make disciples


A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Three

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days. If you would like to see the whole article, go to my website at Strategic Church Network.]

                                                          

THE PROBLEM

One of the major weaknesses in the local church in America today is that it has taken on a business model more than that of family. Neil Cole has said; “When you imagine the amount of resources, energy and time invested in a service held only one day a week, it is remarkable. With all the importance placed on this event, you would expect there to be a lot of scriptural directives to make sure people get it right. But if you search all of the New Testament looking for the commands or injunctions having to do with this important weekly event, you will find them sadly missing. Instead you will find verses, chapters, and entire books that speak to how we are to live together as a spiritual family”[1]

In the many churches today, results are measured by the size of meetings and income rather than the number of those who are being obedient to Jesus. Jesus said to make disciples of all nations by teaching them to obey what he taught. We have reduced that command to gathering members so that they conform to the traditions of men and pay for the “vision of the house.”  The senior pastor has usurped the role of head of the church from Jesus and the congregation now looks to the senior pastor as their source for inspiration, spiritual food, comfort, guidance, and he is responsible for the ministry of the church. The five fold ministry may be recognized as valid and welcomed, but never to the degree that the congregation becomes equipped to do the work of the ministry. Ministry is still relegated to the clergy class, office holders and pastoral staff. Unfortunately those gifted in one of the five fold gifts have been elevated to “super star” status. The supernatural ministry of the presence of Jesus has been limited to spiritual manifestations, but never allowing him to actually be the head of the church in all activities.

This business model has caused the local church to be viewed as competitive with other portions of the Body of Christ. This drives the local church to become bigger and more entertaining, thus consumer driven. The pastor is expected to perform via his sermon along with his worship team and other attractions during the service. Finances, talent, time and energy is devoted to making the worship service everything the consumer congregation expects it to be. Unfortunately this leads to a church that has little time for making disciples, developing relationships in the community and simply being family together. Grant it, discipleship may happen amongst the leadership team, but the congregation is merely spectators. If discipleship does become a priority it is attempted through preaching or institutional classes and seminars which focus on academics rather than obedience to Christ. This causes discipleship to be diminished to an intellectual understanding of doctrine and church practice rather than relationship with Jesus and being able to hear him and obey.

The work of the Church in the world today has become complicated and systematic rather than simple and organic. Therefore the goal would be to lead an existing congregation from its present condition to that of an organic, simple church focused on mission rather than events where disciples are being made and hopefully citizens within the surrounding communities are being transformed by the gospel in every area of their life.[2] Those who call this congregation their local church would be equipped to do the work of the ministry of Jesus not just within the confines of the local church events, but also in the world where they live. In fact greater emphasis would be given to the latter. The church would then be a true expression of God’s Kingdom bringing the gospel to where they live, work and play.

Here are some facts and trends to consider:

What is happening in the USA?[3]

  • 65 million attend church, 25% of population
  • Only 4 to 5 million have a great commission focus.
  • In 1995 – 375,000 churches.
  • In 2000 – 324,000 churches.
  • In 2002 – 300,000 churches.
  • There is a 50% divorce rate in the church.
  • Eight out of ten pastors want to leave the ministry.
  • The number of men involved in church is declining.
  • Many children leave the church in their teen years.

Neil Cole states: “Churches lose 2,765,000 people each year, between 3500 and 4000 churches close their doors each year for the last time; while only 1100-1500 churches are started. Not a single county in all America has a greater percentage of churched people today than a decade ago.”[4]

George Barna has discovered that:

  • 4 out of 10 born again Christian do not attend church totaling 10 million.
  • 15-20 million do not attend a traditional organized church.
  • Majority of those making a decision for Christ in an evangelical church were no longer found attending church after eight weeks of making their decision.
  • Over the next 20 years the number of Christians seeking spiritual fulfillment in traditional churches will decline.
  • In 2007, 70% of Americans relied on traditional church expressions, by 2025 this number will decline to 30-35%
  • There will be alternative expressions of spirituality (house & market place churches) will rise from the current 5% to between 30-35%.

In light of these statistics, the church is certainly in need of a change, a reformation, a return to a more organic, simple model revealed to us in scripture.

In the next part of this post we will discuss the philosophy of ministry and the guiding principles that will help a local church transition from traditional to organic and simple.

God Bless,

Don


[1] Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005 pg 40

[2] Neil Cole states, “Church attendance, however, is not the barometer of how Christianity is doing. Ultimately, transformation is the product of the Gospel. It is not enough to fill our churches; we must transform our world. Society and culture should change if the church has been truly effective.” Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005. Introduction

[3] Source: Dawn Ministries, 2007

[4] Cole, Neil, Cultivating a Life for God, ChurchSmart Resources, 1999, pg 11

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Two

[This six part article on a strategic plan is in no way exhaustive and set in stone but is merely theoretical. Join with me in this discussion! We ask: with the Lord’s direction can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life? I will share this strategic plan in six parts over the next few days.]

