A Woman Church Planter (Part 1)

While I was in India I had the opportunity to visit with “Mary,” a church planter who has seen more than 6,000 churches start under her leadership.  Here is a little of her story:

Mary has been a church planter for the past 10 years.  She works in Chhattisgarh, a state in India. Before she learned about CPMs, she evangelized by sharing the word of God in villages and passing out tracts to every home in a village.  This produced no results.  People would come and get healed and then go away.

When Mary understood Luke 10 and the importance of gathering rather than scattering, her pattern changed.

She started using the principles in Luke 10, and the results are surprising. People come up to her and ask, “What must I do to get salvation.”  Wherever she prayer walks, a church starts.

Today, people come and get healed.  They become mature and then go to their own people group teaching the Word of God.  They baptize people and start house churches among their own people group.

Mary trains others in church planting.  Initially they survey the area.  This research determines where they plant a church.  Then they prayer walk the area on a daily basis. Prayer walking has been a key to what they have seen.  The whole world is in the power of the evil one, and people are to be rescued from his clutches and brought into the Kingdom.  This is done by spiritual warfare and the power of binding and loosing.  It has been the key to the establishment of churches.

How do we follow the Holy Spirit in a gathering?

Let’s saKid praisingy that we are sitting in a meeting and someone has
just prayed a great prayer full of praise to God. What should happen next?  In our experience, the best way is to
make that person’s prayer our own vehicle of praise to God. As we do that, if a
verse of Scripture or a song comes to mind, chances are the Holy Spirit is
speaking. In other words, if we fully participate in what is going on, the
things that come spontaneously to mind are most likely from the Holy Spirit. We
should expect variety— prayer for each other, insights from the Scriptures,
songs, gifts of the Spirit such as prophecy and visions.

God is very creative! And don’t be concerned about making
mistakes. Nobody will mind if we do, so let’s step out and try something new!

Some people might ask, "What about the kids?"  Children do not have a junior Holy Spirit.  They are often more sensitive than the adults when it comes to hearing God.  If we take their contributions seriously, they are an invaluable part of what goes on.

 

How to be an orchestra

Conductor

When she comes together, the functioning body of Christ is like an orchestra, with
the Holy Spirit acting as the conductor. The richness of a symphony occurs
because all of the different instruments in the orchestra play the melody
assigned to them. If we all play the same tune in church, we miss out on the
magnificent creativity of the bride of Christ.

But Paul goes beyond that. He says that the weaker members
are necessary and worthy of greater honor. The contributions of those who are
shyer or more reticent to speak should be given greater attention.

Of course, the head of this body is Christ, and as each
person follows the prompting of the Holy Spirit, the body functions as it
should. You see, the Lord wants to be more than “the guest of honor” in our
meetings. He actually wants to be in control.

If we are not careful, house or simple church gatherings can
run like a traditional church meeting, what our friend John White likes to call
“Honey, I shrunk the church.” Someone has been asked to lead the worship,
another person has been asked to teach . . . the venue has just changed from
pews to couches. But that excludes a major dynamic of a small group meeting; namely,
that the Lord has a plan for our times together. He knows what is going on in
people’s lives. If we will let Him, He will touch and change people and the
world around us.

God has given us the pattern for this in 1 Corinthians 14:26
which says that each person should take part and bring a contribution to our
time together. (This is one of the reasons that we are so sold on the concept
of church being small. In a larger gathering, it would be impossible for
everyone to have a part in the service.

(Taken from the rewritten and updated "An Army of Ordinary People", due out May 1st)

Listening to God together

2 people listening

God doesn't just speak to us as individuals.  He also speaks to us corporately.

A team of four couples led one of the church that we started in the UK.  Every week that team would meet to hear what God was saying to us.  He spoke in many different ways–through Scripture, through prophecy and words of knowledge and wisdom.  He spoke through visions and dreams, through tongues and interpretation.  He spoke on various different subjects.  None of us dared go into that meeting with unconfessed sin because the Holy Spirit would reveal  and deal with it.  He spoke to us about situations in the church we were part of.  He spoke to us about international and national situations.  Sometimes He would have us in prayer and intercession about a subject that we would then hear about in the next day's news!  They were exciting times.

We are now part of another group that gets together for two or three days every few months with no other purpose than to hear what Jesus wants to say to us.  We have had to lay down our own agendas and desires.  Again, He is speaking to us about many things.  One of the things He has told us is that there are things that we can hear from Him together that we could not hear on our own.

