New E-book: A Simple Guide to Hearing God

Front cover ASG

How do we hear God? Does He speak in an audible voice? How do we know it is Jesus speaking and not an over-active imagination? What might happen if we deliberately listen to God, believing He will speak to us?

About 18 months ago I had the idea of a multi-media e-book that would address this topic. (It's like a "vook" if you have come across the concept–a cross between a video and a book.) Over the past year or so, let loose with an iphone and with no expertise in videography, I interviewed friends who I know hear God clearly. I asked them the question, "How does God speak to you? How would you help someone who isn't sure God speaks to them?"

These interviews are included in the text of this e-book, along with many examples from my own experience. They all serve to amplify principles from Scripture. My hope and prayer is that both individuals and groups will be inspired and challenged to walk more closely with Jesus as a result of reading/viewing the e-book, but more than that, their Christian lives will become an adventure, on mission with God. 

The e-book is available via House2House at this link.

I'd love to hear of your experiences in hearing God, especially if the e-book helped you in this process. Leave a comment on this blog post.

Stories of financial transition to house/organic church

One of the main fears that people in full-time ministry face when they think about house/simple/organic church is, "How will I support my family?" I had  many wonderful comments after my last post when I shared the story of the financial journey that Tony and I traveled when we came to this country. Read, and be encouraged!

Joe wrote:

I've made the transition from legacy church to simple church, and the financial transition has been frustrating and growing for me. Lots of hard, labor oriented jobs in there, and along the way, falling into advertising and marketing. I have zero previous training in this field, but being willing to stick with it, find the things inside of the field that I'm naturally good at, and accepting substantially less than premium pay for a few years has now paid off for us. I'm now blessed to be in a position in a company that I'm not professionally qualified for, other than proving myself in my work, and my wife and I are moving towards beginning our own self sustaining business built on the skills I've learned and developed. It's been completely worth it. When pre-college people who feel a call to ministry ask me about my experience and their schooling options, I encourage them to develop a marketable skill through their college experience, and seek theological training through some various other options, rather than full time Bible college or seminary, or at least get the marketable skill first, and Bible college second.

Jason wrote:

I find myself in a related but similar situation. I went in to seminary to prepare for vocational ministry. But as the Spirit has shifted my desires to organic ministry, I will retain my present employment to provide material needs while I pursue ministry service. That said, for those who are seminary trained, you DO have valuable skills that can be put to use in the workplace. As much as we like to say that church isn't business, anyone who has served in church leadership long enough has developed management skills. If you craft your resume the right way, you can seek out management work in service fields. Be blessed, pastoral brothers and sisters. God will use your skill and creativity in ways you never expect!

Barry commented:
I am in a season of change having left a full time ministry of 13 years. The Lord has promised he would look after my family and I, so its a painful narrow path adventure he is taking me on. I am doing Spiritual Direction with some people which provides a little money but not a lot, but it is where my heart is. I now also have a job doing door to door surveying. It,s not what I have been 'trained' for, but it is training me. I have lost a lot of weight, sleep better and also I am meeting a wide cross section of people. The rich, the poor, the widow, the refugee, all sorts of people have invited me into their home. I also get paid for everything I do! and when I finish work it is finished. The contrast in my two work options provides a freshness from which I can write. Life is full, but also vibrant with creativity. I am washing ministerial tiredness and constraints right out of my hair and sending them on their way. I suppose what I am saying, I could look for the negative in the situation – walking in the rain, rejections, low pay etc or I could ask Daddy, Jesus and Spirit to help me transition. This is only for a season.


The financial transition from full-time ministry to simple/organic church

Stethescope
About twice a month, I receive an email that goes something like this:

"I am currently in full-time ministry as a pastor/youth minister/worship leader,  but sense the Lord is calling me to get involved in organic/simple/house church. The problem is that ministry is the only thing I have been trained for, and I have a family to support. Do you have any ideas as to what I can do?"

I often begin my response with our story. 

Tony (my husband) and I both trained as physicians in the UK, but when the Lord called us to move here to the States, our medical licenses didn't transfer and it would have taken four to five years to relicense. That didn't bother us, because for the previous few years Tony's  had headed up a ministry that worked with people in the caring professions, teaching them how to bring their Christian faith into their professional lives. This had spread to several other countries, and we assumed, (naively, as it turned out), that the Lord wanted us to start it here too.

The ministry failed spectacularly here in the States. Doctors just weren't interested in what we had to share. Only the Holy Spirit could have shut the doors so firmly.

What were we to do?

