Commercial fishermen in the Kingdom

Jesus told his disciples who fished for a living, “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Commercial fishermen are disappointed if, when they pull in their net, there is only a single fish flopping about.  They hope and expect to catch multiple fish at a time. Remember Peter’s dejection when he’s fished all night and caught nothing?

It’s interesting to note that in the Book of Acts, there are only two people who become followers of Jesus as individuals—Paul and the Ethiopian Eunuch. Everyone else becomes a disciple as part of a group.

  • Following a vision, Peter visits Cornelius who has gathered together a group of friends and relatives in his home. When they are all filled with the Holy Spirit, as evidenced by their speaking in tongues, Paul gives orders for them to be baptized. (Acts 10) A whole household follows Jesus in a single day.
  • When Paul goes to Philippi, he speaks to some women at the riverbank. Lydia opens her heart to Jesus and she and her household are baptized. (Acts 16: 11-15)
  • A few days later, Paul and Silas are jailed. A massive earthquake sets them free, but when they don’t take the opportunity to escape, the jailer invites them to his home where they share the word of the Lord with him and his household. Again, the whole household is baptized. “He and his entire household rejoiced because they all believed in God.” (Acts 16:16-34)
  • When Paul finds a group of people (about twelve men) in Ephesus who have only been baptized with John’s baptism, he baptizes them and prays for them to be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 19:1-6)

What’s the difference? How did those early followers of Jesus get these results?

Jesus had taught his disciples how to be “commercial fishermen” for the Kingdom–not in the sense of making money, but in the sense of bringing in a large catch.

All around the world, God is using this pattern to bring in a massive harvest. Why not here too? We’ll look at how this works in later posts.

Catch of fish

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Do not camp out here!

I’m passionate about men and women working together, as co-equals, for the sake of the harvest.

I’m passionate to see women released into their full potential, unmuzzled, unfettered, free to follow God wherever he might lead them.

I’m passionate to see men and women released from centuries of patriarchal tradition.

I’m passionate to see the Scriptures expounded with integrity in a way that doesn’t limit women (or men).

As I look around at what is happening in this country, I believe this is a move of God.

But it’s no place to camp out. It’s a transitory place, not a place to stay.

I’m even more passionate about men and women being transformed by these truths and then quickly moving on into whatever Jesus has for them.

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It takes both men and women

When women fight for justice for themselves in church circles, they are perceived as militant feminists. If men stand alongside them, shoulder-to-shoulder, then something that looks like “Kingdom” will result.

Where are the men who will champion women, standing up for their rights? Where are the Baraks who recognize women in leadership and refuse to go into battle without them?

What is God about to do?

The top three reasons it’s important to include women

Women are often undervalued and sidelined in the church, especially when it somes to strategic thinking and planning. Leadership equals servanthood (Matthew 20:25-28), and  we, the church, are supposed to be listening to our head, Jesus, and following what he says. Since women are used to serving, and they often hear him more clearly, it therefore seems very short-sighted not to include them. (If you have questions about the theology of this, check out a series of posts starting here.)

But there are more important reasons to include women. Here are the top three:


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 1.  The Harvest: When women co-labor alongside men, the workforce for the harvest potentially doubles.

2.  The Harvest: Psalm 68:11 (NASB) says this–The Lord gives the command; The women who proclaim the good tidings are a great host.

3.  The Harvest: Wherever we see a massive harvest going on around the world, women are often in the forefront. For example, in China, especially during the revival in the 1980’s and 90’s, female pastors and evangelists outnumbered males 3:1. In India, women apostles are responsible for thousands of churches. Women can often get into the places where men cannot go with the good news of the Kingdom. As Dr. Yonggi Cho once told us, “If you want to see a move of God, use your women.”

Why I write…

A number of years ago, we hosted a wonderful couple, Lynn and Linda Reddick in our home. They often give a word to people from the Lord (prophesy), and what they say is usually very accurate. During one of the gatherings we had, Linda spoke very emphatically to me.

“The Lord has called you to write,” she said. She repeated it several times. In fact, she came back to it time and time again.

My heart sank. I loathed writing with a passion. I would never respond to letters, (if you leave them long enough, any reply becomes irrelevant) and avoided writing whenever possible. I’m not sure why–maybe it tied in with having to write so many dry, scientific papers during high school and medical training.

I felt so strongly that she was wrong that I went up to her afterwards.

“I’m sorry, but you got this one wrong. I hate writing. There’s no way I’m ever going to write.”

I’ve since apologized to her.

 Photo Credit: splorp via Compfight cc

I started writing when Tony lured me away to northern California on a “writing vacation” so we could co-author a book together. He promised the mornings writing and the afternoons and evenings enjoying the magnificent coastline. I fell for it. The scenery was spectacular and the writing part wasn’t as bad as I thought.

