December 2009


Jesus said; “Go into all the world and make disciples of all nations (ethne).” This is our mandate known as the Great Commission. He went on to describe how that is done; “baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son and the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Is that what we have done? If we have done discipleship at all, what do we do, and where do we start?

I have reviewed discipleship materials over the years, some good and some miss the mark altogether. What is usually missing is the part of making disciples that Jesus describes as “teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you.” Most discipleship is focused on what the believer needs to do. It becomes a list of tasks that the believer must do in order to be a growing disciple. As the believer progresses, he is then given a list of skills to learn to be an effective servant in the church, many times referred to as ministry skills. This leads to several problems that hinder growth and a healthy relationship with their heavenly Father.

When you disciple an individual focusing mainly on the development ministry skills, that disciple certainly knows what to do in service to the Lord. That is not where we should start; it is insufficient and builds the wrong foundation in the life of the disciple of Jesus. Instead, when you disciple an individual by using the daily life lesson the Lord brings to them in life, that disciple knows how to have a relationship with God and live life as a citizen of the Kingdom of God. This is where you should start and build from there.

The problem with skill based discipleship is that the Church is filled with people whose value is determined by what they do rather than who they are. Their identity is determined by a position in ministry rather than their position in Christ. Therefore you have a highly skilled church that has very little interaction with God and are susceptible to moral failure, chronic disappointment, and an inflated ego that serves self (“my ministry”) rather than others. The idea of a life based on the gospel of the Kingdom is considered to idealistic and unattainable.

The solution is to make disciples through relationships rather than academics; using their life experiences, tragedies, and victories of life. Life itself would serve as the lessons and the curriculum would be provided by searching the scriptures and determining what the Lord says regarding what is happening from day to day. By teaching the disciple to relate their situations to the Word of God and in the context of the gospel of the Kingdom, the disciple’s relationship to the Lord grows deeper and they are able to withstand life in this fallen world in victory and be an example of a disciple of Jesus.

Merely teaching skills such as how to pray, read the bible, conduct a bible study, and even to the level of skills required in most local church positions robs the disciple of the foundation needed to maintain a real relationship with the Lord. It causes whatever relationship that is developed with Jesus to be based on being a servant of God rather than a friend and child of God.

Training and preparing disciples in ministry skills is important and should not be neglected, but it should never be considered the goal of discipleship. Discipleship’s goal is to transform our lives so that we are like Jesus, imitators of Him, obedient to Him. This must be in the area of how we live, our character and how we respond to life and apply the truth of His Word to those situations. Therefore we must be able to hear the voice of our Lord.

Another mistake is creating a dependency on curriculum and other materials to make disciples or to be a disciple. There are thousands of workbooks, manuals, study guides that have been developed for the purpose of discipleship. Though the content of many of these books are sound and worth reading they can never replace the opportunity to fellowship with the Lord firsthand and go to his word and hear him speak to you and teach you his ways. When we depend on curriculum, the believer becomes dependent on external sources for guidance and teaching rather than developing the hearing ear that knows the voice of his shepherd. This is imperative to the new disciple and cannot be put off to a future time.

In discussing discipleship with leaders in the context of simple church, I am usually asked; “What curriculum do you use?” When I state that we do not use any curriculum except the Bible and the life of the believer I usually get that glazed over look of puzzlement. I usually remind them that the new believers in the book of Acts had no Navigators booklets, no Master Life, no Kay Arthur, and no Bill Bright; but they still made disciples! Don’t get me wrong, I am thankful for all of these resources. All we need is a kitchen table, or couch or a local eating establishment and we are ready to grow together as we discuss our lives together and draw from the truths in God’s Word.

So what do we do? Start with the basics. What someone gives their life to the Lord – believe it! What I mean is, believe that the Lord is now over their life and what happens is the Lord’s. He IS governing their life and that life IS their schooling. By using the curriculum of their life and the resource that gives life – the Word of God, they have a foundation that can withstand whatever comes their way. Not only that, I doesn’t cost a cent! You don’t need to buy books, furnish a classroom, build and education wing or hire a professional Bible teacher. It is that simple.

Now let’s get started! Go and make disciples!

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Dear Friends and Partners,                                                   December, 2009

It has been a while since I sent out a newsletter – please forgive me for being so late! We have had an eventful last few months. A trip to India and an opportunity to teach a class on missions and much more. Thank you for your prayers and financial support. We continue to walk by faith as we are led by the Lord’s provision.

INDIA TRIP

This past month I had the opportunity travel to India (New Delhi) and attend the “Global House Church Summit” as well as a three day training on making disciples and planting churches rapidly. I was so encouraged by what I witnessed.

Over 200 leaders from 40 nations gathered to discuss the significance of the worldwide house church movement. Throughout the summit there were reports of how these discipling communities were multiplying and bringing change to their regions.

It was reported that there are now over 10,000 house churches in Europe, 10,000 in Australia and 6,000 in New Zealand. In the USA there are up to 12 million who attend house churches. In Bangladesh and India it was discovered that house churches have become the largest Christian movement. In Myanmar over 6,000 house churches have been started in less than five years in just one movement. The reports continued from Africa, South America and of course the phenomenal growth of the church in China. The Kingdom of God is truly expanding and the “glory of the Lord is covering the earth as the waters cover the sea!”

