An interview with Steve Holt: “Intentional: In Jesus’ name we play”

I love stories. It’s often said that the longest journey is the one from mind to heart. But the journey in the opposite direction can be very short. Stories touch the heart and from there it’s a quick journey to the head.

I recently read Intentional: In Jesus’ Name We Play by Steve Holt. It puts many of the principles about simple/organic church into story format. Here’s an interview with Steve:

What is the book about?

Trey Glass is a professional basketball superstar who considers his fame on the court secondary to his life as a light among the people in his depressed neighborhood.  His parents raised him to live intentionally for God, and he takes that role seriously.  For starters, despite his multi-million dollar contract, he chooses to live in a neighborhood most wealthy people would never consider.  He treats street beggars with respect.  He has compassion on the young alcoholic who kills his dad while driving drunk.  He bails out a dozen street gamblers and provides opportunities for them to find meaningful employment.  He falls in love with a Latina medical intern and fights sexual temptations that have plagued him all his life.  Most interesting to friends of House2House, perhaps, is how he deals with obstacles to attending a traditional church and how his little house church becomes a beacon of hope in his racially divided hometown of Memphis, Tenn.

But, of course, living like Jesus brings the reality that many people find his lifestyle objectionable.  He encounters critics from every side—church leaders, team management, friends, sports reporters and more.  And then there are the physical assaults from street gangs who don’t like what he’s doing for the neighborhood….

What inspired you to write the book? 

I remember wondering what it would be like if a famous person, one who was known by many, was ever bold enough to really live like Jesus.  So, that was a large motivation for the book…to create a fictional character who really tried to live like his Lord. I spent nearly thirty years in a variety of positions in the institutional church, so I saw the inner workings of “religion” close up and first hand.  And frankly, early in my career I began to not like what I saw…what God’s church had become. I also came to realize that my own sons were wrestling with the traditions their parents had followed.  When they went off to college, their faith expressions changed, and I was delighted to see what was happening in their lives.  They focused on the right things and gave up the lesser important matters.  They actually had a lot to do with teaching me about the blessings of smaller and simpler faith communities.  I truly believe it was God’s intention all along to gather his family in small, intimate groups.  History shows that when church was taken out of homes and confined to cathedrals, many unfortunate things began to happen. I wanted to capture the benefits of these smaller communities in a form that people would actually read.   

Who did you intend to read this book?  And why fiction?

It’s odd…they say you should have a target audience in mind before you start a book.  I didn’t.  I just started writing, and when it was finished I sent the manuscript to friends of every age.  They all liked it.  In the back of my mind was the idea that if I wanted millennials to read the book, it would have to be fiction since they probably wouldn’t read a non-fiction, “how-to” book about house church.

This is the kind of book that can change people. What kind if transformation took place in your own life as you created the story of Trey Glass?

The thought I had throughout the entire project was “someone is going to ask if I live my life like Trey Glass lived his.”  I found myself confessing time and again that I am not fully living as if Jesus was the number one priority in my life.  That caused me to ask “why not?”  Many of the examples of a true Jesus follower in the book came from points of decision I’ve had in my life, many of which I didn’t make the right decision. I’ve come to the conclusion that there is really no excuse. And that is haunting.  The whole project has made me a better person.

What do you hope the book accomplishes in the lives of its readers?

I truly hope that readers will see that living like Jesus really is possible in twenty-first century America…and can be done by every race, every socioeconomic level, every sexual orientation, every person.  We are here to care for one another, and Trey Glass does this as well as anyone I know.  Readers will also face the realities of what such a lifestyle will cost them.  Jesus promised persecution, and Trey found that and more.  We can expect the same if we choose to walk as Jesus walked.

 

(Intentional is available from Amazon in both paperback and Kindle formats) 

 

3 predictions for 2014

For most of us, the New Year is marked by a sense of anticipation. The old year is done with; what will 2014 hold? Here are three of my ideas for what 2014 might bring for those of us in the simple/organic/house church movement (or those with an interest in the role of women in ministry).

  1. There will continue to be an increasing emphasis on disciple-making movements. Profoundly effective disciple-making movements are beginning to emerge in this country, with, at this stage, hundreds of new believers stretching several generations. This is an exciting development, and one that I believe will continue to gain momentum. More to come on this in future posts.
  2. The simple/organic/house church movement will maybe lose some people as those who joined it to be fashionable drop out. However, it will become a foundational platform for other things God is doing–for example, discipleship in the marketplace, Kingdom finances etc.
  3. The conversation about women in the Kingdom will increase in intensity and become a (probably controversial) focal point.

Am I right? Only time will tell. What do you think will happen in 2014?

What will 2014 hold

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A true story that makes me angry (and sad)!

It takes a lot to render me speechless. Even more to make me angry. This story happened yesterday.

We have had a delightful lady church planter from India staying with us this week. She trains other women church planters and between them they have seen 50,000 to 60,000 baptisms of women over the last few years. In the network that she and her husband run, there have been around 250,000 baptisms. They have planted thousands of house churches.