FOUNDATIONS AND DEFINITIONS

Below are several points that will help to define and give foundation to this strategic plan. These of course are not exhaustive and there are many more points that can be discussed and many reading this would want to add those points. Feel free to do so by replying to this post.

  • Church: The presence of Jesus among His people, called out as a spiritual family to pursue His mission on this planet (1).  It consists of a specific DNA: Divine Truth, Nurturing Relationships and Apostolic Mission.(2)
  • Simple Church: It is being the Church wherever we live in relationship with Christ, his body and the world he has called us to reach. This is done without being dependent on facilities, professional clergy, elaborate services or structured meetings, but dependent on knowing what the Father is doing and obeying Him. Typically when simple churches gather they follow the pattern for the church meeting described in 1 Corinthians 14:26. The life of a simple church is a 24/7 experience and extends well beyond weekly gatherings.(3)
  • Organic Church: A term first coined by T. Austin Sparks. It is a non-traditional church that is born out of spiritual life instead of constructed by human institutions and held together by religious programs. Organic church life is a grass roots experience that is marked by face-to-face community, every-member functioning, open-participatory meetings (opposed to pastor-to-pew services), non-hierarchical leadership, and the centrality and supremacy of Jesus Christ as the functional Leader and Head of the gathering. (4)  The church is best described in scripture as a family, a vine, a seed, a field or a body. The church is a living system which reproduces more rapidly and simply than an institution or manmade structure.
  • Church Growth: In the traditional model, growth is inward, focused primarily on gathering. In simple, organic churches the growth is outward focusing on scattering. (See Genesis 11:1-9 & Acts) Therefore the emphasis is on multiplication and simple models which multiply easily and quickly and is not based upon attending a worship service alone.
  • Making Disciples: This is the main task of the follower of Jesus. Making disciples should be the priority of the church so that each one is able to hear the Lord’s voice and become obedient to Him. A disciple is then able to “feed” themselves and not be dependent on an institution or an individual such as a member of the clergy to feed them. Maturity is the goal rather than dependence on an individual or a service. There is a tangible, real relationship with Jesus who is there source of spiritual food and direction. This is done in the context of the church as believers grow together and learn from each other rather than from one human source.
  • Leadership – Jesus corrected his disciples and told them that they were not to lord over others as the gentiles do. He strongly stated that this practice should not be among them. (Matt 10:25-28) Therefore all leadership will be that of a servant, equipper and willing to put others first. Leadership will not be defined as he who holds an office over others, but those who serve to undergird others. Thomas Wynn a friend of mine has described leadership: Leadership is like a skeleton, it supports, gives definition and strength, but if it is seen the body is either sick or dead (5).  For more information watch the video “Upside Down Leadership” at http://vimeo.com/16525058 .
  • Incarnational – Incarnational means you live among those whom God has led you to reach. Your lifestyle, while holy and reflecting Christ, is like those you are called to reach. This causes the gospel to penetrate areas, locations, peoples, cultures that would normally never attend church services.
  • Missional – Missional means to be outward in our movement rather than trying to attract people in – we go to where they are.
  • Gathering and Scattering – This is a blend of church life which incorporates a gathering model (slightly attractional) in order to scatter thus still being missional, simple and organic (6).

A few key scriptures (emphasis bold, underlined):

These are certainly not exhaustive regarding the strategic plan, but touch on a few critical areas.

•    Matt. 16:18 –“…I (Jesus) will build my church, and the gates of Hades will not overcome it.”
•    1 Cor. 14:26 – What shall we say brothers:  When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation.  All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.
•    1 Pet. 2:9 – But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
•    Mark 4:26-29 – He also said, “This is what the kingdom of God is like. A man scatters seed on the ground. 27  Night and day, whether he sleeps or gets up, the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. 28 All by itself the soil produces grain—first the stalk, then the head, then the full kernel in the head. 29 As soon as the grain is ripe, he puts the sickle to it, because the harvest has come.”

