Why a Brit celebrates Independence Day

Photo Credit: ladybugbkt (Creative Commons)

On May 23rd 2008, I became an American citizen. In a large gymnasium hastily converted into a courtroom, before a presiding judge and with all due pomp and circumstance, I pledged allegiance to my new country and was granted the rights and privileges that citizenship brings.

It was a surprisingly moving ceremony punctuated by patriotic songs and speeches about freedom. There were around 1,100 of us, from 85 different nations. The immigration officials several times spoke of the incredible stories—the hardships that some people had endured to gain the privilege of citizenship. I was sitting next to a man from Bangladesh who had not seen his wife in more than eight years in order that he could become an American citizen and have her come and join him legally. For me, coming from a nation like Britain, I take freedom and justice for granted, but many people were from oppressive regimes or situations where the rule of law has no sway, and poverty and injustice are a way of life. In becoming citizens of the US,  they are liberated.

There were several judges and even a US senator in attendance. An immigration official had to swear on our behalf that all of us had been investigated and no just cause was found whereby we might be denied citizenship, and we all had to raise our right hands and solemnly promise that there was no reason we knew of why we should not become citizens. We were then informed of the rights and privileges we would automatically have as citizens of the United States. These included such things as the right to travel under an American passport, the right to vote and so on. We were also informed of our responsibilities including the fact that any of us could be called on to fight for our country
if the occasion arose. America’s wars are now my wars.

Finally, we had to give up any loyalty that we might have had to “kings, potentates and other authorities” and swear allegiance to our new country. We pledged allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and were all  declared to be American citizens, with a certificate to prove it. Then pandemonium broke out as the court adjourned and everyone began celebrating.

I am very proud of my British heritage. My heart is still there. But now I’m also proud to be an American.

This is the second time I have changed citizenship. I was actually born into an oppressive regime that sought to marginalize all its citizens. There was no justice; its citizens frequently lived in fear, and breaking its laws carried the death penalty. At the age of 11, I had the opportunity to change my citizenship and I appeared before a judge. This time, I could not claim that I was worthy to be granted citizenship, but Someone came and stood in my place, and my right to become a citizen of this new country was based on His righteousness rather than my own. And so in the courtroom of heaven, I relinquished my citizenship in the kingdom of darkness and became a citizen of the Kingdom of light ruled by a good, righteous and just King. However, I became more than just a citizen; I was welcomed into the royal family with all the rights and privileges, not just of citizenship, but also of sonship.

Just like becoming an American, there are also responsibilities tied up with citizenship of the Kingdom. I was born again into a nation at war. Like it or not, her wars are now my wars, and God’s Kingdom is in the process of invading the kingdom of darkness. I also have the privilege and responsibility of acting as an ambassador for this Kingdom wherever I go, and of letting others know that they can be free from the oppression of the regime they currently live under.  They too can change citizenship and come under the rule of a King who loves them and
is longing to welcome them into His Kingdom.

What will it take for a second track approach to work?

In the past week, I have come across two (small) denominations who are revising their views on church planting. Rather than planning on traditional church planting with the expense of buildings and trained staff, both denominations are looking at a simple/organic approach to missions. They are encouraging their existing churches to plant out daughter simple/organic churches and any other church planting that goes on will likely be with simple/organic churches.
Photo credit: the real Kam75 (Creative Commons)
So I emailed a friend of mine (who for various reasons has asked not to be named) to tell me about his experience of transitioning a legacy church into a network of simple/organic churches. I also asked him to comment on running a second track–that is, of having a separate and parallel group with a missional emphasis that runs alongside a legacy church. Here are his thoughts as to the viability of doing so: 
  1. If the leadership team fully understands that the church is not the end, but the Kingdom, and is open to a variety of ministry situations that are not necessarily alike, or even traditional in nature 
  2.  If that leadership team is willing to give up control and simply see what God can do with believers who have a different mentality than the existing status quo
  3. If the senior leader sees the house church approach as being just as viable as the traditional approach and has a “releasing mentality” rather than a “containing mentality”
  4. If equal time and resources are given to the “house church ministry arm,” not seeing it as a fad approach for those weird people who don’t want to fit into a mold, but that it is “just as important as anything else in the church.”   (I remember from many years ago, that one church I was in enjoyed great success in a lot of areas.  But the truth was that if a ministry idea didn’t fit with the Senior Pastor, it never got off the ground.)
  5. If there is an expansion of the vision that  put the house church ministry on equal footing with every other ministry — so that even those who don’t want to participate can encourage and affirm those who do.   Its the whole idea of not thinking that “my way” is the only way.   Jesus said, “If they’re not against us, they’re for us!  

In another way of saying it, its moving from a church centric vision, to a kingdom centric vision!


