Show and tell!

Heal the sick who are there and tell them, 'The kingdom of God is near you.' (Luke 10:9)

The Kingdom of God is meant to be demonstrated.  When Jesus sent out the twelve in a very similar fashion to the way he sent out the 70, he told them, "Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give."

We are looking for a context in which to introduce a supernatural God.  You might even ask the person of peace, "Is there anyone in your family who needs prayer?"  or "Do you know anyone who lives round here who could use some prayer."  A person of peace knows many people.  They are sure to know someone with some needs that cannot be answered in the natural.


Praying for someone
 

Then it's a question of taking a risk, stepping out on a limb, and asking God to answer prayer.  I have a friend who often prays for people for healing in the marketplace, and he sees churches result as God heals people and they tell all their friends what God has done for them.  God delights to answer our prayers in this kind of context.

It may not be healing that is demonstrated.  When we asked Rosa (see last post) what she needed prayer for, she asked us to pray that her disability checks would come through.  When they started coming within 2 weeks (she had applied 2 years previously), she knew it was in response to our prayers and she wanted the world to know about a God who answers prayer!

When God answers prayer, that is our opportunity to proclaim the good news of the Kingdom.  I have blogged about the gospel of the Kingdom here and here.

A cautionary tale: stay in one place

Continuing the series on Luke 10:

Much of what we have learned in starting simple/organic/house churches, we have learned through our mistakes!  The importance of Luke 10:7 is one of those things.

The verse says this:  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.

Aside:  what does this say about one of the common forms of evangelism–door-to-door?

We had just found our person of peace in some low-income housing projects. God was answering prayer, and Rosa, our person of peace, was willing to invite her friends and family to meet us so we could explain what Jesus was doing in her life.


Low income housing
 

That week, Rosa introduced us to one of her neighbors.  "She's just like you…" she told us.

Sure enough, Nora was had become a Christian 4 years previously.  God had delivered her from drug addiction, and that very week, following prayer from her church, she had gone from HIV positive to HIV negative!  Not only that, she was willing to host Rosa's family in her nice, clean apartment (which had Christian music playing softly in the background).  

It was a disaster!  Not only did Rosa's friends and family not come, but Nora belonged to a church that only used the King James version of the Bible, and everything had to be translated into modern English (which the simple version we had given Rosa was written in).

When we got home that evening, we asked the Lord where we had gone wrong, and he directed us to the Luke 10 passage.

"Lord, we're sorry. Please help us!" we cried out to him.

Within a few days, Nora moved into a new home that she'd been praying for for months.  We were back in the chaos of Rosa's home, but her family and friends all started coming and God birthed a church there, in her tiny apartment, out of the harvest.

Lesson learned:  People will come to the home of a person of peace, no matter what state it's in, because they feel comfortable there.  Those same people will not go to any one else's home, including your own!  If you want to increase the size of your church, invite the person of peace to your home, and thereby lose the opportunity to reach out through them.  If you want to multiply churches, have the person of peace invite their friends and family into their home.


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: a story

When our daughter finished school, she spent a couple of years with YWAM (Youth with a Mission).  At the end of that time, she asked us if we would be willing to let her work downtown in our club and bar district. Just what any parent wants–their daughter becoming a cocktail waitress in the most notorious section of town!  What would our Christian friends think?


Shots   

But we decided that if that was what Jesus was telling her to do, it didn't matter what other people thought. And we decided we had to trust him to protect her.  So she started working there that fall.

Coming up to Christmas, she decided that she wanted to reach out to her new friends and so invited them to our home for what she called, "a baby Jesus BBQ!"  Around 40 bartenders and bouncers came.  Tattoos, piercings, they were an interesting (and delightful) bunch.  We started a group with several of them, and over the course of the next few weeks, several gave their hearts to the Lord.