Biblical Issues Regarding a Simple, Organic Church:

1.    The simple, organic church holds fast to Jesus Christ as its only Chief Shepherd [Senior Pastor] (Eph. 1:22; 4:15; 5:23; Col. 1:18; 2:10,19).
2.    The simple, organic church recognizes the Bible as the sufficient and authoritative guide for its beliefs and activities (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  The Scriptures in their fullness have no need for modification or supplementation by outside philosophies, fields of study, or other influences (cf. Col. 2:8; 1 Jn. 2:27). The authority in any teaching, gathering or activity of the church is the Word of God rather than a denominational statement of faith or a leaders interpretation and traditions.
3.    The simple, organic church depends upon the Holy Spirit’s supervision and empowerment in all areas of ministry. (1 Cor. 3:8; 12:1-11; 1 Pet. 4:10; cf. Eph 3:7, 4:7; 1 Cor. 12:1-11).
4.    The simple, organic church strives to maintain truth and unity, not sacrificing one for the other (Eph. 4:1-16; 1 Tim. 3:15). It is non-divisive both in name and character (Jn. 17:20-23; 1 Cor. 1:10-13).
5.    The simple, organic church acknowledges the priesthood of the believer, each having direct access to God through Christ, and with responsibility and authority to minister to one another. (1 Pet. 2:5,9; Gal. 5:13; 1 Thess. 5:11; Col. 3:16; Rom. 15:14; Heb. 3:12-13; 10:24; James 5:16)
6.    The simple, organic church accepts all believers in Christ as members, one of another (Rom. 12:5; cf. Gal. 2:9). In keeping with its non-divisive character, it does not seek to establish a separate, local church membership in the traditional sense.
7.    Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Shepherd and Teaching gifts are functions, not offices or positions. For example, the simple, organic church is pastored by those gifted to function as pastor rather than a position held by one professional clergy. (Acts 20:17, 27; Eph 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 5:14).

The next part of this article will discuss the problem that prompts us to seek for change in the way we see the church and her function.

Don

Footnotes:

(1) http://www.cmaresources.org/organic-church-definition

(2) Cole, Neil and Helfer, Phil, Church Transfusion, Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Josey-Bass 2012 pg. 18

(3) http://hrscn.org/About_Us.html

(4) http://frankviola.org/2010/01/11/what-is-an-organic-church-a-plea-for-clarity/

(5) Thomas Wynn: Leadership in the Kingdom, http://vimeo.com/19847639

(6) Halter, Hugh and Smay, Matt, AND – The Gathered and the Scattered Church. Zondervan 2010

When Jeannie (my wife) and I came to the Lord in 1974 our decision was made with the confession, “if we are going to do this Christian thing, we are going to do it according to the Bible and not religion.” This has been true for most of my life, although there have been times that I preferred to go the way of the crowd. This confession has caused me to be a troublemaker, a rebel, a revolutionary, a dreamer and many times lonely. So I am going to share a few of those scriptures with you. Certainly we are to be led by all of God’s word, but here are a few that stand out.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not sharing these because I have mastered them and I have accomplished perfection, by no means. I must continually remind myself and correct myself. Many times I have found myself going “off the path”. Unfortunately I do not always listen. My point in sharing these is to hopefully challenge you as well as I am challenged.

Here are a few of those verses (from The Holy Bible : New International Version. 1996, c1984 . Zondervan: Grand Rapids):

1 Samuel 15:22-23 But Samuel replied: “Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams. For rebellion is like the sin of divination (KJV says witchcraft), and arrogance like the evil of idolatry.

My goal is to ask the question before I do anything: “Do I do this because of obedience to the Lord or is it due to some religious or traditional obligation.” If don’t obey, then what I do has the potential of becoming a tool of Satan and is driven by the power of darkness no matter how “spiritual” or “Christian” it may seem. Any deviation from obedience is fertile ground for the enemy to deceive, manipulate and even blaspheme God’s intentions. Lord, help us obey your word!

2 Corinthians 5:17 – . “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come

I (and if you are in Christ – you) are no longer bound by the past. That means past sins, past nature, past generational curses, past anything. Therefore I remind myself that the power of Christ to bring victory in these areas has been accomplished and any religious practice, counseling technique, doctrine or spiritual experience that teaches otherwise is suspect of being from a source other than God.

Matthew 16:17-18“Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven. And I tell you that you are Peter, and on this rock I will build my church, and the gates of Hadeswill not overcome it.”

The only one who has the authority to build the church of Jesus Christ is Jesus. There is no “my, your, or our” church. It is his church. There is his church in many locations, and there are people who are part of his church who gather together in the name of another entity, organization, institution, or incorporation, but it is not Jesus’ church, but contains members of his church. The rock upon which Christ’s church is built is a revelation that comes from the Father and not from man’s attempt to educate, propagate or dictate! That revelation is simple and comes from the Father. (I’m not going to tell you what that is – ask the Father J )

Matthew 18:20For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

When we gather in Jesus’ name (and no other) he will be with us. Why? Jesus is talking about the administration of his authority, his kingdom, his will, doing his business and even getting answers to prayer. Why is it that we relegate the actual presence of our Lord to another person when we gather? If Jesus is truly with us when we gather in his name, then let him lead! If we ignore his presence and lead in his stead, what does that say about our obedience to him, or should I say rebellion against him. We have already stated where that leads! This is why the world does not believe us when we say he is with us in our gatherings; we don’t act like it. It also reveals that there is a sickness in the body of Christ, it does not have a real, experiential connection with the head of the church – Jesus. We focus on figureheads and not the real head. Can you imagine a wife only paying attention to the self-appointed representative of her husband and not him when the husband is right there with her?! Absurd? Yes! Then why do we do it to our Lord Jesus? The activity of the church gathered then becomes a parody of the real thing, and it is not funny.

