Discipleship within simple/organic/house churches

LTG Card  

No discussion of discipleship within the
organic/simple/house church movement would be complete without pointing people
towards Life Transformation Groups (LTGs).  Many years ago the Lord posed a series of questions to Neil
Cole:  What would you do if 100
people came to Christ this week? 
What would you do if 1000 people came to Christ this month?  What would you do if a million people
came to Christ this year?  (I may
have the exact figures wrong, but you get the idea.)  Any idea would have to be so simple it could be easily
multiplied.  It would have to easy
to remember and easy to pass on to others.

LTGs are the result of that question.  An LTG consists of two to three people
who commit to three things: 
Reading large amounts of Scripture on a weekly basis; getting together
weekly to answer accountability questions; praying for their friends who don’t
yet know the Lord.  LTGs are a grassroots tool that equip people to become reproductive disciples of Jesus and to grow in their own personal walk with the Lord and .

To learn more about LTGs, click here

Why Jesus worked with groups

Having written the last post on how Jesus trained his
disciples, yesterday I came across a key point that I had missed.  I discovered it on the blog of Paul
Watson (http://bit.ly/cqS21C ). 
His premise is that "Jesus discipled groups."  Obviously he had one-on-one interactions with individual
disciples, but most of his training was done in groups.

What do we learn from this?

As I have mentioned in other posts, there are only one or
two examples of individuals becoming followers of Jesus in the book of Acts (Paul
and the Ethiopian eunuch).  Mostly
it was households (Lydia and her household, Cornelius and his household
etc.).  It seems likely that as
these groups became followers of Jesus together, they would have learned to
follow Jesus together too. 

If we lead individuals to Christ and extract them from their
oikos by bringing them to our (house) church, we lose the opportunity to bring
a group of people to Christ.  We
find ourselves working with individuals rather than seeing a group growing in
Christ together.

Jesus lived life with a group of disciples.  Yes, he spent time with Peter, James and John, but the majority of his training was in the context of a larger group.  He used their interactions with each
other as training times.  He taught
them principles as a group.   

We are part of a group that spends protracted time listening to God. The Lord told us when we started that there were things he could teach us as a group that he would not be able to teach us as individuals.

My question:  What if this is true in the context of maturing in our faith walk too.  What if there is something about learning together as a group that is important?  Maybe it's the interactions and accountability, or the varied experience of the participants.  Studies show that collaborative learning is more effective than individual learning.  One study states "the collaborative learning medium  provided students with opportunities to analyze, synthesize, and evaluate ideas cooperatively. The informal setting facilitated discussion and interaction. This group interaction helped students to learn from each other’s scholarship, skills, and experiences." This was particularly true in the areas of critical thinking and problem-solving.  (Journal of Technology Education Fall 1995)

Now admittedly these studies are in the context of academics, but I'm guessing they apply in other areas too.  And I'm not trying to knock individual discipleship–I've seen too many positive results in the lives of other people.  But what if Jesus demonstrated to us a better way?

What do you think?

Jesus’ pattern of discipleship

My apologies if you get this post twice.  I've had a couple of people tell me that it came out in Greek!  Hopefully this is now corrected.


 How
did Jesus train his disciples?


·      
He
shared the rough and tumble of everyday life with them (Luke 8:1-3)

·      
He
asked them questions to show them what they needed to learn (Matthew 16:13-20)

·      
He
answered their questions (eg Matthew 17:19-20)

·      
He
demonstrated the practical skills they needed to know (Luke 11:1-3)

·      
He
used teachable moments.  Consider, for example, the occasion in Matthew 20
when James and John persuaded their mother to approach Jesus about letting them
sit next to him in his Kingdom.  Jesus used the opportunity to compare the
world's style of leadership with his Kingdom way of leading. (You know how
leadership is done in the world–rulers lord over those under them.  But
with you it is to be different.  If you want to lead then become a servant
and slave.)

·      
He
gave them assignments and had them report back, using their reports to bring
fresh insight and teaching.  (Luke 10)




·      
Jesus
didn't give his disciples a body of knowledge, but the experience of living
with him.

Jesus’ pattern of discipleship

Ho  How did Jesus train his disciples?

  • He shared the rough and tumble of everyday life with them (Luke 8:1-3)
  • He asked them questions to show them what they needed to learn (Matthew 16:13-20)
  • He answered their questions (eg Matthew 17:19-20)
  • He demonstrated the practical skills they needed to know (Luke 11:1-3)
  • He used teachable moments.  Consider, for example, the occasion in Matthew 20 when James and John persuaded their mother to approach Jesus about letting them sit next to him in his Kingdom.  Jesus used the opportunity to compare the world's style of leadership with his Kingdom way of leading. (You know how leadership is done in the world–rulers lord over those under them.  But with you it is to be different.  If you want to lead then become a servant and slave.)
  • He gave them assignments and had them report back, using their reports to bring fresh insight and teaching.  (Luke 10

  • Jesus didn't give his disciples a body of knowledge, but the experience of living with him.





