What in the world is God up to?

God is doing incredible things all around the world.

  • There are probably more Christians in China now than members of the Communist Party.
  • In Asia, the T4T training has resulted in more than 1.7 million baptisms over the past 10 years.
  • In India, a Hindu nation, one house church network with which I am familiar, is seeing around one million baptisms per year.
  • Now seems to be God’s time for the Muslim world. In one nation we know, there are thousands of house churches. In another area of the Middle East, there is a movement that has more than12,000 house churches.
  • A Buddhist nation has seen more than 110,000 new believers in the past 10 years.
  • In 1991, when the Communists lost control of Mongolia, there were maybe 4 or 5 known Christians. Estimates are that now, just over 20 years later, there are around 100,000.
  • In Africa, Rolland and Heidi Baker have seen more than 10,000 new churches formed in Mozambique and the surrounding nations.

A few years ago, all of this would have seemed impossible. We may not be seeing huge numbers here in the West, but God is on the move in much of the rest of the world. Most (not all) the examples I’ve given here have occurred with disciple making movements/church planting movements. In these movements, the emphasis is on what is going on outside of the traditional church building. Ordinary believers are making disciples and leading small groups that eventually meet as churches.

I know that numbers are not everything, but they are an indication of what God is up to. Several years ago, Wolfgang Simson did a survey of the largest churches in the world. If you include networks of churches that meet in homes, then numbers one through 19 are networks of house churches and number 20, at the time of his survey, was Paul Yonggi Cho’s church in Seoul, Korea.

Throughout the world, God is using ordinary people—just like you—to start churches. What is there to stop you doing the same?

Dandelion seeds

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When God is silent

When Tony and I moved here to the States in 1987, probably the toughest part of our lives so far at a spiritual level kicked in. Why? God became silent. He stopped talking to us.

Back in the UK, nearly everything had gone well. It was relatively easy to know what God was saying. In fact, when he spoke to us about moving to Texas, his leading was so clear that we sold our house and moved here, knowing no one. We felt a bit like Abraham, but were confident he would continue to lead us clearly.

And then silence.

Nothing. Nada

No clear direction.

It wasn’t so much the little things. It was that clear sense of direction, knowing we were following him, in the center of his will, that was missing.

To start with, we confessed every sin, real or imaginary, that we could think of. After all, we reasoned, sin separates us from God.

Still nothing.

We tried everything. We had faith, we prayed against the enemy.

Then I got angry with God. How could he bring us here and then drop us? Needless to say that didn’t work either.

Finally, I came to the place where I realized my total dependence on him. If God chose to leave me on the shelf and never to use me again, that was his prerogative. He is the potter, I’m mere clay in his hands.

A number of things died at that point–any desire for limelight, any sense of entitlement, any hankering to be anything beyond ordinary.

It was then, after nine years of God’s kind of seminary on the backside of the desert, his training in the school of wilderness experience, that, God, in his mercy, started speaking again.

 Photo Credit: Vu Bui via Compfight cc

Is God female?

Most of the controversy surrounding Paul Young’s book The Shack concerns the fact that he portrays God as an African-American woman who enjoys cooking. The fact that God is pictured as female raises a lot of theological hackles. God is obviously male.

Or is he?

Pam Hogeweide interviews Paul Young in her excellent book Unladylike: Resisting the Injustice of Inequality in the Church. During their discussion, Paul says this:

My journey into the nature of the Trinity actually began by my exploration of the issues of gender. I have spent about twenty-five years working on the issues of maleness and femaleness and if you spend enough time investigating such questions, you will invariably find yourself focused on the nature of God and on the Trinity. You discover, of course, that God is neither male nor female but that both genders derive their identity from the nature of God. God is Spirit, and both genders reflect the image of God. So the use of imagery, both male and female, is always going to be inadequate.

Genesis 1:27 states:

So God created human beings in his own image. In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them.

God is Spirit, (John 4:24) without gender. It takes both male and female to represent God.

Obviously most of the imagery concerning God in the Bible is masculine, and God is constantly referred to as “he.” (There is no neutral gender for verbs in ancient Hebrew.) But not exclusively. God is also shown as a mother eagle (Deuteronomy 32:11),  like a woman in labor (Isaiah 42:14), as a mother with children (Isaiah 49:14-16), as a mother hen (Luke 13:34).

I find it interesting that the designation of God as Father is rare in the Old Testament–he’s only described that way 15 times. But Jesus talked about God as his Father constantly. “Abba”  is an intimate and affectionate term that Jesus used more than 165 times in the Gospels. And he taught us to refer to God that same way.

Just some food for thought…

What do you think?

 Photo credit: leancillo sabino (Creative Commons)