We soon ran through our savings. No one wanted to employ two unlicensed physicians, and so we found ourselves doing all kinds of menial work in order to put food on the table. We sold door-to-door during the hot Texas summers. We worked in flea markets. I learned how to feed a family with four kids on 4 ounces of hamburger meat per meal (the answer lies in oatmeal). Our kids were clothed from thrift stores. We struggled to make a living. It was hard, humiliating, and financially unrewarding.

However, it was very good for us. It was character forming. We quickly lost our "entitlement mentality" (I'm working for the Kingdom and therefore other Christians should support me.) We easily related to others who have to work hard for a living. Rather than live in a Christian bubble, we had lots of not-yet-believing friends who we met in our various business endeavors.

After nine years of this, the Lord gave us the idea that now provides for us. For a long time we had been praying fervently from Deuteronomy 8: 18:

But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

We asked the Lord to give us an idea that would create wealth, and one day He dropped an idea into our minds. Within three or four days, we had started a business, and within a week it was obvious that it would be profitable. Over the years, it has grown to the point where we are now free to do whatever the Lord calls us to do.

Why nine years? I believe it was God's training school on the backside of the desert, preparing us for the things we now involve in and for the influence we carry.  Who knows, maybe it took that long for Him to deal with our character issues.

Would I choose to go through it again? No way! But I'm very glad we did live through it for the incredible lessons it gave us. We proved from our own experience that God always provides; He is always faithful.  We learned to be ordinary rather than on the pedestal of  being a physician or full-time minister. We relate to the struggles of those who are challenged financially. These kinds of life-lessons are invaluable and cannot be gained any other way. 

In the next post I plan to explore this subject further, but would be very interested to hear from others about the financial transition from legacy church to simple church.

 

Who should we support with our charitable giving?

Stacked coins 1
Where should our charitable giving go? 

Rad Zdero gave a great answer to this in one of his comments on a previous post. He said

"The only authoritative voice is the New Testament teaching about finances. To what did the early church give? There were three groups that funds were given to:

  • First, the needy in the church (Acts 2:44-45), such as helping believers in crisis (Acts 11:28-30), feeding hungry believers (Acts 8:1-3), caring for widows who are believers (1 Tim 5:8-9), and so on. 
  • Second, the needy in general, who are not necessarily believers (Luke 10:30-37; James 1:27).
  • Third, material support for traveling apostolic leaders, such as Jesus, Paul, Peter, etc (Matt 27:55-56; Luke 10:7; John 13:29; 1 Cor 9:1-14; Philip 4:15-16; 3 John 1:3-8). 

I believe we need to deliberately recapture this kind of New Testament practice for today’s simple/house churches, otherwise people will vacillate between the extremes of giving based on their own personal preferences or not giving at all as a reaction to their institutional church past."

I agree with Rad that these are the Scriptural precedents. But that leaves a number of questions concerning Scriptural giving. 

  • Is it ever scriptural to give towards a "sacred" building? 
  • What about supporting leaders who are not in traveling ministry?
  • Should we apply criteria to the "poor" as in 1 Timothy 5:9 (where widows were only to be supported if they were over 60, had been faithful to their husbands and were well known for good deeds). What about the person asking for money on the street corner?
  • What does it mean when it says, "The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching." (1 Timothy 5:17)?

What other questions do you have?

Guest post from Ross Rohde: Why we don’t judge

Judging others
 Others should not encounter us like this!

Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14: 4-5).

Oh, come on Paul; give it to me straight, should we worship on Sunday or not? Can we eat meat sacrificed to an idol or not? Don’t hem and haw, just give me the rule and I’ll obey. But he doesn’t; why not?

Paul doesn’t give us hard and fast rules to live by because that’s not how Christianity works. That’s how Judaism worked, but not Christianity. Judaism had a covenant with God called the law (or the old covenant). It was a written code. One showed fidelity to God by following the laws, rules and biblical principles. It didn’t work well, and that was God’s point. We can’t please God in our own power. He gave mankind every opportunity to show Him we could please Him by trying real hard. What we showed Him was that we would cave in to our flesh. So, in his grace he gave us a new covenant that would work; one based on the power of the Spirit living in us.

For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.  But God found fault with the people and said:

   “The time is coming, declares the Lord,
   when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
   and with the house of Judah.
 It will not be like the covenant
   I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
   to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
   and I turned away from them,
  declares the Lord.
 This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
   after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
   and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
   and they will be my people.
 No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
   or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
   from the least of them to the greatest.
 For I will forgive their wickedness
   and will remember their sins no more.”

