Skate Church

What is God doing with simple/house churches in this country?

This past weekend, Tony and I spoke at a simple church conference in Lexington Kentucky. On the way there, I asked the Lord, “Father, what are you doing with house churches around this nation? Are they healthy?” I sensed his reply to me: “Check out what is happening with the people at this conference, and that will be an indication of what I am doing.”

Was I ever encouraged!!!

Simple/house churches are alive and well. Just check out this video that was produced about one of the churches in the Simple Church Alliance network–Skate Church!

On Board from Julia Chin on Vimeo.

Starting a simple church can be simple

We may have just helped to start another church.

Sometimes starting a simple church can be just that–simple. We’ve had a wonderful couple from a Hindu background who have part of the church in our home for a while. We’ve prayed with them, baptized them, rejoiced with them at the miracles they’ve seen. When they had a baby, fairly recently, with their jobs and all their other commitments, plus the baby’s sleep schedule, getting to our home on a Friday evening became nearly impossible for them. Tony and I had breakfast and fellowship with them on occasion but they were missing the regular gathering.

A few weeks ago. I was contacted by a young couple who lives near us, asking if I knew of a simple church near them. I invited them to come visit the church that meets in our home. When their baby’s schedule made that impossible, I had a sudden revelation (duh!)

Let’s get these two couples together and see what happens. Both couples were excited at the idea.

So we did just that, 10 days ago, and the six of us had a great time of fellowship–learning about each other’s lives over brunch in one of their homes.

They were all part of a pool party we had on July 4th at our home. (Because July 4th was a Friday, we had a party instead of our normal church. It was BYOB–bring your own BBQ– and everyone was encouraged to bring others. About a third of those who came were friends and family of those in the church).

It’s too early to be sure yet, but I think we may have just laid the foundation of another simple church. Some of you may be thinking, “Just bringing two Christian couples together is starting a church?” Jesus said, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” It’s the presence of Jesus that makes it “church,” not the size. Now obviously more needs to happen. As they both reach out into their circles of influence, more people will get involved. But is it the basic building block of church? Yes!

July 4th sparklers

 

Peter’s pragmatism

I love it when I discover pragmatism in a Bible story.

I’m sure you remember this one. An angel appears to the Gentile army captain, Cornelius, and tells him to summon Peter, who is staying in Joppa, a day’s journey away. As Cornelius’ servants near Joppa, Peter is praying on the rooftop. Through a vision, God persuades him that all food is good to eat. When Cornelius’ servants arrive at the door, the Holy Spirit speaks and Peter reinterprets the dream to mean that he is supposed to go with them even though they are Gentiles.

Arriving in Cornelius’ home where his household has gathered, Peter preaches the gospel. Even while he is speaking, the Holy Spirit falls on these Gentiles and they begin to speak in tongues. Peter regards this as evidence that the Gentiles, too, can enter the Kingdom of heaven, and baptizes them.

Later on, Peter describes this story to the leaders back in Jerusalem. Speaking into a context where the stricter Jews were criticizing him for entering the home of a Gentile and where people believed that Gentiles were not included in the salvation Jesus won, he makes a remark that to me seems full of pragmatism:

“… Since God gave these Gentiles the same gift he gave us when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, who was I to stand in God’s way?” (Acts 11:17)

And the response?

When the others heard this, they stopped objecting and began praising God. They said, “We can see that God has also given the Gentiles the privilege of repenting of their sins and receiving eternal life.” (Acts 11:18)

Can we not apply that same pragmatism to the church’s attitude to women?

All around the world God is using women in remarkable ways. In China, around 80% of the leaders are women. In India, women are planting churches everywhere—I know a woman church planter who has started more than 6,000 churches. In a rapidly growing Middle Eastern church planting movement, 60-70 percent of the leaders are women. Our friend Heidi Baker, along with her husband, Rolland, has seen more than 10,000 churches begin in Mozambique and the surrounding nations. Women teach and preach, they baptize and give communion. They are free to follow the Holy Spirit however he leads them without being told they are usurping men’s authority or that they aren’t allowed to behave in these ways because of their gender.

I’d love for Peter’s pragmatism to apply here too. Since God sees fit to use women all over the world, can we not say with Peter, “Who was I to stand in God’s way?”

Sometimes I’m excited when people leave our church…

Sometimes I get really excited when people leave the church that meets in our home.

Here’s an email I received this week.

