Working together to see women taking their full role in the body of Christ

I believe we are on the point of seeing more women reaching their full potential and destiny in the body of Christ during this coming year. 

I recently listened to a very interesting TED talk on the changing role of women within society.  You can listen to it here, and it is well worth the time.  These days, 57% of those graduating from college are women, and more than 50% of those in managerial positions are women.  There are more women than men becoming doctors and lawyers.  Society is changing in relation to women. How will the church react? 

For many looking on, the fact that women are often perceived as second-class citizens within the church makes our message irrelevant.  It is hardly good news to, for example, a woman physician, to learn that if she joins the church, she is relegated to lesser roles and is  unable to exercise leadership. 

So how are we to react to those passages of Scripture that apparently limit women’s roles within the body of Christ.  Many of us are coming to a different understanding of the challenging Scriptures about women, one that, with integrity, sees Paul’s comments as mainly cultural or at least, situational.  (See my blog posts on this subject.) 

The Lord has shown us that if this movement of women moving into their destiny in the Kingdom is only a women’s movement, it will evolve into a feminist movement.  But if both men and women are involved, it will become a Kingdom movement.  Men are willing to hear what other men have to see on this issue, but they tend to perceive women talking about these issues as feminists having an agenda, wanting to promote themselves, or being unsubmissive.  That is why we need men to promote women, just as Barak supported and promoted Deborah in the Old Testament (Judges 4 and 5).  And, praise God, many are stepping up to the plate.  There are an increasing number of men who are actively promoting women within Christian circles, and I for one am very grateful and would like to honor them for their involvement.

 

We’ll hear more about the Kingdom in 2011

A few years ago, it was rare to hear anyone speak about the Kingdom of God.  Now, people are writing and speaking about it everywhere.

Jesus spoke about the Kingdom all the time. When Jesus was on earth, the main theme of his teaching was the Kingdom of God (Matthew 4:23). Many of his parables illustrated the Kingdom of God (e.g., Matthew 13). Jesus told his disciples to heal people and tell them, “The kingdom of God has come near to you” (Luke 10:9, NKJV). After his resurrection and before his ascension, Jesus spent forty days talking to his disciples about the  Kingdom (Acts 1:3).

 Although the epistles of Paul tend to focus more on church, we know that he spoke about the Kingdom too.  Acts 28:30-31 describes Paul's message when he was imprisoned in Rome: "For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 He proclaimed the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ—with all boldness and without hindrance!" 

A focus on the Kingdom means a focus on the King.  Who is on the throne of our lives.  In the Kingdom, we live surrendered to King Jesus in every area of our lives–living for him every day.

What difference does a focus on the King and the Kingdom make to us as his body today? I believe it is one of the reasons we are seeing a blurring of the distinctives between Christians.  We refuse to let the things that have traditionally divided us from our brothers and sisters continue to be a barrier.  We will not be divided into charismatics and non-charismatics, or into Baptists and Presbyterians.  Furthermore, we will not separate clergy and laity (we are all called to be full time in the Kingdom) or let our lives be divided into sacred (church meetings) and secular (our everyday jobs).  All becomes part of the Kingdom.  We are as focused on the Kingdom when we do our job for the glory of God as when we spend time at a Christian conference.  

What other differences does a focus on the Kingdom make?

Crown

 

How do we respond when our radical thinking becomes mainstream?

This post is a follow up on trend number 4 from the last post, that we will see an increasing acceptance of simple/organic church principles across the legacy church spectrum.

Back in the UK, in the 1970s and 80's, we were involved in what was then known as the "British House Church Movement."  It was a heady, exciting time taking place against the backdrop of the charismatic renewal that swept much of the world, and it transformed the church landscape of the UK.   Although it became a megachurch movement because we did not have a theology of multiplying the small, for its day it was a radical, forward-thinking movement embodying many of the principles we now hold dear–things like non-religious Christianity, every member participation etc.  We reckon that about one third of British evangelicalism was transformed by that move of God over the next decade or so.

Fast forward a few years to 1996.  We are now in the States, having gone through 9 years of God's favorite training school on the backside of the desert, and God starts speaking to us after 9 years of silence.  The first thing he says is,"You'll be a part of a move of my Spirit again."  The implications of this as we asked the Lord about it is that we would see a  move of the Spirit that would have a similar impact on the church landscape of America.