 

H

The core skill of a disciple

In Matthew 28:18-19 Jesus commanded his disciples to make
disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, the Son and
the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that he has commanded them.

We have reduced this to teaching new believers all about the
commandments.  But becoming a
disciple is not about a body of knowledge, but about a lifestyle of obedience,
of following Jesus 24/7.

The core skill we teach the new believer, therefore, is how
to hear Jesus voice, how to recognize when he is speaking and then the
importance of obeying what he is saying to them.  The life of intimacy with God is of critical importance. 

A view of discipleship from the Philippines: what do you think?

What is discipleship?

Molong
 

We have just spent a few days with our friends Molong and Lisa Nacua in the Philippines. Apart from the incredible fellowship, food and snorkeling, we had opportunity to question Molong about what he is doing. 

Molong is in the middle of an interesting experiment. He is making disciples who make disciples—literally. The question he asks people is, “Would you like me to make you a disciple?” He speaks to friends, those who “trust him, believe in him and are loyal to him.“ And then he shows them how to become a follower of Jesus—one who hears what the Holy Spirit is saying to them and who obeys. If they are willing to be made a disciple, then he speaks to them of Jesus’ death and resurrection and how to become a follower of Jesus. The important thing is that they become followers of Jesus, knowing how to hear his voice, developing intimacy with him.

When they have been baptized, he then says to them, “You make a disciple of Jesus now, one who will follow Jesus and do what he says, just like I made you a disciple.” And they go and find a friend who would like to be made a disciple.

Molong’s philosophy is that we are to make disciples (Matthew 28:19), the Holy Spirit is responsible for maturing them, leading them into all truth (John 16:13) and Jesus job is to build his church (Matthew 16:18). “Follow up” and “discipleship” are not New Testament language. Molong helps this process by creating deep relationship with them, taking every opportunity of teachable moments, living with them from house to house. For him this is church; no scheduled meetings but a lifestyle of living day by day.

Over the past few months, he has made a few disciples, but they have gone on to make more disciples, going down several generations. There are now at least 27 people who have become disciples and been baptized. On one memorable occasion when Molong was out of town, Albert, one of the people who had become a disciple with Molong, baptized someone he had led to the Lord, who baptized the person he had made a disciple who in turn baptized a person he had made a disciple. This is how the Kingdom of God expands. 

 

What do you think?

Stories from the trenches (3): Students on fire

This story comes from Aaron Snow:

The idea for Student CPx is simple: Gather students together to encounter Jesus for a week or two. Then send them out on mission with Jesus to their campus. When students go to represent Jesus He loves to go with them! The power of the gospel spreads through students to dorms, fraternities, classrooms, restaurants…and radio stations!

Two days ago, right outside the campus radio station at UCSD, students were making new friends and sharing the love of Jesus. They befriended a girl on crutches. As her heart opened to Jesus, they prayed for her. She experienced a miracle … and walked away carrying her crutches!

When rep's from the radio station saw the commotion, they invited students to go on air to explain what was happening.

Jesus is changing people's lives! they explained over the UCSD radio station. "We'll be here at lunch tomorrow. Come on out for free prayer!"

This stuff has not stopped since we started SCPx in SD. Students are recognizing who they are in Jesus as sons and daughters of God, and stepping into the fullness of their destiny in Him. They are being filled with the Holy Spirit, receiving gifts from the Spirit, and going into the world to bring Jesus to them! We've seen our students speaking blessings over the owner of the Pub on campus where we've been having dinner each night. He was touched and let us pray over him! Students are becoming followers of Jesus, learning how to be His disciple, encountering His power, and spreading their testimony to their non-Christian friends.


Students praying
 

Stories from the trenches (2)

Here's another story–this one via Brian Jones.  It's used with permission, so long as I make sure that God gets the glory!!

"As many of you know, we have been praying over the past year that God would build his church in Galloway, Ohio (specifically in Westchester Commons subdivision). We know that he is here and that his church is here, so we have been praying for unity and revival among the believers here and for an awakening of the lost to the redeeming love of Christ. This note is a quick update on what He's doing.

For the past year, Heather and i have been praying for our neighbors and have been joining with a few friends on Wednesday evenings (and throughout the week informally – just sharing life together), praying for revival, singing his prayers, studying his Word, and sharing testimonies and burdens as a community. We have seen huge breakthrough over the past month – results of God's perfect timing and grace and mercy, and a year of prayer.

We had our first hispanic family worship with us in our home last week and what a huge blessing!!!!! We've been praying for relationships with our Hispanic and Somali neighbors in the apartments surrounding our neighborhood and these dear brothers and their families are the first fruits of those prayers. 