I just wanted to let y’all know that we have really enjoyed getting to know y’all and your church. It’s been a real joy and I’m sure we’ll still be stopping by from time to time, so keep us on your email list please. 
 
However, we just started a new church with some of our neighbors who don’t yet know Jesus. We are meeting with them on Friday nights, so we’ll be unable to join y’all most Fridays. 
 
We met with them last Friday. We checked-in with them and listened to The Lord together. This was a powerful time with lots of hard things shared and many tears. After that we did a discover bible study with them in John 1. Again this was very powerful, even though it was the first time they had read the passage. Neither of them could even locate the book of John before hand, but their insights were amazing. 
 
Thank you again for sharing yourselves and your community with us, and please keep us in your prayers as we press on to join y’all in trying to see a vibrant family of Jesus within close reach of everyone in Austin. 
Isn’t that awesome?
 

Women are not allowed to teach. Really?

My last post about a female Indian church planter who  was not allowed to share in class obviously struck a chord with many. In response, someone asked me how he could answer those who use 1 Timothy 2:12 as the basis of their belief that women are not allowed to teach and shouldn’t have authority over men.

I don’t believe those who silenced my friend are deliberate misogynists. My guess is that they are genuinely trying to follow the Scriptures. The problem is, they take a legalistic viewpoint on an English version of a verse that can, with total integrity, be interpreted in a different way.

So here’s the question: is 1 Timothy 2:12 an absolute prohibition on women teaching men? Is it right for the men in her class to forbid my friend to speak?  Or are there other Scriptures that provide a balancing view, in which case, a different interpretation is acceptable.

People sometimes go to ludicrous lengths to accommodate this verse, as my Indian friend discovered.


Photo Credit: potamos.photography via Compfight cc

Consider the following in trying to understand 1 Timothy 2:12

  • 1 Timothy 2:12 is the only verse in the Bible that apparently explicitly states that women are not allowed to teach men.
  • Paul and Timothy had traveled together for some time, and Timothy would have known if Paul forbade women to teach (I Corinthians 4;17). It would have therefore been surprising if Timothy and Paul hadn’t made that clear right from the start in Ephesus. Even more surprising that Timothy allowed women to teach and the practice needed to stop.
  • Paul acknowledged the very real role that women had in teaching Timothy  (his mother and grandmother).
  • Priscilla (named first) and her husband, Aquila, taught Apollos a “more accurate way.” (Acts 18:26)
  • 1 Corinthians 14:26 gives a list of things that everyone is expected to participate in. “When you come together, each one has…” The Greek word for “each one,” hekastos, is a word that encompasses both genders. This list includes teaching. Several times in chapter 14, the word “all” is used. Verses 24 and 31 both say that all may prophesy, and we know from Paul’s teaching in chapter 11 and from Acts 2 that this includes women. If Paul really forbade women to teach, why didn’t he mention it then?
  • A number of gifts to the church, including teachers, are listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. For some of these gifts there are female examples in the Scriptures (Junia was an apostle, Philip’s daughters prophesied), but again there’s no qualification here that women are not allowed to teach. Paul asks, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers?” While the obvious answer to this question is “no,” there is no implication that any of these gifts are gender specific.
  • Colossians 3:16 exhorts us to teach and admonish one another.
  • In Revelation 2, the church in Thyatira is chastised for allowing “Jezebel” to lead people astray. It’s what she teaches that is the problem, not the fact that she’s a woman teaching.
  • The Great Commission, in which disciples are commanded to both baptize and teach is not limited to men.
  • 2 Timothy 2:2 is the classic passage on discipleship. It is often rendered “The things you have heard me say…  entrust to faithful men who will be able to teach others also. The word “men” in the Greek is anthropos, a generic term for humans rather than gender specific.
Let this form the backdrop of how 1 Timothy 2:12 is interpreted.

 

Could this really be church?

For some time, Tony and I were involved in a church plant in the low-income housing projects in our city.  Each time we got together, we started with a meal; at times, it resembled a stampede to the table. On one particular occasion, we had barely finished the meal when a fight broke out between two of the kids. James, the son of Rosa, our person of peace, took the troublemaker upstairs; he wanted the instigator to know how that kind of behavior in the projects around the wrong person could possibly get him shot. Then Rosa got involved, telling James that he was handling the situation all wrong. (This is supposed to be church!)

