay it, and then ask him to heal the memories.  Sometimes I ask the Holy Spirit to help
them see Jesus in the situation. 
What will he do?

How did this work with Diane?  As we prayed together, she had a picture.  She was standing by the pool having
just discovered her son.  Jesus
approached her carrying the baby in his arms.  In her mind, Jesus handed her son to her, and she was able
to hug and cuddle him and say goodbye before giving him back to Jesus.  Jesus took the baby, and then set him
down on the ground.  The baby
toddled away, giving her a wonderful smile, completely healed!  We have a creative God!

The effect in Diane’s life was immediate.  It was the beginning, and a major
milestone in her healing process.  

Kingdom skills: causes of emotional problems #3 (when one is sinned against)

I once had a word of knowledge about a person who had been
repeatedly raped by her father and an uncle as a young child.  As I looked at the people present at
the gathering, I was fairly sure I knew who it was; a young woman had been
glowering at me for most of the meeting. 

I couldn’t have been more wrong.  After the meeting, a sweet little lady in her 70’s
approached me.

“I was the person who was raped,” she said.  “From the age of 5 until I was 10 or
12, I was repeatedly sexually abused in the way you described.  It has affected every day of my life
since then, including my marriage. 
You are the first person I have ever told about it!”

Was she, as a young girl, in any way to blame for what went on?  No!  As an innocent child she was sinned against in a horrendous
fashion.

The main way to deal with this kind of problem will come out
in the next post, but there is a very important principle here, and that is the
need of forgiveness.  Despite the
magnitude of the sin against her, this lady needed to forgive her father and
uncle.  Jesus made it quite clear
that our own forgiveness depends on our willingness to forgive others.  (The fact that one forgives doesn’t
mean one trusts again quickly.  The
wife who is sinned against when her husband has an affair is not immediately
going to trust him again.)

It was a privilege to pray with her and see her set free as
she forgave her father and uncle.   Jesus cleansed her and freed her from the shame of what
had happened to her.