By this time we had helped to start House2House, and so many questions were coming in that I wrote a manual that we could point people to save time responding to each person at length individually. Then followed two other books, An Army of Ordinary People  and Small Is Big!  Then an enhanced ebook on hearing God that is available as a free download if you subscribe to Simply Church. Currently I’m in the middle of compiling a book on women.

I now love writing! It’s what the Lord has called me to do. Charlie “Tremendous” Jones once said, “You will be the same in five years as you are today except for two things; the people you meet and the books you read.” I’m motivated by the thought that something I write might possibly change people’s lives for the better.

Why do I tell you this?

I’ve found blogging to be one of the most effective ways to reach people. On any given day, as far as I can tell, more people are reading my posts than might be reading a book I’ve written. I started this blog to, as the title says, give people an insider perspective on the simple/organic church movement. I wanted to equip people in a number of areas. My passions include starting churches amongst not-yet-believers, which is far easier and more effective than working with existing Christians, and helping people avoid the “Honey, I shrunk the church!” syndrome.

A few months ago, I started blogging about women in ministry, as much as anything to gauge the reaction of people to the topic and to make sure the book that I’m helping to compile “scratches where it itches.” To my great surprise, the readership of my blog increased almost overnight, and other blogging indicators demonstrated that people are spending more time reading my posts. I still cannot account for this except that the Holy Spirit is causing an interest amongst many on this subject. Could this be one of the next moves of the Holy Spirit?

Some of you reading this get my blog via Google Reader. On Wednesday, Google announced that they are closing this at the beginning of July. (Bummer–I read some blogs via this too.) However, the blogs I really want to stay current with, I subscribe to via email. Can I suggest that if you currently use Google reader for this blog, that you instead subscribe via email. (Another option: the techno gurus I read  suggest  Feedly as a viable alternative and it already has migration instructions from Google Reader posted. But I’m sure there will be many more options in the coming months.)

And finally, thank you to all who do read this blog, who’ve stayed with me through good posts and bad, and especially to those who join the conversation by commenting. I appreciate you all.

Can you help me with a book on women?

As most of you who have been following my blog for any length of time know, normally my blog looks at simple/organic church life. I started posting about women tied up with a book I’m co-writing/editing with a number of other authors. I’m hoping to have the manuscript complete by the end of May.

There are a number of things a blogger looks for to see what kind of response his/her posts are getting. These include:

  1. Subscriptions
  2. Bounce rate
  3. Comments
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Much to my amazement, all three of these improved exponentially as soon as I started blogging about women. For example, check out the comments on this post.

What this indicates to me is not that my blog has suddenly improved in quality, but that this is a topic that is truly “scratching where people itch.” (I sincerely hope so since I’m writing a book about  the role of women in the Kingdom!) I believe that this is going to be one of the next major moves of the Holy Spirit.

I need your help at this point. I’m praying that the book will cover the questions people are most concerned about.

So… what questions do you have concerning the role of women in the Kingdom? Are there any pressing issues or Scriptures you’d like to see discussed in the book (or on this blog)? Any related topics? Do you have any stories that are pertinent to this subject?

I appreciate your help.

 

 

 

The church moves West (part 2)

The focus of Christian missions has historically moved west. This is the second of a three part series (here is part one) looking at this phenomenon, and is part of the foreword I have written to a new Kindle book, Greet the Church in Your House.  by Victor Choudhrie, due out in September. This book details the principles behind one of the greatest disciple making movements of our time.

 

This is a photo of Tony and me standing on the very harbor wall in Turkey (Seleucia) from which Paul and Barnabas left with John Mark to sail west on their first missionary journey. The harbor is now silted up and the harbor wall is about 100 yards inland.

 

While all this was going on in Europe, the epicenter of Christianity was sailing west across the Atlantic to the United States.  Waves of revival spread across the land as Jonathan Edwards and George Whitfield, John Wesley and Charles Finney preached to huge crowds. In 1906, the Pentecostal Movement began in Azusa Street in Los Angeles and spread rapidly throughout the world. The United States became the great missionary-sending nation.

But even as Christianity waned in Europe and began its decline in the United States, the center of Christianity was moving west again. Initially this was hidden. When the Communists overtook China in the late 1940s, threw out the missionaries, closed the churches and jailed its leaders, everyone wondered whether the church could possibly survive. When the bamboo curtain finally lifted, the world was amazed to see the church had thrived and multiplied. Ordinary people, mainly women and children, rather than trained preachers, were spreading the Gospel, and churches were starting everywhere in the homes of ordinary people. Small and hidden, the good news was spreading like yeast in a lump of dough.

Again the focal point of the church moved west. Via Korea and the cell church movement, it has moved on to India where the Choudhries and many others like them are seeing similar growth to China. Here God is restoring disciple-making and house church planting, not as a matter of necessity because of persecution, but as a deliberate policy with well-understood theological and ecclesiological reasoning. An emphasis on the Kingdom is producing marked changes in the local community too. As other nations hear what is transpiring in India, they are inviting men and women from India to come and infect their own lands with what Jesus is doing.

Part three to follow…