Ephesians 4:14-16 –“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.

So much here, but my main point in this portion is that Christ is the head. We grow up “into Him.” The mature are those who acknowledge Jesus as the head, walks in love and does their part. It has nothing to do with submitting to a person who is functioning in place of Jesus, nor does it include aspiring to be in a position like that. But it does include living a life that acknowledges Christ has the head. If there is another head there is chaos, immaturity and lead captive by “the teaching and the cunning craftiness of men.” Unfortunately we have taught that one form of maturity is to lead as the head (senior pastor) a congregation. That is the far from the truth.

1 Corinthians 14:26What then shall we say, brothers? When you come together, everyone has a hymn, or a word of instruction, a revelation, a tongue or an interpretation. All of these must be done for the strengthening of the church.”

When I come together with other believers in any context, my goal is that we fulfill this verse. It is the only verse in the New Testament that gives us an idea of what we should do when we gather. They key here is that everyone has a chance to share, and all of these are done. But as we know, most of them time these are put off in place of a performance and spectator format. Those on the platform do and the others watch and receive. The only giving that is expected from the audience is a monetary offering or volunteering for things such as nursery of parking lot duty. But the problem is that we cannot do this if our meetings are too large. Everyone cannot participate. That is why organizations have been deceived to believe that the bigger the meeting, the better. Church growth is being measured by the number of attendees to a meeting and not the number of disciples obeying Christ. Some congregations have tried to solve this with small groups. But if they do not consider these small groups an expression of church, and do not allow Christ to be head of these small gatherings then they are falling short of what God desires.

Matthew 28:18-20 – “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

Why are we here? Why don’t we just get translated into heaven when we get saved? Jesus has called us to go and make disciples of all nations. These nations are not political nations, but all ethnic/people groups. I am compelled to examine the ministry I do and if it is not making disciples, if it is not teaching others to obey Jesus, if folks are not getting baptized then I must be doing my own thing no matter how religious or “Christian” it may seem. Note that he did not say go and plant, start, or establish churches. That’s what Jesus does. I constantly fight the battle of losing my first love of telling others about Jesus. But it is more than just getting a “decision for Christ.” Discipleship means we walk together, following Christ together and help one another along the way know what Jesus is saying.

Matthew 24:14 – “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

Much of my live has been devoted to missions. That is because this verse challenged me when I was a young pastor who had planted a church and served as its pastor for nine years. I soon resigned and moved my family to Southeast Asia to encourage others to reach those who have not yet heard the gospel of the Kingdom. Over 6000 ethnic/people groups are still in darkness and have no one telling them about Jesus and the gospel of the Kingdom. This dilemma that faces the church today is what drives me go, serve, compel others to go to these people groups and preach the gospel of the kingdom to them – as a testimony (a life).

John 5:19 – Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.

This has been my greatest challenge of all. It goes against my ambition, my initiative, my “get r done” attitude, my pragmatism, and yes, my flesh. My desire is to see what the father is doing and only do that. But what happens is, there is an increased amount of time that you may do nothing until you learn to see what the father is doing. There are scores of individuals with good intentions who want to tell me what the father is doing, but my responsibility is to learn it from the father first hand. I don’t want to follow retail truth, I want wholesale truth. Not milk, but meat. This is where I am now learning to follow only what the father is doing. I wish I had started with this one!

There are a few more versus and I am sure there will be more as I grow. But for now I will leave these with you to ponder.

Blessings!

Don

[For the sake of full disclosure, I have a selfish motive regarding this subject, I am involved in missions work traveling to Asia from time to time. My wife and I plan to do this in a greater capacity as soon as possible, therefore we are seeking more funding than we presently receive.]

Now with that out of the way, I want to share with you some of my observations regarding missions, money and simple church. (When I speak of simple church, that also includes organic and house churches in varying degrees) ].