When the simple/organic movement began to gain momentum a few years ago, it was generally dismissed as, at best, irrelevant.  We were the radicals, the minority with some crazy ideas.  We never dreamt that these ideas would become mainstream. But this is happening right in front of our eyes!  For example, Austin Stone, one of the 100 fastest growing churches in the country, is a megachurch here in Austin.  Earlier this year they held a conference called Verge.  It was sold out within a few short weeks.  Around 2,000 people attended, almost all from mega- and legacy churches, with more than 4,000 joining online.  What is interesting is that the majority of the speakers were simple/organic/house church proponents–people like Neil Cole, David Watson, David Garrison, George Patterson, Alan Hirsch.  They spoke about missional communities, Luke 10 principles and church planting movements.  This coming year, Verge is joining with Exponential for the largest church planters conference in the country and the theme will be similar.

Not only that, Austin Stone actively encourages their people to start missional communities with unbelievers, not insisting that those people and those they reach, come back to the mother church. Maybe because of this relaxed approach, most choose to stay in close relationship with them.  Here in Austin, several of the mega churches are actively seeking to reach out with the missional community approach.  They recognize it as the only way to effectively touch every part of society.

The Lord has given Joel Hunter, the senior pastor of Northland: A Church Distributed, in Orlando, a new task.  They are to facilitate the start of 1 million house churches around the world.  In typical Northland fashion, they are doing this by partnering with other groups who are more directly involved in missions or house churches, and they seek no credit for their part in what is created.

Like it or not,  (and personally I am very excited about it even though I recognize some of the potential pitfalls)  simple/organic church concepts are in the process of becoming mainstream. Many mega- and legacy churches see this as the way forward. God is speaking to them, and he's saying the same things to them that he is speaking to those of us involved in simple/organic churches. And to be honest, as some of these churches embrace the principles of reaching out to the world via missional communities, they have the potential to change our cities even more than we do because many of them have large numbers of young, radical, on-fire disciples who are longing to reach out into their communities.

The secular media is taking notice.  There are an increasing number of articles such as this one about house churches.  According to the latest Pew Forum figures, 9% of Protestants worship in their homes. Legacy churches of all kinds are embracing simple/organic church principles and attempting to implement them within their context.

My question is, how are we going to react?  Those of us in the simple/organic church movement have several options:

  1. Are we going to criticize because they aren't doing everything right (according to our thinking)?  That we have the "pure" form of church and unless they do it our way, they are taking a lower path.
  2. Are we going to cheer them on from the sidelines?
  3. Are we going to work cooperatively with them, rejoicing in all that God is doing in their midst, helping where we can, accepting their help where they offer it? 

Personally, I'm for number 3.   What could happen in our cities if we all work together and nobody minds who gets the credit?

6 trends for 2011

2011Here are some of the trends I believe God is bringing into the body of Christ and more specifically into the simple/organic/house church movement that we will see in the coming year:

  1. An increasing emphasis on the Kingdom of God
  2. Groups on mission with God, listening to what he says to them and obeying what he tells them to do
  3. Men and women working together to see women taking their full role in the body of Christ
  4. An increasing acceptance of simple/organic church principles across the legacy church spectrum
  5. Simple/organic church in the marketplace
  6. Healthier DNA–more of an outward focus in making new disciples

 

Being on mission with God–some principles and guidelines

The last few posts have described some times of a group gathering together with no other purpose than listening to God and obeying what he tells us to do.

We are on mission with God.  Imagine what could happen if groups like this multiplied—each one being sent out on assignments for the Kingdom.  Each one swearing allegiance to the King and to each other.  Like in a regular army, we would not necessarily see the whole of the big picture, but under the command of the Lord, we would each be responsible for our part.

