missions


Several months ago my wife and I were observing the fact that some of the things we were doing were not producing the results we were expecting. We felt like we were adrift and needed to hear from the Lord regarding what we should do or what needed to change. So we took a few days off and went away to seek the Lord. We found a beautiful cabin the mountains of southwestern Virginia and determined to find our way as we listened to the Lord. To make it brief, what we discovered was that because of my ideal view of what the church should be, I had become stingy with the calling and gifts that the Lord had freely given me. I was given these gifts to minister and equip the Body of Christ, but because of my dreams for Church as God sees it, I was withholding what Jesus had given to me.

 

The solution is not yet clear other than I need to stop being exclusive and be willing to serve the Church regardless of how she functions. Therefore I committed myself to the Lord to serve his bride no matter what she looked like. That brought be to a place to consider what a more blended church would look like and the process to bring her to a more organic, simple expression which gave me the opportunity to write up this strategic plan. By “coincidence” after this time of seeking the Lord, I had received Neil Cole’s newest book (with Phil Helfer); “Church Transfusion – Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out” which greatly influenced some of my conclusions and observations. I recommend this book greatly.

The following strategic plan is in no way exhaustive or set in stone. It is still in the theoretical stage, and will certainly need to be tweaked as the opportunity to apply this plan is pursued. The idea of merging the concepts of organic, simple church to a traditional attractional model church is revolutionary. Although some have accomplished this with success[1], it is still experimental and risky. With the Lord’s direction, can an already established congregation be lead into a more simple and organic church life?

FIRST, 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”[2]

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 and ministry teams, 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 him.

The work of the Church in the world today has become complicated and systematic rather than simple and organic. Therefore the goal of this change 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.[3] 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?[4]

  • 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.”[5]

George Barna has discovered that:

  • 4 out of 10 born again Christians 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.

WHAT WOULD THE PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY, GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND GOALS OF THIS ATTEMPT TO TRANSITION FOR A TRANDITIONAL, ATTRACTIONAL MODEL TO A SIMPLE, ORGANIC CHURCH?

Jesus is Primary – Jesus is the center of all that is said and done. Jesus is Lord will be the core affirmation then everything else will follow. From a Revelation of Jesus to Mission – Disciple Making to Church Happens.

Traditionally we establish a church, and then we develop programs and events with the intention to make disciples.. Knowing Jesus comes by revelation. This revelation of Jesus comes first, and then discipleship happens focusing on the mission and life of the disciple. This is the activity that causes real church to happen. Jesus’ will is to always remain the head of the church. So we are to reveal Jesus to them, disciple them and while this is going on, church happens! This also puts Jesus in his rightful place of building His church rather than men building his church.

Be Incarnational/Missional – It has been said that “What we draw them with is what we draw them to.”[6] That being said, the church must attract them to Jesus rather than to human achievements, personalities and programs. Although attractional churches make it easy for some seekers to visit them, incarnational churches go to where the people are instead of spending time and energy attracting people to come to a service. We see our God as a missionary God and we are a sent people.

 Walk in love – Agape love is to be our motivation. Agape is love without expecting anything is return. It is the same love in which God loves us. In relationships with one another and the community, our goal will be to express the love of God to all. Our attitude towards other churches in the Body of Christ will be that of love and not comparing ourselves to them, but blessing them.

 Main focus is on Making Disciples – Discipleship will be the purpose of all activities. The simple, organic church discipleship desires to make no man or women dependent upon one leader or any source (such as curriculum or meetings) for spiritual growth and maturity. The goal is to make the disciple totally dependent on his relationship with Jesus using the Bible and his relationship with the Lord as his primary source. The only tools needed for the follower of Christ is his Bible and his life being applied to God’s word. Simply, they need to learn to feed themselves rather being dependent on a preacher to feed them. It has been said “to make a disciple all you need is two people who are willing to surrender to Jesus, the Word of God, and then use life’s circumstances that Jesus has given you as the curriculum, and maybe do this over a meal or a cup of coffee.”