One of the factors that convinced us to be more simple in our way of being the Church is that we do not have to raise funds to pay for buildings, big shots, programs, staff or parking lots. What a freedom to be relieved of these burdens. Of course most of our local mission to make disciples takes very little money at all; the cost of a cup of coffee, a meal, or just doing life together. The funds that are now available to us are certainly greater than before and we can be a blessing and help those who are normally forgotten, and left out of typical “church budgets.” Our income that is available in our simple churches and networks can do great things with just a handful of folks who give sacrificially, cheerfully and generously. (see the article: “Assessing The State Of Simple Churches In The USA Regarding Releasing Resources Toward Finishing The Great Commission” by Steve Lyzenga for a thorough look at this subject). So what do we do with our money now? We certainly have needs that arise within our simple church or network that needs attention. I am making the assumption that you are already making sure that no one in your simple church lacks and that you are following the pattern we see in Acts when a need arises. Mission also includes taking the gospel to all nations (people groups), and some of these groups still have no access to the gospel. How do we fund these efforts to reach the nations?

Here are a few questions to ask yourselves as you seek the Lord’s leading in these areas:

In your simple/organic church how are you doing missions?

  • What about those who are connected with folks in the church who have not yet become believers but have material needs, how are you meeting those needs?
  • Are you seeking the Lord regarding how you can now use the funds you have to minister to those in the “household of faith” so that none among you lack?
  • What about the unreached, or out of reach nations? There are over 6000 nations (ethnic or people groups) who are out of reach and have no opportunity to hear about the gospel of the Kingdom. (For more information and statistics about unreached people groups go to: http://www.joshuaproject.net )
  • Since we no longer have up to 90% of our budgets going to serve ourselves, are we supporting apostolic servants of the Lord who have been called to these unreached groups?
  • Are we sending financial support to those who are training others who live near these people groups to reach them?
  • Are we funding apostolic leaders and teams to go into an area to make disciples of a few new believers in an unreached area that will train them to be disciple makers seeing churches planted among their own people?
  • Who is better equipped to go and make a handful of disciples in an unreached area and prepare these disciples to go and make disciples seeing churches planted? I believe it is those who are now function as part of a simple, organic church are prepared for this hour to reach the most difficult nations (people groups) around us. Are you seeking the Lord as to how He would have you do this?
  • Is your network ready to prepare a team to go to these unreached areas and send them with the proper funding, prayer and training?
  • Are you part of a regional network that can link together in order to accomplish more than one single simple church could? If not, are you willing to be a part of one and if there is not one to be the catalyst to start one?
  • If you are already sending teams to the unreached nations and/or serving the needy in your community, are you willing to share your story with others?

I challenge all who are involved in simple, organic churches and networks to seek the Lord regarding what you should be doing regarding taking the gospel of the Kingdom to the unreached nations as well as to those in need around you. Remember, Jesus said: “This gospel of the Kingdom will be preached to the whole world as a testimony to all nations (people groups), and then the end will come.” Matt 24:14. Let’s remember that the purpose of the church is not for our needs, what we can get out it, but to reach out and serve the lost and fallen world around us. We exist for others, not for ourselves.

I would love to hear about what you are doing or plan to do as well as how you are processing some of these questions so that we can learn from your experience. One way you can do this is to go to www.house2harvest.com and then click on the “Relationship Room” link and sign up to be a part of a network of folks who are simple church folks interested in doing mission and tell your story. Or you could just send me an email and tell me your story (dondavis@house2harvest.org ) I have a feeling that more is going on than we know.

….oh, and by the way, regarding my selfish motives – if you want to partner with my wife and I or want to know more about what we are doing let me know and I would love to share with you what we are doing and what our needs are. Send me an email at dondavis@house2harvest.org or you can comment here.

A few months ago we (several of us in Hampton Roads) held a forum on “Loving Muslims” which became a catalyst for trainings regarding reaching our Muslim neighbors. We then held a training on “Understanding the Muslim Worldview” where over fifty were in attendance. This led us to consider – what’s next? In the scriptures, Jesus gave us some basic instructions; love God with all your heart mind and soul, love your neighbor as yourself and go and make disciples. This includes the thousands of Muslims which are now living in neighborhoods and working all around us.
How do we go about building bridges into the Muslim community and revealing to them the love of Jesus and the relationship that they can have with God the father? No one has all the answers, but we can find out those answers together. So we propose to the body of Christ in Hampton Roads to connect together for this purpose. We can simply develop a “missional community” made up of believers from different congregations for the purpose of developing community so that we can ask questions, share our vision, needs and ideas regarding reaching our Muslim friends. This will allow us to avail ourselves to corporate prayer and missional action in our daily life.

Therefore if you live in the region, we will be having our first meeting on Monday June 20th at 7:00 pm. We will meet at Renaissance Community Church’s facility in their café’ located at 5045 Indian River Road, Virginia Beach, VA. We would hope that this would be a monthly gathering every 3rd Monday night. Our preliminary agenda will be to pray and discuss what the Lord is leading each of us to do in regards to reaching our Muslim neighbors.

