A simple/organic contribution to global mission

Photo credit: Gravitywave (Creative Commons)

Over the past few months, we have had several people from a more traditional church background and who are in the process of leaving for the mission field visit the church that meets in our home.

The exchange has been valuable. Our “Jesus family” has rubbed shoulders with people sold out for the Kingdom who are literally giving up everything they know in order to take the good news into cultures that may be hostile to the Gospel. And those visiting us have tasted a simpler, relational style of church that seeks to follow the Holy Spirit when they come together and that is reaching out using Luke 10 principles into the different spheres of influence that people represent.

Many churches and mission agencies are using simple/organic church patterns on the mission field. These days, mega-churches and denominations do not ususally plan to replicate traditional Western styles of church when they get into a cross-cultural context. Mission sending agencies recognize that the most effective evangelism uses a simple/organic model of church that multiplies along relational lines.

Current experience shows that simple/organic patterns of church are less likely to provoke persecution in environments hostile to the Gospel.

The problem for many of the people going abroad as missionaries is that they have no experience of simple/organic church, even though that is what they plan to do on the field. So when they arrive on the mission field, they not only have to cope with a totally new cultural environment–language, customs, lifestyle; they also expect to work within an unfamiliar style of both evangelism and gathering.

This leads me to two conclusions:

  1. People who have been involved in simple/organic expressions of church in their home countries are well-suited to involve in cross-cultural mission. If they have been involved in a healthy expression of organic/simple church, they are already accustomed to Luke 10 principles of mission and an informal, home-based style of gathering. But a single simple church or even network of simple churches, even though they may be able to provide financially, may not have the resources or experience to provide the cross-cultural training and support on the field necessary for someone going out as a missionary.
  2. One of the contributions that the simple/organic movement can make towards global missions is to willingly work with mission-sending agencies, giving prospective missionaries a taste of what they are likely to experience on the field.

Are there ways we can partner together?


Simple/organic church needs simple/organic mission

Photo credit: Abdallah (Creative Commons)

For some time now, I have been pondering the question, "What does it look like for simple/organic churches to get involved in mission?" I'm referring here to the role of what is usually known as "the missionary"–one who is called to leave their own culture and live in another nation, either short or long-term.

Here are some of the questions I have:

  1. How, if at all, are simple/organic churches currently involved in missions?
  2. How could/should their involvement differ from traditional mission work?
  3. What is the most effective church planting training they can receive?
  4. Who are the most effective people to reach unreached people groups?
  5. Are there any mistakes of traditional missions that we can learn from and avoid?
  6. How can this be financed?
  7. How can people be supported in the field?
  8. What language and cross cultural training is needed?

What other questions do you have?

Why is food important when it comes to church planting?

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A post about food seems appropriate after the amount I've eaten over the past two days!

Food is very important in the context of seeing multiplying churches. Luke 10 is our signature passage on how to reach out to those who don't yet know the Lord. It tells us that we are to look for people of peace–those who have influence and are open to our message. We can identify them because they offer us hospitality.

Luke 10:7-8 says this about the person of peace:

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 New Testament. 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!


Unlikely candidates?

Jesus chose the most unlikely candidates to promote his message.

Woman at well
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Think of the woman at the well in John 4. She is certainly a person of reputation–five husbands, and now living with yet another man–worthy of a modern soap opera. She has other factors working against her too. She's a Samaritan, and she's a woman! (Look at her surprise in verse 9.) Jesus has one of the most profound conversations recorded in the Gospels with her. The woman's response is to go back to her village and tell everyone she knows about Jesus. Many of the Samaritans believe in Jesus when they hear he has supernatural knowledge about her life. Jesus stays in the village for two days, and many more become believers when they hear him for themselves. The woman has opened the door to an entire village.

The woman at the well is a classic person of peace. She's a woman of reputation (bad) and influence. She's open to Jesus' message and she invites him into her sphere of influence. Many people follow Jesus as a result.

An even more unlikely candidate is the Gerasene demoniac of Mark 5 and Luke 8. Here's a naked, crazy guy, living in the cemetery, so demonically strong that no chains can hold him. After his deliverance, and the mass suicide of 2,000 pigs, he asks Jesus if he can follow him. Instead Jesus asks him to go home and  tell everyone the story of what the Lord has done for him. He lives in Decapolis–which means 10 cities.

