Do you need some help on the simple/organic journey?

Every year, the Board of House2House (a ministry providing resources for simple/organic/house churches that Tony and I helped to found in 2000) spends a few days together seeking the Lord.  We want to know his emphasis for us over the coming year. Because we have a philosophy that we would rather stop something than continue without the presence of the Holy Spirit, we ask the same question:

"Lord, do you want us to continue, or is our work done? Is there someone doing it better? Should we stop the ministry?"

This January, the question seemed more pressing than usual because simple/organic church has become mainstream here in this country and there are many great resources available. 

What we sensed the Lord say to us is this: there is a continuum of churches across the nation, from more traditional at one end to simple/organic at the other. The Lord is shifting many churches (both house and traditional), denominations and missions towards the more organic end of the spectrum.

House2House is to help in this shift.

Katies-bio
In order to accomplish this, we have decided to make coaching available for people who would like help and encouragement along the journey. The Board has initially asked Katie Driver, an experienced coach who has done much to encourage the simple/organic movement in her region, if she would be willing to take on that responsibility. Katie has over 27 years of missional experience, training and igniting people in their unique design and calling. She has started many diverse, simple, organic and missional fellowships over the last 15 years and has also worked extensively through legacy churches to encourage simple, organic and missional expressions of church life. She is a trainer and coach for CMAresources’ Greenhouse, and is on the board for House2House.  

Obviously, coaching could address a number of different situations, but within the House2House context we anticipate the following people/groups may benefit:

 

  • You feel alone in your simple, organic church journey and would like some encouragement.
  • You're  in a legacy church that desires to become more organic and missional.
  • Your simple church has lost its energy and sense of purpose. You've reached a barrier and don’t know how to push through.
  • You'd like to start a simple, organic church but don’t know where to begin.
  • You long to be missional but struggle in reaching the people around you with the good news of Jesus Christ but lack the skills.

 If you are interested, check out the coaching section of the House2House website

 

 

How our standard poodle was witness to my failure

Winston H. Churchill is the full name of our standard poodle. (Winston Churchill obviously stems from our British heritage. The middle initial, "H," stands for Houdini which we added after he twice escaped from a wire kennel, leaving the door bolted behind him. No, don't ask!)

Winston before
Winston: before grooming

One of the advantages of a standard poodle is that they do not shed. The disadvantage is that they need grooming. Let me explain what Winston and his dreadlocks have to do with God's Kingdom and church planting.

Six months ago I would have struggled to find the books of Haggai and Zechariah; now my Bible falls open to those pages. God has been speaking clearly and specifically to Tony and me from these books about many of the things we are involved in: our personal lives, the direction our business should take, what is going on with the simple/organic/house church movement. 

To understand these books, it helps to know a little of the history. The first waves of the Children of Israel have returned from 70 years of captivity in Babylon. Led by Zerubbabel the Governor, and Jeshua the High Priest, they lay the foundations of the Temple in an attempt to rebuild Solomon's Temple, destroyed when Nebuchadnezzar invaded. But the local people (not Israelites, but others who have been relocated to their land) conspire to stop the work. For almost 20 years, the rebuilding of the Temple is abandoned. In the meantime, the Israelites settle back into their various towns and villages to rebuild their own houses.

Enter the prophets Haggai and Zechariah. They prophecy to the leaders and to the people telling them that many of the challenges they face, from financial difficulties to crop failures to drought, stem from the fact that they have neglected to rebuild God's temple. When Haggai and Zechariah prophecy the promise of God's presence and blessing  (I am with you, says the Lord (Haggai 1:13)), it is enough to galvanize Zerubbabel and Jeshua and the Israelites back into action. Within four short years the Temple is completed.

The church in our nation  is in rapid, overall decline.  Christianity is fast becoming outdated and outmoded. It's time for us to rebuild the Temple. I'm not referring to physical bricks and mortar here, but to the Kingdom, God's spiritual temple built with spiritual stones. These spiritual stones are people, followers of Jesus (1Peter 2:5).

The Lord has been convicting me over recent days through the book of Haggai and through T4T teaching that I need to be more vocal about my faith. How will we ever see a move of God here if no seed of the Kingdom is sown? If I preach the importance of speaking about our faith, then I must live it too.

As I looked at my day early yesterday morning, the one occasion I was likely to get to chat with a non-believer was when I took Winston for his end-of-winter hair cut. I determined I was going to find an opportunity to share my spiritual story with the lady who grooms him.

I failed. Completely. Someone else was in the store and I chickened out!  (Yes, I know. It's all about listening to the Lord and speaking to those he tells us to talk to.) 

God help me!

Winston after
Winston: after grooming

 

Fast multiplication: principles behind an abundant harvest

No farmer would expect to reap a harvest of wheat in a field where he had not sown seed.

Seed

Photo credit: CIMMYT (Creative Commons)

Why do we believers expect to reap a harvest of souls where we haven't sown spiritual seed?

There are similar principles of multiplication behind both physical and spiritual reaping and sowing. If we expect to see people become followers of Jesus without sowing the seed of the Kingdom, we are deluding ourselves.

What does this look like? According to Luke 8:11, the seed of the Kingdom is the word of God. In Matthew 13:38, the good seed represents the people of the Kingdom.

While at the Verge conference, I had the opportunity to attend some T4T training with Ying Kai. The T4Tmovement has seen more than 1.7 million baptisms and 150,000 new churches start since 2001.

What is the difference between what they see there compared to what we see in the West? They sow seed. Not just the occasional seed here or there. They sow abundantly.

The foundation behind their training is that each new believer is trained to share the good news of Jesus in simple ways right from the day they become a disciple. And not just once or twice. Each person is encouraged to share their personal story as a bridge to the Gospel, five times per week. 