When things had settled down and the kids were outside playing again, James posed a question to the rest of us. “How do you handle it when you hate someone?” Was this the Holy Spirit leading us to discuss this question?  We thought so.  For forty minutes, we discussed how a Christian should handle hatred, how to discipline kids, and what to do when Christians disagree. Everyone read Bible passages and shared personal experiences.  Then someone else suggested that we pray about the situation.  Again, this seemed to be the leading of the Lord, and so we prayed for each other.  There were tears and laughter.   Then the kids joined us for a time of praise. At one point I looked up, and two kids about nine and eleven years old were singing their hearts out with their faces raised, eyes closed. It may not have been the most in-tune worship, and it was certainly loud. But I thought to myself, Jesus, You’re here, and You love this!

Black girl praying

Heroines of the faith: Sophie Muller

A few years ago,  I had the incredible privilege of visiting Puerto Ayacucho in the Amazon jungle of Venezuela. Many of those living there were primitive tribespeople recently out of the jungle.  I kept hearing stories about a lady missionary named Sophie Muller. A man named Ricardo knew her personally and one day, he told me some of her story.

Ricardo with veteran missionary to Venezuela, Buck Smith

Sophie Muller was a young woman in her early twenties when she came to the virgin jungle of Columbia in 1944. At that time, there were settlements of a few tribal houses scattered throughout the jungle often only reachable by a canoe journey of several days. The nearest town of any size (Puerto Ayacucho) was not built until 1947.

Sophie, originally a reporter for the New York Times, had become a Christian following an outreach in a New York street. She had seen a group of people singing and preaching on the sidewalk and, out of curiosity, had responded to their invitation to join a Bible study. Over time she opened her heart to Christ. She became interested in working with unreached peoples, longing to go somewhere no one had ever preached the gospel before. She eventually chose the Amazon jungle with the New Tribes Mission.

At that time, witches and sorcerers were in charge of the jungle. They had many strange rituals that included drinking and drugs and wild partying. But there was a legend that had been passed down through the years. Someone had dreamed that a strange-looking person would come with a power greater than that of the witch doctors.

With her white skin and blue eyes, Sophie certainly looked strange to the tribespeople. So the chief witch doctor  prepared a spiritual test. He made a chicken stew and added to it Caribbean stick poison—the strongest poison known in the jungle. It normally kills a person within five minutes. As she ate the stew, everyone watched her intently, waiting for her to die. She did not die, but did throw up a little. Some of the village dogs lapped at her vomit and a chicken pecked at it.  They fell over and died immediately, but Sophie herself was unharmed.

The witch doctor who had prepared the stew converted on the spot. Sophie became known as a daughter of God and was allowed to travel unharmed wherever she wanted in the jungle.

Ricardo’s grandfather was the head witchdoctor of the region. Around that time he saw in a vision that there was a more powerful spirit than the one over the jungle. The story of Sophie passing the poison test had spread far and wide, so Ricardo’s grandfather sent his son, Ricardo’s father, to find Sophie and investigate her. Ricardo’s father paddled his dugout canoe for one month to find her.

Ricardo’s father arrived and made friends with Sophie. He soon became a believer and they started working together.  She came to live in the next door hut, sharing the same lifestyle as the villagers, and the family would often wake at 3am to hear her singing praise to God. She and Ricardo’s father would paddle for months at a time to different communities in the jungle to evangelize.

Here’s one story from her life: Incited by the Catholic Church, the Columbian army persecuted Sophie Muller. She was put in a jail with double doors and double locks. As she lay there, she could hear the soldiers fighting amongst themselves as to who would be the first to rape her. They decided to play a game, and the winner would be the one to go first. But while they were playing, Sophie fell into a very deep sleep. When she awoke, she was in the middle of the jungle.

In the meantime, a rescue party, armed with bows and arrows, was formed. As they were paddling upriver in their dugout canoes they saw a beach with a large turtle. Of course, their immediate thought was food—in fact, banquet! So they pulled up onto the beach to jump the turtle. As they did so they heard a whistle. Ricardo’s father recognized the whistle and went looking. It was Sophie, hiding behind a rock. She had had days of just eating roots and was too weak to even call out. They put her in the bottom of the boat wrapped in plastic and paddled up river past various army groups who were no doubt looking for her. When they came to Sophie’s house there was a team there from the mission. They came out to greet her.

“Don’t be sad or worried,” she told them. “Nothing happened. I’m going north for a few days to recover.” Fifteen days later she was back in the jungle.

Sophie and Ricard’s father worked together for fifty years. When Sophie finally left the jungle, she was an old woman.  She had started several hundred churches.