- Jesus said, "As the Father sent me, so send I you." If I had failed to obey the impression I had to walk along a certain street, we would have never seen a church born in the low-income housing projects. This very nearly happened. It took me two months to finally get out and walk Oltorf–and it was only the approaching heat of a Texas summer that galvanized me into action.
- In both the Great Commission, and wherever Jesus commissions his disciples to reach out, he tells his disciples, "Go," or more accurately in the Greek, "As you are going…" The implication is that in our daily life, we always have a "sent' mentality. We are constantly on mission with God, seeking to find specific people he will identify to us, and to interact with them in such a way as to introduce the Kingdom of God into their lives.
- When we go, we are the ones who cross cultural barriers. If we ask people to come to our churches, even our simple/organic expressions of church, we expect them to change cultures and do things they wouldn't do in any other context. When we go, we are the ones to get out of our comfort zones and to enter their culture. Although the low income housing projects are a very familiar culture to Tony and me (we had lived and worked for many years in a similar area in London), it was still out of our comfort zone. In many ways Rosa's family already exemplified Biblical standards in their sense of family and community. For example, there were frequent occasions when they would bring someone to live in their small apartments because they had no space to stay, and if one of them had a need, they willingly shared their resources, often to their own detriment. But in general, the environment of the projects was one of crime and violence, drugs and alcohol, prostitution and family brokenness. Marriages were scarce; children of single mothers the norm.
- If we bring a person to church, we extract them from their own environment and community and potentially lose the opportunity to reach their circle of influence. If we had invited Rosa to the church that met in our home, we might have won Rosa, but we would have never touched her family and friends. In the book of Acts, there are few examples of individuals finding Christ (Paul and Ethiopian eunuch), but many examples of households or groups becoming disciples together. This can happen when church is started in their context rather than ours.
- When we go, we can bring the Kingdom into their context in relevant ways. For example, we didn't immediately introduce sung worship. Worship songs did eventually play an important role because they are a means of teaching good theology in a primarily oral culture, but they would have been totally irrelevant in the beginning. Of far greater importance was the fact that Jesus cared about them which he demonstrated by answering their prayers. Another example: we used a very simple version of the Bible–one easily understood by those with little formal education. Everything was very practically oriented, geared to life in their environment. They weren't interested in theological questions, but found the basic message of the Gospel and the lifestyle Jesus talked about both compelling and relevant to their world. One day we took Norman Barnes, a friend from England, to meet them. He suggested to them that they write down the things they had done wrong, the things they wanted Jesus to deal with, on a piece of paper, which they put them into a pan. He then covered it with a red cloth, symbolizing the blood of Jesus. We took the pan outside and burned the papers. Norman asked them to find their sins–of course, they couldn't because they were ashes. The blood of Jesus dealing with their sin was a lesson they referred back to constantly after this.
Why do we believers so often do the opposite of what Jesus tells us?
Jesus told his disciples to go; we ask people to come.
Jesus instructed his disciples to make disciples of all nations; we ask people for decisions.
Jesus said he will build his church; we try to do it for him.
Jesus told his disciples to teach people to obey his commands; we teach them all about his commands.
Jesus told his disciples to go out as lambs among wolves; we go out in strength.
Jesus gave his disciples specific instructions as to where they were to go; we ask him to bless where we are going.
Jesus told his disciples to bless the home of the person of peace; we Christians are known for our hypocrisy and judgementalism.
Jesus told his disciples not to go from house to house but to stay in the home of the person of peace; what is one of our favorite means of evangelism?
Jesus was known as a friend of sinners; we are scared of being contaminated by them.
And this is just from Luke 10 and Matthew 28 (plus one or two other related scriptures).
According to Dave Barrett and Todd Johnson in World Christian Trends, the average cost per new baptism in the United States tops $1.5 million! This figure reflects the cost of church buildings, seminary training etc.
What has happened to Jesus' instructions to the disciples in Luke 10. "Don't take any money with you…"?
There is a huge paradigm shift here. In traditional church planting, we raise the resources to start a church, and the cost is exorbitant. One figure I have come across suggests that the amount needed to plant a fast-growing church will be in the order of $200,000 to $300,000 over a two-year period.
