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.

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!

How to start a simple/organic/house church

We have had the privilege of spending time with the leaders of several church planting movements over the years.  (A church planting movement occurs when there is rapid and spontaneous multiplication of churches, comprised mainly of new believers). We always ask them what principles are behind the growth that they see.  They usually point to Luke 10 (or Matthew 10).  So the next few posts will look at this passage in greater detail. 

Luke 10 is the passage where Jesus sends out the 70 (or 72,depending on your version of the Bible) disciples.  The passage follows Jesus' teaching on the cost of discipleship.

Verse 1: The Lord now chose seventy-two other disciples and sent them ahead in pairs to all the towns and places he planned to visit.

A few points on verse 1:

  • These are "other" disciples–presumably other to the 12.  This means he sent at least 82 disciples (41 pairs) out.
  • He sent them in pairs–not in teams and not individually.  It's interesting to note that when the disciples are listed, in at least one location they are listed in pairs (Luke 6:13-16)
  • Jesus sent them ahead of him to all the places he planned to visit.  If Jesus sends you somewhere, it's because He plans to go there too.  Your job changes, then Jesus plans to meet the new people you work with.  You move house, Jesus plans to touch your neighborhood through you.
  • Jesus not only planned to visit towns, he planned to visit places too.  Maybe Jesus said to them, "You two are to visit such and such a town, and you two go the tavern on the road to Capernaum."

Jesus had a strategy for the area.  He has a strategy for your area too.  The disciples job was to listen to him and to obey when he told them where to go.  We have the same responsibility–to listen to Jesus and do what he tells us.  That is why knowing how to recognize his voice is so important.

Passing it on

Ducks in a row

When you talk to people who are seeing a church planting movement, they all talk about the importance of people passing on what they are learning.  

Neil Cole says in a recent blog post at http://bit.ly/asqEgw that every church he has started has begun because people become Christians going through the 7 signs of John.  One of the questions that is asked in this evangelistic Bible study is "Who do you know who needs to hear this?"

David Watson has seen tens of thousands of churches start in many different countries of the world. In this country, he uses Bible study as the way to start them, and again one of the questions asked is "Who do you know who needs to hear what you have just learned?"

Curtis Sergeant who saw a church planting movement in China talks about the importance of discipleship chains–whenever someone learns something, they are responsible to pass it on to at least two other people, who in turn pass it on to two more.

The next time they get together, there is accountability.  "Did you pass on what you learned to the people you mentioned who need to hear this?"

If new believers (or even unbelievers) are encouraged to pass on what they are learning to others who don't yet know the Lord, the Kingdom will spread quickly.