 Resist Dualism – Dualism is the practice of seeing life divided as sacred and secular. Our goal is to see all of our life sacred. God is not just in church or worship services. We must see him in all aspects of life. Many times we have two spheres of life – our church life, and our life in the world. This is in error. You are the same whether in church or at work or visiting family or at play with your friends. When a part of our life is separate from our spiritual life or Christian life (church life); that part of our life is the breeding ground for idolatry. When we see all of our life under Jesus’ lordship and sacred, our spiritually is genuine and real. When we give our life to Jesus, our life becomes His, therefore all of our life is sacred.

Recognize the Priesthood of All Believers – Everyone has a part, a gift, and no one is better than another. Every believer must function as a priest and king. The church is a gathering of these priests and kings; a chosen people doing the Lord’s will. Since Jesus builds his Church, we can trust that He has placed those within the congregation with the much needed gifting to accomplish His purpose both generally and unequally for that specific congregation.

WHAT WOULD SOME OF THE GOALS BE TO ACCOMPLISH THIS TRANSITION?

Here are some basic goals that would guide the congregation to a simpler, organic expression of church.

  1. Transition the church from a traditional/institutional/attractional model to a simple/organic model.
  2. To use the facility (which many times has an historic and cultural identity in a community) as a bridge to the community that expects church to be in a building and that has Sunday services. This will facilitate and spiritual environment where when there is gathering, it leads to scattering. The building will be seen as a tool and not a sanctuary or temple.
  3. To make disciples who follow Christ and are able to mature regardless of the condition of organized Christianity or society, but based upon their relationship with Jesus and their family in Christ.
  4. To equip the church to do the work of the ministry via the gifting/function of the apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd and teacher.
  5. To acknowledge the church as already sent into areas of the community to reach those who may never come to a church service; establishing discipleship groups in homes, businesses and social gathering points.
  6. To prepare the congregation to reach/disciple the nations (people groups) that have come into our communities as well as those who live in areas of the world where the gospel has not been preached.
  7. To multiply the numbers of disciples that then make disciples themselves. Growth will not be measured by those who attend a service, but by those who are actively doing the ministry of Jesus as He has gifted and called them.
  8. To serve as a base for other simple, organic, and house churches who need a place to gather with other believers for times of celebration, instruction and fellowship beyond their own small gathering.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE STRATEGIC STEPS THAT NEED TO BE TAKE?

It is difficult to be exact regarding a complete strategy without having an opportunity to dialogue at length with an actual congregation. But there are several strategic steps that need to be taken in order to accomplish the goals mentioned earlier. All of these will need to be established in prayer and a gentle spirit. These steps will certainly overlap so they are not meant to be a hard fast sequence of events.

Get to know the congregation. The leadership of the congregation needs to get to know each person individually and learn about their dreams and visions. They should want to spend enough time with them to know where they were in their relationship with Jesus and the church. During this stage, not much would change within the activities of the church including the worship service. If any changes are made it would be done with a clear consensus of the active church members and for the purpose of instruction. There will also be a intentional plan where each of the members of the congregation get to know one another as well.

Prepare the congregation for change. This would be done through teaching both during the main service as well as in small groups and informal gatherings and visits.

Begin to introduce simple, organic church practices including the development of small groups in homes, the marketplace and gathering places outside the church facility. These gatherings would be developed in response to a valid paradigm shift amongst the congregation and not a dictated mandate. Let Jesus lead. These gatherings will include the following (not necessarily in any specific order):

  • Meal/Lord’s Supper – There will be regular meals at the church facility as well as other places where they would gather.
  • Praise and Prayer – Focusing on Jesus.
  • Sharing what God has done, and is doing, as well as words of encouragement and revelation.
  • Ministry – exercising the gifts focusing on one another’s needs. Traditionally referred to as “body ministry.”
  • Ministering God’s Word via teaching, dialogue, discussion and exhortation.

The Sunday service will be focused on celebration and reporting together what the Lord is doing in our lives. There will be corporate training and encouragement in the form of teaching and exhortation. I Cor. 14:26 will be the standard or “order of service”, therefore being a participatory meeting.