The Lord has an agenda for our times together.  It is too easy to schedule the Holy Spirit out of our gatherings.  If we will let Him, He will lead us clearly.  He is never boring!

Insights from John White on hearing God

John White talks a lot about listening to God.  A few days ago I briefly interviewed him to hear some his thoughts (and, to be strictly honest, to experiment with the technology.)  But what he shared is so good, I thought I would add it so you all can benefit.

John mentions Mark Virkler.  Many years ago I read his book, "Dialog with God."  It formed the foundation of my practice of hearing God personally.  Right up to the present, I still journal (write down what I think God is saying to me) on as near a daily basis as possible.

I'd also love to hear back from any of you on whether you like audio in a blog!

Other ways God speaks

The past few posts have described the different ways that God may speak to us as individuals and some of the criteria we have for evaluating what we have heard.

Other ways in which God may guide include our circumstances.  How often God speaks through the situation we may find ourselves in.  The apostle Paul ministered in Rome because he was in prison there.  An example: recently part of a small group interactive discussion that I was responsible for did not go that well.  What was my response to be?  I asked the Lord to teach me through what had happened, and He did, showing me how I might have better handled what went on. I could have just lamented the situation, but instead, God turned it into a learning opportunity for me.

God also speaks through His creation.  We can learn about His incredible attributes–His majesty, power and glory–through the things He has made (Romans 1:20)

Mountain and lake

God speaks to those who desire to hear Him.  He who has ears to hear, let him hear…  The question isn't, "Is God speaking?"  The question is, "Are we listening?" and are we open to the different ways He may choose to communicate with us.

In what other ways does God speak to you that have not yet been covered in these blog posts?  From here, we will also look at how God speaks to us corporately as His body.

When others advise us

Wisdom  Proverbs 11:14 says, “Where there
is no counsel the people fall; but in the multitude of counselors there is
safety.” God often uses what other people say to us to speak to us.  Sometimes we will go to them to ask
their advice and we do well to seek the counsel of those who are wise in the
ways of God.  Sometimes the other
person has no idea that they are saying something that has the potential to
change our lives. 

        I remember a time when Tony and I
both sensed from the Lord that we were to sell the house we were living in and
to do something very specific with the money that was raised.  We told no one what we were considering.  The following Sunday, a brand new
Christian was speaking for the first time in a meeting.  During his brief talk, he twice used
the example, “It would be just like if the Lord told Tony and Felicity that
they were to sell their house and give the money to…” and went on to describe
exactly what we were thinking the Lord wanted us to do with the money.  We were astounded by how specific God
could be.        

    How often has someone said
something in passing that grabs our attention?  To the person speaking, he has said nothing unusual, but the
Lord uses it to change our thinking about a certain issue.
  For example, recently someone mentioned the word authority in the
context of discipleship.  It was a
throwaway sentence.  But the Lord
has used it to lead me into a study on the authority that we have as disciples
within the Kingdom.  How do we gain
the authority to heal the sick, cast out demons, cleanse lepers, and raise the
dead (Matthew 10:8)?  It has the
potential to change the way I think about these things.

God communicates through spiritual gifts

Gift God also uses the other spiritual
gifts to communicate with us. 
Gifts such as words of knowledge or words of wisdom come to mind.  These occur when God drops a piece of
information or an idea into our minds that we would have no natural way of
knowing.

One example
comes from Tony’s days as a doctor in London.  One day, a patient who was the wife of a local pastor who had
just moved into the area came to see him. 
Since Christians were few and far between in that area of London, he was
very interested to meet her.  She
had come for a prescription, and so Tony had examined her and given her the
prescription, but as she stood up to leave, he noticed that she was looking a
bit depressed so he asked her if everything was OK.  She immediately brightened up.  “Everything’s fine, Doctor,” she said with a smile.  Before Tony could stop himself, he
responded. “Oh no it’s not.  You’ve
just had an abortion!”  If he had
time to think, he would never have said such a thing.  She dissolved into tears and the following story came out.  She had become pregnant just before she
and her husband married, and to avoid the embarrassment of admitting their sin
as they entered their first pastorate, they had succumbed to the “convenience”
of an abortion.  Tony was able to
minister forgiveness and healing to her.