Here are some of the principles we have learned:

Principles/Guidelines for Listening Gatherings:

  • Surrender
    • Surrender the need for any agenda or any preconceived reason for gathering.
    • Don’t bring your “name,” network, ministry or position to the gathering.
    • Purify yourselves in preparation—Ps. 24: 3-4
    • It is all an exercise in willingness, and don’t be surprised if there is a thinning down of people from your first gathering to your subsequent ones. 
  • Listening
    • Expect God to speak.
    • Listen and then listen again.  Wait on God.  There will be rabbit trails, but just come back to listening. 
    • Resist the urge to strategize when listening to God.  Save that for a later time.  Direction is different than strategy.  God will direct the time and purpose of the gathering.
    • Sometimes God will create an opportunity for you to immediately act on this prophetic intelligence.  Other times there may be several tasks that you must fulfill either individually or corporately as a result of your listening.  Either way, God is very interested in your obedience. 
  • Community
    • The key balance: everyone participating but no one dominating.
    • God’s message will usually come from the sum of individual “hearings.”  Most people will feel like what they are hearing is just for themselves and not the group. It may be for them, but it is most likely also for the group.
    • Valuing everyone’s contribution is essential. Corporate listening relies on the principle that God will share something to the community that He would not share to just an individual.  The reasons for this are that (1) it would be too much for one person or one like-minded group to hear and (2) God himself is in community.
  • Results?
    • You may never know what are the full results of your listening and obeying as a gathering.  It’s a mystery and based on faith. 
    • You can count on one thing though—you will be changed and become more like Christ.  This is what it looks like to walk in spiritual authority—to have a pure heart, to surrender to the Lord, to listen and obey in community.  

 

Two more stories from gathering to listen

Here are a couple more stories from when our group gathered with no other purpose than listening to God:

A beautiful illustration comes from our gathering time in Basel, Switzerland.  Our host had procured a bronze model of King Arthur and his knights surrounding the Round Table.   The king and his knights had drawn their swords, laying them down and centering them at the middle of the Round Table.  It was a picture of laying down their personal agendas and swearing allegiance to the king and to each other.  This art piece spoke to us of the absolute necessity that each of us be willing to stand at the table with our king, shoulder to shoulder with our brothers and sisters. We also learned that, even though we are ready to slay the dragon, we always need first to lay down our swords and be willing to listen for direction from our king. 

  Picture 1

 

Our time in Plano, Texas illustrates the value that each person plays in corporate listening to God.  One of us had a picture of a scroll, which was torn in several pieces.  Each of us had a piece of that scroll, and as we shared what God had spoken to us personally it formed a whole scroll, a complete word from God. From this experience, we are learning that God speaks to the whole community.  Even the times when some of us felt like we had nothing of importance to share or nothing at all, each message was important and formed a beautiful tapestry—one message from God.  And we needed each piece of the message.  We needed each person to listen and obey.  We needed to trust each other and God in each other.  

 

Gathering to Listen #6

The “listening group” attempts to meet together two to three times per year for two to three days at a time.  The people involved have apostolic and/or prophetic gifting, many with a national or international calling on their lives.  We have learned much during our times together.  Here are some characteristics of what we have seen—in no order of priority:

  • The location sometimes plays an important part in what happens when we come together—for example, Globe. 
  • We have prayed about national and international situations.
  • God gives us spiritual intelligence that we are to act upon. Corporate obedience is key. Often we have been led to perform a prophetic act that symbolizes what we are praying about. Sometimes we have done this all together. For example, in Globe on the site of the medicine wheel, we formed a circle, facing outwards, and prayed blessing instead of curses over the land. Other times two or three people have been sent out from the group to perform that act.
  • Angels have appeared to some in the group.  God has given us instructions as to what to speak to them or ask them to do. 
  • We have often been made aware of demonic activity and shown how to deal with it. 
  • Dreams and visions play an important role in how God speaks to us.
  • At all times, gathering to listen has been an exercise in willingness.  For most of us, having the resources to get together (time, money and energy) has always been a challenge.  Moreover, being willing to live in a place of surrender is a constant growth edge for us that spills over into our gathering times.  We have all been dramatically changed by our times together.

 

Our gatherings have not always run smoothly. When we use human strategy to understand what God is saying and what we should do as a result, we find ourselves talking endlessly and getting nowhere—until someone suggests that we listen to the Lord again.  Transparency in our dealings with each other is essential.  Any conflicts have to be brought into the open and dealt with thoroughly at the foot of the cross.