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?

Guest post by John King: Keep It Reproducible (part two)

John King trains church planters in the use of inductive Bible studies called Discovery Bible Studies. This is proving to be an extremely effective church planting tool in many different cultures. I read his blog regularly.

The first part of this post, the story about how a group trained in this pattern has been able to multiply effectively, can be seen here.

The first week I had the twenty present to get into four groups of five and select a facilitator by identifying who had most recently gotten a speeding ticket. I called those four over to me, having them bring paper and pen. I gave them the 8 Questions . As I told them the questions that drive the discussion time, the rest of the participants were taking notes also. Then they returned to their groups and started the process.

Question 1—“What is something good that has happened in your life or the life of a loved one during the last week?” went fairly quickly.

Question 2—“What is a struggle or challenge you or a loved one is facing?” took more time. Since these ladies know each other pretty well, many were transparent. Little did we know that God was going to powerfully use one of these struggles!

One of the participants has cancer and has undergone multiple bone marrow transplants. She is on disability and receives food stamps. She had received a letter saying her food stamp allotment had been miscalculated. The state needed to recover almost $1,000.00 from her that had been over-paid. How could she make it while they recovered such a large amount?

Question 8—“Which of the struggles could you as a group help with by developing a plan?” set them on the course of trying to raise money. The next week the larger group was informed of the need and asked to contribute as they were able. Our motivation was increased as we were informed that someone who heard about the need agreed to match whatever was given. Almost $600.00 was deposited in their “God box!” With the match the complete need, with some to spare, was met in one week.

The passage studied in that first Discovery Bible Study was Ephesians 1:1-14. In verse 3 we read, “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.” Their text for the second week (when the “God box” was used) was Ephesians 3:14-21. Here Paul praises God as the one “who is able to do immeasurably more than all we ask or imagine, according to his power that is at work within us” (v. 20).

This group of ladies took the training and began living it immediately. They started inviting other friends to go through the same texts in the same way as had been done in their groups of five. Some passed on the training to the ones who were unable to attend that first week. Others trained their husbands and children and now their family devotional times are following the format. One of those families has a son who is on a travelling soccer team. The mom excitedly mentioned what she had been learning to the other soccer moms and now they plan to do a Discovery Bible Study whenever they are at practices and between games.

What happens when the format is simple and straightforward? What happens when everyone hears from God’s Word and shares what they are hearing? What happens when people begin obeying what they hear God calling them to do? They get to “taste and see that the Lord is good!”


Further insights from a 3am appointment with God

Signet ring
Photo credit: macronix (Creative Commons)

The blog post on how God woke Tony and me at 3am to speak to us out of the book of Haggai has produced a wealth of insightful comments. Here's another one:

John wrote:

Don't overlook the significance of the very last verse.

The Lord brought this passage to me some time back. What he helped me to see is that when we are hearing the Father's heart (regarding His house/kingdom matters) and seeking to fulfill the will of the Father, He allows us to operate with the authority of having his "signet."

‘In that day,’ says the Lord of hosts, ‘I will take you, Zerubbabel My servant, the son of Shealtiel,’ says the Lord, ‘and will make you like a signet ring; for I have chosen you,’ says the Lord of hosts. (Haggai 2:23 NKJV)

We are only acting as His agents with His "signet ring."

Initially I shrank back from thinking God would vest this authority in his children. But He kept bringing me back to this passage. I'm not talking "name it claim it" stuff here. I'm talking about hearing the Father's heart regarding any kingdom building issue and knowing that we have the full weight of His authority behind us regarding anything the enemy throws at us o/!

Walking in this new reality has been exciting and very humbling. My wife and I are seeing people's hearts change as we are seeking to plant the gospel in the field where the Father has placed us.

What John writes here is key. When we discover what it means to walk in Jesus' authority, we will see hearts changed and lives transformed. After all, the Great Commission begins, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples…" 

The signet ring was a symbol of kingship and used to endorse or seal official documents. 

The illustration I like is that of an ambassador who speaks and acts on behalf of his government. He is an ordinary person, but when acting in the authority he has been given, he can change the course of nations.

We have been given the right to use Jesus' name in all kinds of circumstance. We can speak and act in the name of the King of kings. 