 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear (Heb. 9:7-13).

Here’s the secret of the new covenant we Christians (and those of Israel and Judah who became Christians) have with God. Our covenant isn’t a crude, one size fits all law, rule or principle. It is God’s direct instruction for our particular situation. It is based on our personality, character and our particular circumstance. But it is God’s individual law put directly into our heart and mind (see Heb. 8:10). And, it will never violate God’s written word. So, let’s live in that new, superior covenant. Let’s not judge God’s other servants. He may have given them other instructions. Let’s live in the freedom of our new covenant with God. Yet let’s reflect everything we think we hear from God through the beautiful lens of Scripture. That’s what it’s for.

  • Why do you think we want to go back to laws, rules and principles?
  • What is the difference between living according to “biblical principles” and living in the new covenant?
  • What is the difference between living according to the law and “biblical principles?”
  • Does Jesus’ instruction to not judge others (Matt. 7:1-2) make more sense now?

For other blogs on the new covenant and other aspects of the simple church life, read Ross's blog The Jesus Virus.  He will soon have a new book out: Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel. Watch this space for more information.

 

How should we give financially within the simple/organic/house church?

Stacked money
There are a number of reasons (see the last post) why people within simple church may not give via their simple church network.  Some of these reasons are good, for example, they sense God wants them to give to a certain person who their simple church doesn't support financially. Others are not so good: finance is too hot a topic for our simple church to handle.

Does the Bible have any criteria as to how (not so much our attitude, more the mechanism) we are to give?

  • Matthew 6:3-4  But when you give to someone in need, don’t let your left hand know what your right hand is doing. Give your gifts in private, and your Father, who sees everything, will reward you.
  • Luke 19:8 Meanwhile, Zacchaeus stood before the Lord and said, “I will give half my wealth to the poor, Lord, and if I have cheated people on their taxes, I will give them back four times as much!”
  • Acts 2: 44-45  And all the believers met together in one place and shared everything they had.  They sold their property and possessions and shared the money with those in need. 
  • Acts 4:34-35  There were no needy people among them, because those who owned land or houses would sell them  and bring the money to the apostles to give to those in need.
  • Acts 20:34-36 You know that these hands of mine have worked to supply my own needs and even the needs of those who were with me. And I have been a constant example of how you can help those in need by working hard. You should remember the words of the Lord Jesus: ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’
  • In 2 Corinthians 8 and 9, Paul urges the Corinthians to make sure their gift for the church in Jerusalem is ready when he comes to collect it to take the saints there.

I've chosen verses some verses that imply that giving is directly to the person in need, and others that imply that giving is via the apostles. 

It seems that there are two basic approaches, both dependent on the fact that we have totally surrendered our finances to the Lordship of Christ. And it may be more of a both/and rather than an either/or.

  • Each person seeks the Lord as to where they should give. Can we trust the Holy Spirit to lead us all in such a way that the needs of both benevolence and those in traveling ministry are met?
  • Our simple churches, or networks of simple churches, seek God for financial vision. Are there projects He wants us to support? Orphans in other countries we can provide for?  Could we release more people into missions? Can we have a transformative impact on our cities?

More on finances to follow…

 

8 reasons why simple/organic/house church people may not give via their church

 

Dollar sign Dollar sign Dollar sign Dollar sign Dollar sign
 
The last post looked at the fact that most people within simple/organic/house churches, although they give more generously than their traditional church counterparts, often do not give (or only give a part) via their simple church. Here are some potential reasons for this:

  1. Many simple churches do not discuss giving. Period. Christians have been so burned by the pressure to give from their previous experience that no one wants to bring up a potentially controversial subject.
  2. Some simple churches haven't set up a giving mechanism. They have neither a bank accounty nor do they take up offerings. They ponder over whether to become a 501C3 charitable entity. Some are very wary of giving information to the government. Others don't want to go through the hassle of all the paperwork.
  3. Many Christians have sought the Lord over their giving, and are giving where he indicates (which is not via their simple church network.)
  4. There is a lot of giving going on within the simple churches that doesn't go via the church as a whole. A person becomes aware of another person's need and provides for it without going through "official channels."
  5. Many people have friends who are involved in full-time Kingdom work and revel in the freedom to support them directly.  
  6. To tithe or not to tithe: that is the question.
  7. Many individual churches or networks of churches have not sought God corporately regarding what he wants them to do with their finances. 
  8. Lack of vision for what a strategy for giving might accomplish.

What other reasons can you think of?