Is it surprising that they reap a big harvest?

 

Slow multiplication or fast multiplication? Your choice.

When it comes to multiplying simple/organic churches, your pattern of multiplication will determine whether you multiply quickly or slowly.

DollsPhoto credit: archer10 (Dennis) Busy (Creative Commons)

Many people assume that the way to multiply a simple/organic church is to add new people to the church that meets in your home until it has outgrown your living room. Those who become believers, or Christians who want to join you, are assimilated into your existing fellowship. At the point at which the group becomes too large, you split it into two. 

This is the slow way to multiply.

If you prefer to multiply more quickly, then start new groups around new followers of Jesus or new people who want to join you. Some of these will become churches.

Someone becomes a disciple?  Ask them to bring together a few of their friends to explore spirituality. Help them to share their story with others. Teach them how to share the good news. Work with them and their oikos. You will soon find yourself with a group of new believers. An existing Christian finds your church? Let them know you'd like to help them work with their friends and family in their neighborhood, not yours. This is the quick way to multiply.

The faster multiplication pattern is likely to be more messy and more time consuming. It will involve people in more than just attending weekly gatherings. But it is far more effective in terms of Kingdom growth.

If you want to see your existing group excited about this and on board with what you are doing, it is important to cast vision, otherwise people will resent the disruption of a family/place where they are comfortable. The Lord did this for our group by giving us a clear picture of an orchard of apple trees. Now, whenever a new group starts, we are all excited to see the fulfillment of what the Lord has already shown us.

 

 

What might it look like when big and small work together?

Rabbit and elephant
Photo credit: brendan.wood (Creative Commons)

The rabbit and the elephant have very different strengths. Different sized churches do too.

Rabbit sized churches:

  • Can penetrate into every nook and cranny of society reaching people who would never darken the door of a church building
  • Have the potential to multiply rapidly along relationship lines
  • Foster community and every member participation

Elephant sized churches:

  • Are highly visible
  • Can produce larger-scale events 
  • Have many resources of both people and finance

Many larger churches are adopting simple/organic principles when it comes to reaching out into their communities with the good news of the Gospel. They actively encourage their members who are more entrepreneurial in terms of church planting to start new groups outside the four walls of the building. These"second tracks" (often called missional communities) are effectively simple churches with a missional emphasis. Often there is no expectation that these groups will feed new disciples into the main church.

It seems that God is working these principles right across the denominational lines. What can we do to support and involve with each other? Are there ways in which those of us who have been involved in simple/organic practices for many years, can stand together with the churches who are beginning to explore these areas?

What might happen in our cities if no one is seeking to get the credit?

What problems is the simple/organic movement facing?

Problems
Photo credit: Donna Grayson (Creative Commons)

Simple/organic church has become mainstream here in the United States. According to the statistics, although the rate of growth is slowing down, 3-5% of the adult population of this country now finds their primary form of fellowship within a home or similar context. While at most levels this is very encouraging, and God is doing some extraordinary things with very ordinary people, there are some definite pitfalls and disadvantages to becoming acceptable:

  • The terms, house church, simple church and organic church are popular. Groups of people are changing their names without changing their DNA. Home groups are becoming house churches with no discernible difference in lifestyle.
  • We've become a fashionable fad, the latest phenomenon in church statistics. People are hopping onto the bandwagon because they want to be part of the latest thing, not because God is leading them.
  • Many people meeting in homes are doing, "Honey I shrunk the church!" They've not yet begun the adventure of letting the Lord lead their times together.
  • Many churches meeting outside the four walls of traditional structures are comprised of people who have left their legacy church but have not yet found a missional emphasis. Until that happens, even though our numbers may increase by transfer growth, we'll be a movement without Kingdom momentum.
  • With some outstanding exceptions, we as a movement are still immature in terms of both finances and mission. Financially, we give generously to missions and benevolence, and most churches use less than 5% of their budget on internal needs, but we could have more strategic impact if we worked together on financial projects. In terms of missions, we have not yet fully understood what "simple/organic missions" will entail.

I believe God is working to fix these situations. There are more resources available than ever before; coaches are working across the spectrum to help produce healthy organic churches, and there is a greater understanding of what it means to be missional.

Do you see other problems too?

 

Ten positive signs of God at work in the church

God is at work across the nations, and I see many positive signs that he is at work here in the West too. Here's a little of what I see going on currently (in no particular order of priority):
  1. People understand the importance of listening to God and doing what he says.  The prayer movement and 24/7 prayer has an impact.
  2. Many churches are becoming more missional rather than attractional. Luke 10 principles are being applied by many across the church spectrum. Legacy churches are starting missional communities. Simple/organic churches are using these principles to produce daughter and grand-daughter churches.
  3. Churches are engaging in their communities with a resultant impact for the Kingdom.
  4. We've rediscovered some of the principles that result in multiplication rather than addition at every level. Simplicity and reproducibility are key.
  5. Discipleship that reproduces more disciples (rather than conversion) is of increasing value. 
  6. There's a blurring of distinctives between groups of people–charismatic/non-charismatic, organic/legacy, clergy/laity.
  7. Women have an increasingly equal and valued role.
  8. Legacy churches and simple/organic churches are working together with a focus on the Kingdom of God. Who knows what might happen if nobody minds who gets the credit.
  9. The separation of sacred and secular is waning. Ordinary work and its potential to be of impact for the Kingdom is valued. Church is happening in the workplace.
  10. God is working in supernatural ways; we are seeing miracles, healings and deliverances.
  11. God is raising up apostolic and prophetic leaders who serve from the foundations rather than rule from the rooftops. He is giving them his strategies and plans for their areas.
  12. We recognize that God is working in other parts of the world  and we're willing to learn from other nations.

What am I missing?