A 3 am wake up call–from God

Let me set the scene. We live in a rambling old house, part of it built before 1946 (the part that local legend has it was a casino and "house of ill-repute") but mostly additions from the 1980s. Because of its age,we expect to have major repairs from time to time, probably averaging one a year. Over the past 2 months we have had four major things go wrong including our well pump and our septic system–all expensive to replace or repair. We've been praying a lot about this, asking the Lord to show us if there's any specific reason at a spiritual level. Our experience is that this level of attack occurs at strategic times.

Pool level falling

Yesterday afternoon, when our ingound pool started going down at the rate of an inch an hour (probably due to an underground pipe breaking), it was just one more thing gone wrong. On the way to see a friend yesterday evening, I said to Tony, "This feels like that verse where the people of Israel had holes in their pockets."

"That verse comes in Haggai," Tony said.

At 3am this morning, our pool alarm went off, no doubt due to the lowering of the water level. Unable to get back to sleep we determined to find the passage in Haggai.

The context of the verse in Haggai is that the Israelites have been back in their country for almost 20 years following their captivity in Babylon, but are more interested in building their own houses than the house of the Lord. So through Haggai, God tells Zerubbabel the governor and Jeshua the high priest, "The people are saying, 'The time has not yet come to rebuild the house of the Lord.'" That was the reason they had  experienced poor crops and hunger and thirst, and "your wages disappear as though you were putting them in pockets filled with holes."

The passage goes on to talk about the drought the nation was experiencing. That hit home because Texas is in the middle of one of the the worst droughts in recorded history.

As a result of Haggai telling the people, "I am with you," says the Lord, the people began work on God's house.

But it was the next chapter in my New Living Translation that made us sit up and take notice. 

"Then on October 17 of that same year, the Lord sent another message …" Tony and I looked at each other. Today's date: October 17th. This has to be more than coincidence. Now God really had our attention. 

Haggai's message goes on, "Does anyone remember this house in its former splendor? How in comparison does it look to you now? It must seem like nothing at all! … Be strong… get to work, for I am with you. My Spirit remains among you…" the passage goes on to talk about everything being shaken in the nations and that the future glory of this  new Temple would be greater than the past glory.

We remember the days when, back in England, God's presence was almost tangible when we came together. Sometimes we were unable to stand in his presence. There were healings and miracles. We never dared go into his presence with unconfessed sin, because we knew that the Holy Spirit would reveal it publicly. This was not a manufactured glamor and glitz, but the presence of God–his glory– among his people.

For a while now, Tony and I have been praying that God would fill these new wineskins of simple/organic churches, with his new wine, his presence. We've been praying for our situation that whatever we touch would bring the presence of Jesus with it–whether that's our business, our home or our gatherings. 

What does it mean for us to build God's house? For his house to be more important than anything we're doing ourselves? (This is not a theological statement: I know that Jesus is the one who builds his church.)

God's promise is that he is with us. Can our faith arise so this is a tangible reality in all our churches? Can you imagine a situation where, in gatherings in homes/offices/restaurants etc throughout the country, unbelievers walked in and were overwhelmed by the presence of God, as is happening at Ffald-y-Brenin in Wales.

Could the glory of the latter house indeed be greater than the former? 

What is God saying through this passage? Any insights?



Would we be more effective if we were in full time ministry?

Office building
Photo credit (Creative Commons) swisscan

We have some friends who think that because my husband, Tony, runs a business that supports us, we are somehow missing out on the best God has for us. "How much more you could accomplish for God," they imply or say outright, "if you were full time in ministry."

Maybe they are right.

But I think they are missing something. In God's eyes, there is no difference between sacred and secular. God doesn't regard full time ministry as more "spiritual" than running a business. Life is a whole.

Tony has many opportunities to talk with people who would never speak with a "minister." Some open up their lives to him because he is willing to be vulnerable by saying something like, "I believe in a God who cared deeply about your situation. Would you be open to me praying for you?" Often they are in tears by the time he has finished praying.  

It's hard for someone to work in our company without becoming a Christian. (We employ the best person for the job, not necessarily believers.)

A businessperson can reach other business people, just as a skateboarder is more likely to be touched by another skateboarder.

We are called to live full time for the Kingdom, no matter how we make our living.


Guest post from Rad Zdero: how house churches should prepare for disaster

The topic of the church's readiness to deal with disaster, harvest, and hostility is an important matter that was recently blogged about. Indeed, are we ready? And are we ready in the "right" things? It is one thing to be ready personally on spiritual and practical levels, but it is quite another to be ready corporately as the church. 