Now let me give some clarification regarding what this is, and what this is not:
• This is not a program of one local church or one missions organization. In fact it is not a program at all.
• This is a cooperative effort of believers in our region who want to put action to their burden and call to love the Muslim community in Hampton Roads.
• This is not a program or method, nor will it become focused on some technique or merchandised plan.
• This will emerge out of the daily life of all those who desire participate in this “missional community”.

What is a “missional community”? “A Missional Community is a group of people who have united, in the name of Jesus, around a common service and witness to a particular context.” (Mike Breen and Alex Absalom in their new book, Launching Missional Communities: A Field Guide – p. 124). Lately there have been many articles and even books written to clarify what missional is and how churches and small groups are seeing these groups develop for specific missional purposes. Being missional is not something we add to our life and practice. It is not a department or program of a church. It is a lifestyle that is founded on the understanding that we are here for the purpose of making disciples and demonstrating the gospel of the Kingdom. A missional community is a group of believers who are working in concert together to accomplish God’s mission. Our focus of course will be God’s mission to reach the Muslims of Hampton Roads. For a more complete description of being missional you can find further information at http://www.missionalmanifesto.net/ ,and http:/www.friendofmissional.org/.

This by no means is in competition with individual local congregations, but will compliment and equip those who want to focus on reaching Muslims. So why do something separate? It is not separate, but it is the body of Christ in our region working together for a common cause. It will facilitate those involved to mature, be equipped and reach out into areas of life where a formal church program would not be welcomed. Instead we will be doing this as followers of Jesus and not representatives of a religious organization.
Once we gather we will focus in the major infinity groups within the Muslim community in our region such as international students, refugees and prisoners. We will also plan further trainings which may include some mission trips that will be equipping in nature.

If you are interested and need more information you can contact me at dr@goasianetwork.org or you may also contact:
Jerry Smith at jerrys@aims.org ; Steve Lyzenga (on the Peninsula) at mt2414@gmail.com or Doug Chandler at dougchandler1@gmail.com

God is up to something, and we hope to see you there on June 20th so that we can learn and walk together!

What role does prayer have in making disciples? What role does prayer have in living out our relationships in our church community? Recently I was reading in Colossians 1:9-11 and had one of those “ah-ha” moments.

Paul says in verse 9: “For this reason, since the day we heard about you, we have not stopped praying for you and asking God to fill you with the knowledge of his will through all spiritual wisdom and understanding.”

Paul asks God to fill them with the knowledge of his will, and this knowledge of his will comes through spiritual wisdom and understanding.

He then says in verse 10-12; “And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God, being strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified you to share in the inheritance of the saints in the kingdom of light.”

From that knowledge of His will not only brings wisdom and understanding, but Paul is also praying for them to receive this knowledge of God’s will so that they will live a life worthy of the Lord. It is amazing that our prayers for each other can have the authority to help one another grow in the knowledge of the Lord, but also to live according to God’s will. Prayer like this for one another causes them to be fruitful, have endurance and patience and even joy!

When we have the awesome opportunity to make a disciple consider how effective your prayers for that disciple can be. When you pray for them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will and that they would have the Lord’s wisdom and understanding. This will even help the disciple to live a life that please the Lord and bears fruit. Isn’t that what discipleship is all about? To help the believer hear the Lord, obey him, be fruitful and grow in the knowledge of the Lord. Prayer is an effective tool in making disciples.

What about those you fellowship with on a regular basis? Do you pray for them? Consider this; what if you began to ask the Lord of fill them with the knowledge of His will, thus gaining wisdom and understanding. Not only that, but they would live a life worthy of the Lord and bear fruit. What a tremendous example Paul gives us here in Colossians! There is more power and authority in our prayers for one another than we know.

In simple, organic, house churches, discipleship is not a program or a curriculum. Discipleship is accomplished through relationships. What better way to live out our relationship with one another than to pray for one another as Paul has prayed for those in Colosse.

Now, let’s put what we have learned from Paul to practice.

[I thought I would go ahead and post the remainder of the article rather than break up up any further. This makes it a little longer, so take a few minutes to read it all.]

Can a simple, organic, house church do missions? Can our Lord raise up apostolic teams and send them to the nations out of our house churches and networks? The answer is yes! But, there needs to be some changes in the way we think and approach missions or we will fall into the same traps that plague the institutional missions effort. This is the reason for the series of articles. Hopefully it will spawn some discussion, but most of all spur us all to take the gospel of the Kingdom into the regions of our world where there is no witness, no preaching and no church. Basically to those who are out of reach. “How will they hear unless someone is sent?” (Romans 10:14-15)

A SIMPLE PROCESS:
• Study God’s Word (see Part 2)
• Pray for the Nations (see Part 3)
• Find a “Champion” (see Part 3)
• Pray for harvest, and opportunity for all to participate in that harvest (see Part 3)
• Seek the Lord for His Plan (see Part 4)
Follow the Plan (See Parts 5-10)

Follow the Plan – Continued . . .