Dr. V.C. one of the main conveners of the summit brought these encouraging words; “It is not about setting up house based worship communities alone . . . many house churches are beginning to change not only the spiritual climate, but begin to model the wholistic life in the Kingdom of God at the village level, demonstrating Gods ability to restore families, health and even heal the land.” He added; “For example, constant prayer walking and breaking of curses placed on the land has, in a number of areas resulted in unprecedented harvests and other agricultural breakthroughs, thus demonstrating tangibly the blessing by which God is able and willing to upgrade and empower everyday life.” Truly, what is happening has more to do with transformation of communities that a mere method of doing church or conducting meetings.

Many participants in the summit agreed with the assessment that the house church movement is growing up. She is now making becoming fully involved in the Great Commission to disciple all people groups in the world. There was also a continued emphasis on being focused on the Kingdom of God rather than the organizations of men. There was a clear challenge to finish the task (Matthew 24:14) and take the gospel to the unreached and make disciples. As a result, the summit agreed to take more initiative to reach the world by working together and seeing multiplication of discipling communities happen in all nations.

MISSIONS CLASS

Immediately after my trip to India I stopped over in St. Joseph’s, Michigan and taught a group of students at Master’s Commission where our son-in-law serves as director. We then stayed through Thanksgiving where the rest of the family joined me and we had a great time with our daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren. It we a great Thanksgiving! (see picture of the family)

THANK YOU

I thank you for your prayers and financial support. Those who have supported financially have provided funds so that I could take my recent trip to India as well as trips planned in the future. You support also allows me to continue to devote my time to missional projects here where we live such as the development of an aquaponics prototype in Hampton Roads, a community center in our neighborhood and helping to mobilize simple churches to reach the nations. Although our support is much less than previous years, the Lord has been faithful and provided all that we need.

God Bless You & Merry Christmas!!

Don & Jeannie

In Hampton Roads, Virginia we have been seeing the Lord establish a network of Simple Churches. We recently updated the website and extended an invitation for others to join. Here is what was communicated:

New Addition to the HRSCN Website

One of the greatest needs within the body of Christ is communication, community and fellowship. In other words the genuine practice of koinonia. That is why we have added a tool to the HRSCN website for you and those you know involved in simple/organic/house church life. We have added a relational network page to the website (Ning) to help us bridge that gap. In no way does this fulfill real koinonia – but it’s a start. Take a few minutes and see how we can link together in order to bring the gospel of the Kingdom to our region in a greater measure!

Why does Hampton Roads Network need a Relational Site?

  1. Not to establish a hierarchy – BUT to create a venue to see relationships established that will cultivate genuine Christian community in our region.
  2. Not to promote any personalities or organizations – BUT to see what our Lord Jesus is doing in our midst as we encourage one another and watch HIM build his Church.
  3. To provide a safe place where we can dialogue, network, partner and provoke one another to good works.
  4. To get to know one another and see who else is on this journey of simple church.

This addition to the website will allow for us to connect in the same way that many of you do on Facebook, but focusing strictly on the region of Hampton Roads and simple church life and mission.

Take a few moments and visit the website at http://www.hrscn.org and check out the Network Relationship page (at http://hamptonroadssimplechurchnetwork.ning.com ).

Here is how this site can be a blessing:

  • Forums – This part of the site is provided to allow us to dialogue around specific issues. It is not for carnal debate, but Christ like discussion. Be sure to honor one another.
  • Events – You can list any events here that pertain to the needs of the network.
  • Groups – This is a tool for specific groups within the network to chat, discuss issues in a forum, make comments etc. This would be a great place to post what is happening in your group. It is also a tool to focus on specific areas of interests that is wider than the scope of a discussion forum.
  • Map – See where the simple church meeting places are in Hampton Roads.
  • Blog – Write a blog to the network and post it here for all to read.
  • Videos and Photos – post what would be of interest to the network.

When you go to the site, you can explore what’s there, but if you want to participate you will need to sign up.


A Reminder of Who Hampton Roads Simple Church Network is:

  • Hampton Roads Simple Church Network is a network of simple, organic, house churches in the Hampton Roads region of southeastern Virginia.
  • There is nothing to join, there are no dues to pay, and there is no personality to submit to but Christ. It is a simple voluntary relationship with one another expressed from congregation to congregation.
  • We are inclusive of all followers of Jesus Christ, who proclaim Him as their God, their King, and their Lord. Our only written creed is the Bible.
  • We are diverse from many different denominational and historical backgrounds.
  • We have no centralized governing body, but recognize the relationship we all have with one another being submitted to one another under Christ.
  • We welcome the gifts the Lord has given the church to equip her to do the works of the ministry (apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers) but do not see them as positions within a hierarchy but servants functioning in their gifting.
  • We have no clergy/laity divide, but honor the priesthood of every believer and their personal responsibility to grow in Christ.
  • We stay connected through our voluntary relationships with one another and serve, love and minister to one another based upon those relationships.
  • We desire to cooperate with other expressions of church in our region without being exclusive or judgmental, but expressing our love for one another in unity and truth.
  • We desire to serve our community in unity in order to bring about transformation, renewal and demonstrate the kingdom of God.


Hope to see you on the network!

What are you doing in your region to facilitate koinonia in the Body of Christ?

God Bless,

Don