Although this
is a more dramatic example than usual, we often find God speaks to us in these
ways.  For example, when we were
trying to make ends meet during our early time here in the States, we quite
often would pray from Deuteronomy 8:? which says, It is God who gives you the power to create wealth that He might
establish His covenant.” 
For
many months we prayed over this verse asking God to give us a creative idea
whereby we could support ourselves. 
One day, an idea just came to us that resulted in the business that now
provides for us and has freed us to spend time working more directly in the
Kingdom.  Was it just a natural
idea?  Maybe—but we are convinced
that God provided it through a word of wisdom.

 

What is prophecy?

 
Seeing the future

Prayer is when we speak to God;
prophecy is when God speaks to us. 
All of us are able to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:31), and the Word tells us to
desire to prophesy (1 Corinthians 14:39).  Prophecy
occurs when a person speaks out words that they sense God is saying.  Prophetic words can be very powerful,
but they should be weighed and handled with care. 

1 Corinthians 14:3 describes the
safe parameters for prophecy.  It
is to be used to strengthen, encourage and comfort.  It is not
to be used to convict of sin, and if guidance occurs, it should confirm what
the Lord is already saying to a person. 

Prophecy does not have to be
spoken.  One of the most powerful
prophecies we have ever been given was in a meeting when we had a friend of
ours from England, Norman Barnes, with us.  Norman moves very powerfully in the gift of prophecy.  He had us sit on a sofa and covered us
completely with a large sheet.  As
his prophecy, he removed the sheet from us and told us that God had had us
hidden for a number of years but now was the time when we were going to be
revealed.  What was interesting was
the context of the prophecy.  Back
in the UK, we had been relatively well known.  When we came here to America, no one was interested in what
had happened back in England and we entered a ten year period of total
obscurity (very good for us!) We wondered if we were going to stay “on the
shelf” forever.  It was shortly
after this prophetic word that we helped to start House2House magazine which
has again thrust us more into the public eye.

The fact that God has used a person to prophesy does not make them a prophet.  The 5-fold ministry of the prophet as mentioned in Ephesians 4 occurs when a person is used to prophesy on a regular basis and over things that effect the course of the church.  It is usually a traveling ministry.  Along with apostles, prophets are part of the foundation (infrastructure) of the church.

What is the purpose of dreams and visions?

  
It is interesting to see how often the Lord used dreams and visions throughout the New Testament. 

  • Joseph is guided by a dream to take Mary as his wife despite
    her “unplanned” pregnancy.  A dream
    leads him to flee to Egypt when Herod tries to kill Jesus, and another lets him
    know when it is time to return.
  • Peter is on a rooftop when he sees a vision of
    all kinds of animals being let down on a sheet.  The Lord tells him to call nothing unclean.  The Lord uses this to show him that he,
    a Jew, is to go with the servants of Cornelius.  And as a result, the Gentiles are reached with the
    Gospel
  • Paul is guided by a dream to go to Macedonia and
    so Europe is evangelized.

We too have been guided by dreams
or visions on occasion.  For
example, one night I dreamed that we put a course that we used to run in our
home online so that it became available to a lot more people.  We have now done that and many churches
have started as a result.  Another
time I had a dream of a house being shifted on its foundations so that all the
rooms in it were skewed and out of shape. 
The Lord used that dream to cause us to re-examine some of the
foundations of the Kingdom work we were involved in.

In Acts 2, Peter, explains to the assembled
crowd what is going on when the Spirit fell on the day of Pentecost.  He tells them, “Your young men shall see visions and your old men shall dream dreams.”  Dreams and visions are to become the
norm. 

All over the world, God is
using dreams and visions to speak to people.  In some contexts that are hostile to the gospel, for example
in Muslim nations, it is becoming increasingly common for people to have a
vision or dream of a man dressed in white robes coming and speaking to them.  One of the ways of reaching out to the
lost in these nations is to ask people if they have had such a dream.  This then opens the door to explain
that the person they have seen is Jesus and to explain to them how to become
His follower.

One of the most common ways the Lord speaks to me is through a fleeting picture.  Is this a vision?  I'm not sure, but the impression, which is usually a picture in my mind that may last only a second or so, will open up a concept that the Lord uses.  An example:  in a time where a group of people were waiting on the Lord, just listening to what He wanted to say to us over a period of a couple of days, I had a brief picture of a key, but there was something about its design that meant it took a group of people to use it.  From that, the Lord showed us that there were certain situations we could only unlock corporately rather than individually.

If we are open to dreams and visions, the Lord will use them to speak to us.