In simple/organic church, we understand that God provides the resources and he does so through the harvest. The laborers, those we pray for in Luke 10:2, are in the harvest. These "people of peace" will be the new leaders including the future apostles and prophets. Right now, they may be doing drugs, sleeping around, involved in crime. They may be business people, students or housewives. But when Jesus grabs hold of them, their lives will be so radically transformed that others follow them into the Kingdom. They don't need years of seminary training to be effective. After all, Jesus disciples, those who turned the world upside down were described as "ordinary men with no special training" (Acts 4:13).
We don't need special buildings. These are also in the harvest–people's homes, or cafe's, dorm rooms or office buildings. Those who are not-yet-believers often have no interest in church, which for them is represented by the building, but they have great interest in Jesus and willingly let us come to their homes or meet with them elsewhere.
In Rosa's story, there was no financial cost to starting a church.
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.
When we started a church in the low income housing projects, the first thing we did was to prepare the ground in prayer.
In Matthew 12, Jesus gives an illustration in his defense against an attack by the Pharisees. They accused him of casting out demons by the power of the devil. He replied, "How can anyone enter the strong man's house and carry off his property unless he first binds the strong man? And then he will plunder his goods." (verse 29)
Who is the strong man Jesus refers to here? It is Satan or one of his minions. What are his goods? It's the people who he's taken captive. If the Lord leads us to start a church in a certain neighborhood, we do well to prepare the ground by prayer walking.
In Joshua 1:3, God tells Joshua that he will give him every place where he sets his feet. There is something about praying "on site with insight" that prepares the way for the Lord to come.
What does prayer walking consist of?
- We survey the land: When Moses sent the spies into the land of Canaan, he was effectively doing a spiritual survey of the land before they went in (Numbers 13:1-25). We walk the area taking note of anything of spiritual significance and asking the Lord for wisdom and understanding as to what is going on in the area.
- We ask the Lord for his plan for the area
- We establish a prayer team: Jesus sent out the disciples two by two, praying as they went.
- We physically walk the area. As we do so we are praying that God will reclaim the area:
- We praise and thank God and bless the area and the people who live there. We bless everyone who impacts the area–the police, the education system, etc.
- We pray for the welfare of the people who live there. In Jeremiah 29:7, the people of Israel were told to pray for the peace and prosperity of Babylon, even though it was the land where they were held in captivity.
- We demolish the strongholds that are there. Jesus has all authority, and he has given us that authority to bind the demonic powers that hold the people who live in that area. We use spiritual weapons to overcome these demonic powers.
- We repent for the problems of the area. We are priests, and as such, can pray for the redemption of the people of the area.
Psalm 2:8 says, "Only ask, and I will give you the nations as your inheritance and the ends of the earth as your possession.
There was an experiment conducted several years ago by a church in Phoenix, AZ. Intercessors randomly selected 160 names from a local phone book. They divided the names into two groups–and prayed regularly for one of the groups, ie for 80 homes. The other 80 homes were not prayed for. After 90 days they called all the homes offering to stop by and pray for the family.
Of the 80 homes they didn't pray for, only one person invited them to come in. Of the 80 homes that were prayed for, 69 invited someone to come over and 45 invited someone into their home. (Doug Kamstra, The Praying church Idea Book)
Prayer makes a difference.
We have friends in India who conducted a similar experiment. They picked two villages. One of the villages they prayed for and the other they did not. When they later went in to proclaim the good news of Jesus, the village they had not prayed for threw them out. In the other village, the one they had prayed for, 45 families became believers.
In the story of how we started a church in the low-income housing projects, the first thing we did was to pray. In the next post, I'll talk some more about prayer walking.
Have any of you ever seen something similar?
I sometimes think the Lord gave us the experience with Rosa and starting church in the projects because it so closely parallels Luke 10.
In Luke 10:1, Jesus commissions 72 disciples to go ahead of him in pairs to all the towns and places he plans to visit. Jesus had a strategy for the area–the disciples had to listen to his instructions, go where he told them and he would follow.
Jesus told me very specifically which street to walk because he planned to visit Springfield. My job was to hear him and obey.
The ability to hear God's voice is vital if we are going to be on mission with God. He has plans for the area where you live. As you listen to him, he will give you a place to pray for, or put a person on your heart. Maybe he will say to you, "Get chatting with the person next to you in the grocery line–she needs to hear from me today." Or maybe he will put a people group on your heart–you will find yourself with an unaccountable burden to pray for skateboarders, or students, or the elderly.
If Jesus sends us somewhere, it's because he plans to come with us. You change your job? Jesus wants to do something in your new place of work. You move house? What does Jesus want to do in your new neighborhood?