Two weeks ago, we saw God heal our daughter of warts. (I know that may sound dumb, but after 9 mos of warts, the large one on her face fell off days after we laid hands on her and prayed). We also saw Heather's dad wake up day after day with no pain in his knees after years of pain and shots in both knees.

Saturday, Heather had our first "spiritual" conversation with our next-door neighbor, Vickie.

Over the past few months, we've had 3 sets of neighbors comment on different "non-spiritual" :) things in our life that attract them to want to know us better – we know it's Him that they are attracted to, not us (praise the Lord!!!!)

Our daughters will be three next month and they are the first ones to pray when someone's hurt or sad or upset and tonight they wanted to wash everyone's feet in our backyard as we washed each others feet and discussed john 13.

God is alive in our home, church family, and (praise the Lord) in our neighborhood. Please continue to join with us in prayer for our neighbors, coworkers, friends, and family. we are trusting God for Somali families and for our neighbor Vickie. May their hearts turn to Him. 

Stories from the trenches:

Here are some Luke 10 stories:  This first one comes from a friend in the UK who emailed me recently. People in the UK are much more resistant to the Gospel than people here in the States, but look at how ripe the harvest is!

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"I started reading 'Army of Ordinary People' at the end of May and it was giving me answers to my frustrated questions.

The best way I can describe it is like, you have this beautiful baby that smells divine. Then a few months into being a Mum you're pulling your hair out because of dirty nappies, puke everywhere, being constantly in demand and to top it all you're having sleepless nights! And amidst all that, you absolutely adore your baby.

So when I started reading your book it was just wonderful, to read about all the 'different' stories and examples of simple church. The way people's life's were affected through people reaching out. Like Elizabeth's story and Josh's story. Reading about the church that started because of Berky working at the cocktail bar. Knowing that the fact that it didn't continue doesn't mean it was a failure. Also reading about the church at Rosa's.

The variety! I was like, 'Oh my God, it's okay if we started a group in an alcoholics house and it worked for a while then she decided Jesus wasn't what she wanted. 

It's okay that we had a new set of youths come along to our simple church in our home and the existing folks kind of didn't mix. We didn't know what to do and now they've stopped coming and more new youth are coming. 

It's okay to just 'hang out' with the young people even if it is for a year before we see signs of them wanting to know more about Jesus.

It's okay that a church we started with a couple her daughter and friend has gone to just her and her daughter. Why? because she kicked her partner out after putting up with years of him cheating on her. Her friend has been influenced by the spirit of lesbianism! and just doesn't come any more. This woman also suffered a miscarriage recently after the break up with her partner and was nearing a breakdown. I know God held her together through just 'being church'. I would just go and sit and listen to her, then cry all the way home to God for deliverance for her. Two weeks ago God did it again and a battle she was fighting to get her younger daughter back home had been won! Goliath was slain!

So the book is really helping me embrace these different experiences of simple church and let go of how I think things should be. It feel's like God is using Peter and myself to pioneer simple church in our generation in this nation and there's not many people we can go to and say, "What did you do about this?" 

I thoroughly enjoy what God is doing.  Just like a mother you love your children dearly, however that doesn't make being a mother easy.

God is doing some amazing things in these simple churches. Last night one of the young girls [14] that's been coming along for about a year spoke very openly and boldly about an answer to prayer.  She used to have really bad nightmare's and battled with fear.  After prayer she said, 'I don't have them any more.'

She was sharing this to convince her friend, who shared that her mother was terribly ill and hooked up to machines in the hospital, that prayer works! I was like, God thank you! to hear her speak like that.

There are now 4 simple churches in our area! and one them we started with a young single mother who has been through the wars! sexual, physical, alcohol and drug abuse. We met her last year when we did an outreach. She decided to become a follower of Jesus and hasn't look back since. She's a beauty!

She has a circle of friends who all meet up at the local community centre in the cafe. When she shared her faith with them, they rejected it and her and it was hard. But I encouraged her to pray for her friends and God has completely turned the situation around. God also told us that they were just afraid of the unknown. Now they ask her often to pray for things they are facing. The one that was the most opposing thought she may have cancer. She asked Sarah to pray and the results came back negative and now she wants to start a group in her house! Amazing I love it! 

Also whilst in the cafe last week, Sarah and Genor, who also goes along to the church in Sarah's house, were talking about laying on of hands. One of the girls asked what it was all about and if they would lay hands and pray for her. They said yes gladly and then a few others asked too!

Another one that started only 4 weeks ago has been full of all the young people on that street. Now the woman [whose a part of our network] that has opened up her house has been a believer of some years and never reached out to her community, although she has had a heart to reach out. Now she's totally on a high every time they leave because, well, she just can't believe the harvest is really ripe!

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.