In addition:
The framework of the existing church could be very helpful to those who do want to start house churches or be a part of them. All of the legal aspects would be covered by the existing church structure, releasing those who were  participating in the house churches to do so without some of the difficult issues which can arise in the whole area of administration. 
Again, I do think that this could be a viable alternative to transitioning the whole church. it would actually be like a two track church approach, (kind of like the many churches today who say they have a traditional service and a contemporary service!)    The key issue, I believe, is based upon the vision for the whole entity.  And it would have to come from the senior leader, if it was going to have any chance of success!   

A suggestion for Memorial Day

The US holiday of Memorial Day commemorates citizens who have laid down their lives in military service for our country.

Around the world, there are citizens of the Kingdom of God who face death on a daily basis because of their faith. I have spent time in nations where believers are persecuted for their faith; they are ostracized from their communities, will likely lose their job or housing, they may be thrown out of the family. Everyday life is much more of a struggle because of their faith. I have friends who have spent time in prison because they have shared their faith, others who have had to flee their country, others who are spied upon or questioned by security police.

In some nations hostile to Christianity, if it is discovered that a family member follows Jesus, it is a matter of family honor that they are put to death. In some nations, known Christians live with the reality of potential violent death every day. 

I have had the privilege of sharing life briefly with some of these believers, facing possible danger because of my faith, but I come home to safety. My brothers and sisters cannot leave.

An average of 171,000 Christians worldwide are martyred for their faith each year (World Christian Database)

Here's my suggestion for Memorial Day: let's honor those who have died in military service for our country, but let's also pause  to pray for our fellow-citizens of the Kingdom who face martyrdom because of their faith.

“Follow” by Floyd McLung: a book worth reading!

I just finished reading Follow the book Follow by Floyd McClung. This book discusses the basics of discipleship, teaching us how to disciple not-yet-believers into the Kingdom.  These disciples become world changers by reaching out to their communities and starting D-groups (precursors to simple churches). 

Floyd is not interested in mere believism.  He is looking for those who are totally surrendered to Jesus and have a love relationship with Him and his people.  He challenges all of us to die to our own selves—our desire for comfort and ease—and to get involved with the poor and marginalized.  His own life reflects this passion.

I highly recommend this book for anyone looking to multiply disciples and create healthy communities that will transform their world. 

Here’s a quote from the book that I find very thought provoking: ”We disciple the lost to be converted, not convert the lost to be discipled.”

 

Ways to see a greater harvest #1


John-wesley-1   

 

 I recently reread the book, "destined for the throne" by Paul Bilheimer. The main premise of the book is based on a quote by John Wesley: "God does nothing except an answer to prayer." Bilheimer goes on to explain that God has chosen to limit himself in order that we might get on-the-job training for reining in his kingdom.

If this premise is true, then we need to rethink some of our strategy. In places where church planting movements are thriving, prayer plays a key role. David Garrison in his book "Church Planting Movements" lists the 10 features common to all CPMs. Prayer is high on his list.

We have friends in India who tried an experiment. They picked two villages; one they prayer walked, the other they did not. When they later went to do some evangelism in the first village, 45 families found the Lord. They were thrown out of the second village.

David Watson has seen many tens of thousands of churches planted in India and Africa. Recently, he questioned his top church planters to see if there were any common factors. He discovered that prayer was key to these people. Each of them prayed at least three hours per day on their own, and more time was spent in prayer with the team.

Paul Yonggi Cho, pastor of the Full Gospel Central Church in Seoul, Korea was interviewed by Rick Warren. He stated that when he first started his church (at one time the largest in the world), in order to see the Holy Spirit work, he had to pray for at least five hours per day. He has now been able to cut this down to three hours.

I do not tell the stories in order to condemn us. Most of us lead very busy lives. How can we commit to that kind of time in prayer? What is God asking of us?

What do you think? Is it true that "God does nothing except an answer to prayer"?  What should our response be?

15 reasons why we don’t see harvest

Harvest
 

Here are some reasons why we may not see the kind of harvest we long for:

  1. We are so involved with other believers we do not have time for friendship with those who do not yet know Jesus.
  2. We are fearful of being "contaminated" by too much contact with the world. 
  3. Lack of the "apostolic mission" part of simple church DNA.
  4. Lack of prayer for the harvest.
  5. Lack of training.
  6. We do not "go and make disciples."
  7. We are fishing in the wrong place, or to change metaphors, we are seeking to reap a harvest where either the fields are not yet ripe or little/no seed has been sown.
  8. We invite people to come to our church.
  9. When someone becomes a Christian, we extract them from their community to join ours.
  10. We fail to work through a "person of peace."
  11. We are not preaching the gospel of the kingdom
  12. Lack of the supernatural.
  13. Sequentialism
  14. We do not train the new believer to pass on his story and what he is learning to his friends.
  15. We scatter rather than gather.

 Some of these topics will be covered more fully in future posts. 

Can you think of any other reasons why  we are not seeing harvest? Let us know!