This man is also a person (son) of peace. He's a man with a terrifying reputation, (the people of that region have been warning their kids about the bogey-man in the tombs for years), but there's something about Jesus that attracts him–so much so that he runs and falls at his feet. Jesus meets his need in supernatural ways and he's restored to his right mind. Imagine the amazement in the ten cities when he shares his story .

How did Jesus find these people?

Jesus was always on the lookout for those open to his message. Every chance encounter might be a gateway into a new sphere of influence. He was always listening to his Father, watching for what he might be up to. I think that's why he had a deep conversation with a Samaritan woman or why he sent the ex-crazy guy back to his home town. He was in constant communication with his Father.

What might happen if we look for people of peace as we go through life?  If we develop the habit of listening to the Lord, who knows what unlikely people the Lord may point out to us.

Do you have any stories of where the Lord has shown you people of peace?



How do we recognize a person of peace?

In Luke 10, Jesus tells his disciples to find a person of peace (verse 5) and to bless their oikos (home, or circle of influence).

What is a person of peace?

A person of peace is someone who has reputation (good or bad), influence, and is open to receive us. We can recognize them because they offer us hospitality.

In Rosa's story, she had a reputation; she knew everyone and everyone was accepted by her as part of her family. When she died a couple of years ago, that became even more clear. Around 150 people were crammed into a tiny funeral parlor, and the stories they told of her life and how it had impacted them…  The kids she had semi-adopted…  The people she had befriended…  Even in her death, she opened up her circle of influence to us as the family invited us to take her funeral.

We recognized Rosa as a person of peace because she was open to our praying with her. She offered us to come to her apartment. And she opened up her circle of influence–her family and friends– to us and to the good news we brought her.


AHCHOO!! I hope you caught the virus


Photo credit: Christophe Pasqual (Creative Commons)

There's a dangerous virus going around the world. Like other viruses, it's identified with letters and numbers. Unlike other viruses, I hope you catch it. 

The 10:2b virus started when a couple of friends of ours, John White and Kenny Moore, were discussing one morning over breakfast how to find more church planters for their state. As they chatted, they remembered the verse in Luke 10 where Jesus commanded the disciples (both the 12 and the 72) to pray the Lord of the harvest to send out more laborers into the harvest. They decided to try it for a week–calling each other daily on the phone. The week extended into months and eventually years of prayer together on a daily basis.

The results were so life-changing in terms of the number of people starting churches in their state as a specific answer to this prayer, they knew it needed to spread.  And so the idea of the Luke 10:2b virus was born. As John and Kenny told their story everywhere, others joined them, praying in pairs daily over the phone that the Lord of the harvest would thrust out more laborers into the harvest. Many people set the alarm on their phone for 10:02 am or pm to remind them to pray.

The virus has spread all over the world. We just infected some people in Russia where we've been for the past week or so.

Have you caught the virus? It's a dangerous one to catch. It might just change your world.

Needed: Evangelists

Continuing my tongue-in-cheek job description for five-fold ministries:

Wanted: People with a passion to reach out to others

Job description: We have an urgent need of evangelists to meet the current shortfall. This team player has an inner compulsion to communicate the good news of Jesus to those who do not yet know the Lord in ways appropriate to the culture.  Possibility of speaking to large crowds as well as smaller gatherings. The working of healings and miracles is anticipated. Must be able to impart a passion for the King and the Kingdom. Disciple making is essential.

Potential challenges: The applicant is likely to be thrown out of some locations where he/she attempts to bring the Good News, possibly with bruises and certainly a bruised ego. He/she is then expected to “wipe the dust from his/her feet” and move on to the next location as Jesus leads. Beatings and martyrdom have occurred with this job in certain areas of the world. Must be willing to face court appearances and jail.

Qualifications: Applicant must be comfortable in worldly settings where not-yet-believers are found. Ready at all times to communicate his own story in relevant ways using culturally appropriate language, and must have the ability to train others to do the same.  Should be able to persuade others of the truth of the death and resurrection of Jesus. Familiarity with Luke 10 principles is essential. Previous commercial fishing experience will be taken into consideration. 

Compensation: Long hours, probably no pay. No personal glory, but successful applicant will have the satisfaction of knowing that others are entering the Kingdom.

Any other thoughts about evangelists?