• Training Opportunities.
As your network extends out, reaching folks form other cultures, you will realize the need for further training if you are going to effectively reach an unreached people group. Continue to read books, attended a local World Christian Perspectives Course, (For more information go to www.perspectives.org) and availed yourselves to every avenue of learning they could find to equip themselves to be effective cross-cultural servants.

One of the hidden benefits of reaching out to other cultures in your region is that you will discover that several individuals and couples have the gift to minister cross culturally. This will confirm their call to other peoples. From this discovery within your church and network, you will have the beginnings of an apostolic team of cross cultural workers who would now be ready to plan to go to the nations!

• Expanding the Network.
The network should continue to do research regarding the unreached people group they have chosen. From this research you will find found out that there are several other groups and churches who have adopted the same unreached peoples. You may even discover that there is a regular gathering of those churches, and they come together to discuss how they can assist one another in reaching their adopted unreached people group.

• Sharing the Vision.
At this time the network should begin to share the vision to be apostolic and reach out to an unreached people group to the point that many of the believers within the network want to support the effort to reach the unreached people group with their finances and business skills. So the network “champions” seek the Lord for a plan to handle the funds, establish entrepreneurial opportunities and develop a preliminary budget based upon their research and the potential apostolic teams need for funding.

• Forming Partnerships.
After meeting with several of the other churches who have adopted the same group as your church or network, form a partnership with them to assist one another in the purpose of reaching this unreached people group. Out of this partnership the network could host an unreached people group consultation for other House Church Networks and churches that are willing to co-operate together for the purpose of reaching unreached people groups. As a result, prayer efforts for the unreached people groups increase and become more effective by the spread of information. The reality of a church being planted among these unreached people groups is now becoming more than a dream, but a reachable goal.

Through these partnerships the “champions” are able to assess the resources available. This is not only funding that is available, but human resources as well. This includes gifting, talents, life skills and availability of the potential apostolic team. Eventually there will be a clear understanding of the level of resources that are available to the degree in which each church or other networks could easily participate in support, prayer, administration and the like. As a result, the partnership will grow and then there is a clear network of believers and congregations that are now committed to reach the unreached people group!

As a result of research and networking, the network partnerships will discover and identify the believers in other nations who desire to reach the unreached. You will soon realize that there are total congregations and networks that want to do the same thing you have done. Out of this research, the churches outside of the United States became part of the network to reach the unreached people group. The network will grow and focus together on the goal of reaching the unreached. From this, several partnerships could be developed in order to accomplish actual tasks needed to be done to reach the adopted unreached people group. Some of these partners may focus on the humanitarian needs, some on developing the prayer network, some on training and assisting the apostolic teams that are gearing up to go to the unreached people group.

• Take a Research.
Trip While this is going on you could lead a group to the region where the unreached people group lives to pray for them and do research. This trip should include several of the members of the apostolic team. They can prepare the team and teach them how to do the research and other cross-cultural pointers they would need to know. If they are unable to train on these matters, there are others that can come along side your team and train them. (Contact dondavis@house2harvest.org for more information.)

When the team returns, and after much prayer, study, reviewing their research, and seeking God’s will; the apostolic team can then write out a strategic plan to reach their unreached people group. The team then comes into agreement with the network as to when they are ready to take the steps needed to be deployed to the region where the unreached people group lives.

• Developing a Support Plan for the Team.
The network can now develop a realistic support mechanism for the apostolic team. You can answer the question regarding what will work best in regards to entering this new culture. Should the main source of support be business? Then you need to find investors in that business. Is it raising funds to support the time outright? Or could it be a combination of both? This depends on many factors: Your team, the field, and the capacity of your network. Many times to start, the network will provide full financial support until the local business is making enough capital to fund the workers needs. This will also depend on whether the team is joining with an already established work that is already developed on the field.

This is why it is import to find other on the field who has adopted the same unreached people group. The apostolic team needs to deepen their research and gather more information regarding other missionaries and missions organizations that are targeting their group. They should also take the opportunity to learn about these other churches and ministries and see if there is an opportunity to network and partner with them.

• More Training.
The apostolic team should now become more intentional in their learning regarding how to be effective cross-cultural workers. They could take several courses and seminars on the subject and study everything they can find. Through the local cross-cultural ministry out of their church, there is also the opportunity for the apostolic team to work through certain skills that will allow them to function effectively as a church planting team.