Several years ago, I had an unusual dream. Being a non-Charismatic skeptical person, I asked God to confirm it. He did several times. In the dream, the Lord said, “God is not satisfied with denominations, but is drawing out a remnant for himself that will accomplish his will.” And that we must “prepare for revival” in my region. My sense was that God asked us to put into place tangible expressions of relational, intentional, and missional unity. We must shift from simply awareness of each other to practical partnership. 

Airports, computers, roadways, human brain cells, ecosystems, and many other things in the man-made and natural world are networked. Simple/house churches should be networked too. Spiritual water can only flow properly if the spiritual plumbing system has been set up! Consequently, simple/house churches will not be ready THEN for disaster, harvest, or hostility, until several things happen NOW ahead of time. 

First, simple/house churches must trust, partner, and network together locally, regionally, nationally, and internationally NOW, so that coordination and cooperation can happen THEN, just like the early church (Acts 2:41-47, 5:12, 5:42, 20:20; Gal 1:18,19, 2:6-10; 3 John 1:3-8). 

Second, simple/house churches must learn true hospitality toward strangers and the afflicted by providing for their needs and empowering them NOW, so we will know how to do it wisely THEN, just like the early church (Matt 25:31-46; Luke 10:30-37). 

Third, simple/house churches must give generously and share money and material resources with each other NOW, so we will be able to efficiently funnel funds to the Body of Christ THEN, just like the early church (Acts 2:44-45; 1 Cor 9:1-14; 2 Cor 9:1-7; Philip 2:25, 4:15-16). 

Fourth, simple/house churches must develop leadership hubs for connecting, training, and launching a new generation of local leaders of churches NOW, so we can facilitate spiritual growth in quality and in quantity THEN, just like the early church (Acts 20:17-38; 2 Tim 2:2; Tit 1:5-9). 

Fifth, simple/house churches must identify, finance, and launch a new generation of travelling leaders who visit and equip entire networks of churches NOW, so we can strengthen and expand Kingdom frontiers THEN, just like the early church (Mark 3:13-15; Luke 10:1-10; Acts 10:1-48, 13:1-3, 15:36-41; 1 Cor 9:1-14; Eph 4:11-13; Tit 1:5; Philip 4:15-16; 3 John 1:3-8). 

Sixth, simple/house churches must create high-tech and low-tech communication channels to effectively broadcast information about needs, opportunities, obstacles, and attacks NOW, so we can navigate future surprises and challenges THEN, just like the early church (Acts 15:22-30,36; Col 4:16; 2 Thes 2:15). 

Seventh, simple/house churches must be open to the extraordinary power of God to speak to us, speak through us, heal the sick, deliver the demon-possessed, and even raise the dead NOW, so that we will be prepared and experienced vessels THEN, just like the early church (Acts 5:12, 9:36-42, 13:1-3, 19:11-12; 1 Cor 12:7-12; James 5:14-15). 

And that's just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. Otherwise, simple/house churches will be caught unawares, not knowing how to deal with disaster, hostility, or harvest. Let’s not miss the chance God gives us THEN! Let’s get ready NOW! 




A suggestion for Memorial Day

The US holiday of Memorial Day commemorates citizens who have laid down their lives in military service for our country.

Around the world, there are citizens of the Kingdom of God who face death on a daily basis because of their faith. I have spent time in nations where believers are persecuted for their faith; they are ostracized from their communities, will likely lose their job or housing, they may be thrown out of the family. Everyday life is much more of a struggle because of their faith. I have friends who have spent time in prison because they have shared their faith, others who have had to flee their country, others who are spied upon or questioned by security police.

In some nations hostile to Christianity, if it is discovered that a family member follows Jesus, it is a matter of family honor that they are put to death. In some nations, known Christians live with the reality of potential violent death every day. 

I have had the privilege of sharing life briefly with some of these believers, facing possible danger because of my faith, but I come home to safety. My brothers and sisters cannot leave.

An average of 171,000 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith each year (World Christian Database)

Here's my suggestion for Memorial Day: let's honor those who have died in military service for our country, but let's also pause  to pray for our fellow-citizens of the Kingdom who face martyrdom because of their faith.