This lady is in the United States to get her doctorate in ministry–she comes over once a year to attend the course in person. The course is about missions and how to reach the world for Christ.

I was driving her back to the airport and the subject of the book I’m compiling on women came up. I told her that in some circles, in this country, women are not allowed to speak in church.

“I understand what you mean when you say that ,” she said. “I am the only woman in the group taking this course, and I don’t say anything.”

“Why not?” I asked.

“I’m not allowed to speak because I am a woman.”

“Do the people in the course have any idea what you are involved in?” I asked. “Do they know how many churches you have and how many people have become Christians through what you are doing?”

“Oh no,” she replied, “I haven’t been able to tell them. I’m not allowed to take part in any of the discussions that the men have.”

I asked her several questions to make sure I was really understanding her correctly. The men are allowed to speak during the course but she has to keep silent. They teach from theory but do not benefit from her experience. They have no idea what a treasure they have in their midst.

Here’s a woman who has seen what these men long to see–a move of God–and she’s muzzled.

It’s the men’s loss, but oh, what a tragedy!

 

 

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

Video: Felicity Dale on the house church movement

Several years ago, I wrote a book called An Army of Ordinary People: Stories of Real-Life Men and Women Simply Being the Church. I recently rediscovered a video where I talk about how I came to write the book and I answer questions about the simple/organic/ house church movement. Enjoy…

 

Q&A with Felicity Dale from simplechurch.com on Vimeo.

Do simple/organic churches need a “covering”?

Here’s the idea: everyone needs covering–a kind of spiritual protection against the storms of life. If someone moves out from under covering, (as in leaving a particular church, or more specifically a particular leader), they somehow become vulnerable to demonic attack and are likely to end up with all kinds of problems. House churches are especially vulnerable because they don’t have any kind of covering–no one who has spiritual authority over them. Their people don’t answer to anyone.

Covering

I’ve come across a number of people who have been told this by their pastor or spiritual leader when they have brought up the idea of leaving a particular church. When they’ve taken the plunge and moved away from that church, others, who used to be their friends, have even been forbidden to have contact with them in case they are “contaminated.”

I believe this is spiritual abuse.

The idea of covering is totally non-Scriptural! The only reference to covering in this way in the Bible is the story of Ruth and Boaz where Ruth asks Boaz to extend the borders of his garment over her. It’s very far-fetched to apply this to church leadership.

As Frank Viola says, I think in Reimagining Church, it is extraordinary that when Paul writes to the people in Corinth addressing a serious moral problem in the church, he does not ask the leadership of the church to deal with it. One would have expected him to ask the elders to handle the situation. Instead, he addresses the whole body and anticipates they will deal with the problem.

We quite often get asked, “Who is your spiritual covering?” Our response: “Jesus is the authority to whom the church answers! We can all hear him and respond to his call on our lives.” If the Lord calls others to leave us, we give them our blessing and send them on their way. We’ve found that you cannot outgive God.

What do you think

Guest post by Sean Steckbeck: The New Testament church?

Here is another guest post by Sean Steckbeck. Sean lives in Israel and he brings a unique perspective.

Preparations had been made all day, and an intensive time of cleaning the house. The family is expecting the guests to arrive at any moment and the table is set. Finally, a knock on the door welcomes a house filled with guests, mostly family and close friends. The dinner is prepared and is neatly set on the table and at its center piece, the bread and the wine.  The head of the household begins to tell a story from the Bible, uses sensory symbolism, and asks inductive questions especially to the kids sitting at the table. The interaction is electrifying and even sometimes erupts into heated debate.  The bread and wine are taken, and then an enjoyable meal starts as everyone ponders on the story that was told at the table, the questions which were asked, and the discussions that proceeded.

What do you think this event was? Was it a house church in Asia or America? Was it a typical house church meeting? No, this took place in an Orthodox Jewish home in Jerusalem, as well as nearly all the Jewish homes around the world in an event called Passover. Although it has all the elements of a typical house church around the world – eating together, story-telling, inductive learning and discussion, community — taking place in the home.

Oftentimes, when we talk about restoring the New Testament church, we are forgetting that many of the elements we want to see restored are actually concepts from the Old Testament.  We speak of the “temple mentality”, but don’t realize that temple worship for the everyday person in Israel was only three times a year (Passover, Pentecost, and Tabernacles). Most historians and archeologists even agree that during the 2nd temple period the synagogue was a multi-purpose community center rather than a religious building. The synagogue becoming the center of weekly religious Jewish life happened around the same time that church buildings became the center of the Christian church’s life.

The central theme to the Jewish people is the Shema, which is mentioned in Deuteronomy  6:4-9:

 Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.  These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.  Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads.”

Impressing the commandments to our children.

Talking about them when sitting at home.

Talking about them when walking along the road.

Does this sound like organic church and simple church?

Are we restoring the New Testament Church, or something God had planned from the beginning?

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