The “champions” in your network should also meet together with the apostolic team and review their strategic plan and revise it according to what they have learned so far. This process will take many hours together in prayer as well as discussion regarding the will of the Lord. Throughout this process the apostolic team will not only be prepared, but was able to determine when and if they are ready to go. The network should search for the best opportunity for the apostolic team to be trained in the area of pre-field orientation to help them adjust to their new home.

• Moving to Region of the Unreached.
When this phase of training is finally complete, the apostolic team then moves to the region where the unreached live. This is now the beginning of a new phase for the network. The apostolic team has entered the process of ministry leading toward facilitating a church planting movement among the people group. (See www.house2harvest.org/docs/ChurchPlantingMovementsBk.pdf for more information)
The first order of business is to arrange for the teams language learning. It is imperative that they begin learning the language of the people they will be ministering to as well as the “trade” language of the region. After more time of study and observation, the apostolic team should then begin to form their strategy that sees a “Disciple Making Movement” among their people group. It is important to note that their strategic plan should not be finalized until after they have spent some time living among the culture. In fact, it may always be modified as understanding of the culture increases. It is important to remember that the church that is birthed among any people group must be grounded in the process of making disciples. Many times the term “church” paints an erroneous picture not only in the world of Christianity, but in other religions as well. That is why I prefer “Disciple Making Movement” over “Church Planting Movement.” The apostolic team should learn as much as they can about other Church Planting Movements and develop a specific plan for reaching their group. This will only come after many days of prayer, fasting and research.

• Disciple Making Begins.
After learning the basics of language to the point that the team can share their testimony and some simple Bible stories they can now locate some people and find that “person of peace” (Luke 10) and “partner” with them. The apostolic team will then initiate their disciple making movement strategic plan and continue to learn the language. The apostolic team should regularly communicate with the network to let them know their plans. This allows for the network to know the necessary resources that are needed to assist the apostolic team to accomplish their strategic plan. The network also should contact other networks to see where they can partner and assist the team.

After several months the apostolic team should be able to develop relationships with a few men and women of peace (see Kevin Greeson, Camel Training Manual Bangalore, India: WIGTake Resources, 2004, pgs 35-41.). The apostolic team then begins to meet on a regular basis with these new disciples in order to prepare them to be disciple makers among their own people. It is not long before these new believers are sent out to reach their own people and quickly led many to the Lord, disciple them and see churches planted among their own people group. These new churches will be discipling apostolic leaders to make disciples thus planting house churches. Throughout this process the disciple making movement begins with no control or personal involvement of the apostolic team or network from the USA. To do otherwise would stifle the growth of the churches.

• Don’t Rush the Process.
This process may take several years to accomplish, and it is time well spent. There will be churches being planted among the unreached people group who will be rapidly reproducing across their region wherever the unreached are found. The apostolic team needs to stay out of the way and serve as coaches to these new churches amongst this people group.

Conclusion: What can we learn from this?

A house church network can successfully do missions, not just any missions, but strategic missions reaching unreached people groups. Remember, “An unreached people group is a people group within which there is no viable indigenous church planting movement with sufficient strength, resources, and commitment to sustain and ensure the continuous multiplication of churches.”

Would you like to see to see a missions movement started and maintained to the point that they not only reach their “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and ends of the earth” but that they also become a model for other churches assisting them to do the same even to the point of providing a network of apostolic sending churches working together to reach the unreached? Can your house church be a mobilized apostolic church which has birthed a missions movement such as this?

How does this happen? Can this be done? Is the process I have described above impossible for the house church? Is it unrealistic to think that simple, organic, house churches can do this? It is God’s desire that every tribe, nation and tongue become part of his Church. If the house church movement is to be more than a movement or more than a method, it is to be at the center of what God is doing in His Church today. The house church movement will then be at the forefront in reaching the unreached fulfilling her apostolic mission.

Now, what are you going to do?

[Don is available to come to your area and share with your group or network to assist your church to reach the unreached. dondavis@house2harvest.org ]

Works Cited (Parts 1-10)
Accelerating International Missions Strategies. Steps Towards a Mature Missions Movement in the Local Church Seminar. Virginia Beach, VA: AIMS, 2007.
Accelerating International Missions Strategies. Harvest Connection Seminar. Virginia Beach, VA: AIMS, 2007.
Garrison, David. Church Planting Movements – How God is Redeeming a Lost World. Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004
Greeson, Kevin. Camel Training Manual. Bangalore, India: WIGTake Resources, 2004.
Hirsch, Allen. The Forgotten Ways, Reactivating the Missional Church. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos Press, 2006.

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