Watch for leadership to emerge as each one does his part to serve, both in the context of the activities of the congregation and in other areas of their own life.

Begin to undergird and support those who have a specific burden or call, equipping them to do the work of the ministry. The ministry of the church will take shape based upon the gifting and callings of those whom the Lord has brought together. This is opposite of the traditional model where the pastor leads the congregation to do the ministry in which the pastor feels must be accomplished. Certainly the pastors and other fivefold leaders may have areas of ministry that they have a burden for, but these will not be the only ministries established, but it will be from the congregation as a whole. The congregation would encourage that as they gather, they would then scatter to reach their local community and the world.

 Prepare for growth. As the saints begin to do the work of the ministry throughout the region, harvest will happen. Therefore there will be groups of believers in many settings and sizes as well as the Sunday gathering at the main facility. Growth will be spontaneous and beyond the control of what can happen at the main facility. Growth will then be in the hands of Jesus who builds his Church, rather than man controlling and manipulating the growth.

WHAT ARE SOME OF THE CHALLENGES?

There will certainly be challenges regarding this strategy both internally and externally. Change is hardly ever welcomed.

The Congregation – The challenges amongst the congregation will be in the area of understanding and then agreeing with the proposed changes. Therefore, approach these challenges with love and gentleness but without compromising our purpose. Time and patience will be of utmost importance. Knowing when to wait and when to initiate takes the wisdom of the Lord. Therefore, the congregation will need to spend much time together not only in discussion, but prayer as they seek the Lord’s will together.

In the areas that seem to contradict simple, organic church. This will be in the areas of the clergy/laity issue, using a traditional church facility, being part of a perceived institution such as a denomination or “covering” organization, distribution of funds, and those who come expecting to be part of an attractional/program centered church. Each of these areas will need to be discussed, taught and understood. This will take much time and patience as well.

Expectations from the denomination or “covering” organization. One of the greatest challenges will be to get them to not only understand what is being done, but to accept it and give us space to experiment and follow the Lord’s leading. Our desire would be to always follow scripture rather than tradition. This may be perceived as rebellion or foolish by some, but I would attempt to maintain a loving respectful relationship and hopefully this experiment would prove to be a model to help the churches of the organization to become more fruitful and effective in making disciples and transforming communities with the gospel of the Kingdom.

Concerns regarding finances. Most organic, simple church folk do not subscribe to using tithing as a binding principle but see it as an Old Covenant law and practice. This does not mean that giving is not practiced; in fact statistically it is usually greater in organic, simple churches as much as we can tell. There is a strong belief in biblical giving from a New Covenant perspective which has greater sacrifice than the Old Covenant. There is very little measurement of who gives and how much other than the results of what we see many networks accomplish. Funds are usually not gathered for buildings, programs or clergy, but to help the poor and accomplish mission. The congregation can continue to take up offerings, and encourage those who may be gathering outside of the Sunday morning service at the church facility to participate in giving as well. But if they determine to use their financial gifts for other reasons, they should be free to do so.

How will the challenge to pay for the facility and staff be met? The staff will need to be providing a service that is not merely tied to the institutional activities of a church, but are truly providing a service to the congregation. Of course, this should never be true in the area of discipleship and ministry, which is the main purpose of the church. Instead funds are provided for those who are accomplishing tasks whose time requirements prohibit them from working in the marketplace.

Keep in mind that working in the marketplace is not less spiritual than working in the church. In most simple, organic churches which are small and usually home based, there is no need for a paid pastor or minister. In a blended model, a full time senior leader could easily justify receiving a salary based upon responsibilities and time commitments. The key is for the senior leader never to allow folks to become dependent upon him, but to be dependent on the Lord for all things. Full time ministry does not position us to have a closer walk with the Lord, or to have a special relationship that allows us to hear God better, nor does it qualify us to lord over others. It should be merely practical and not mandated.

All that being said; offerings would still be taken at most events and the understanding of biblical financial principles will be part of the discipleship process.

Concerns regarding the facility. Make the facility available to the community. If needed. the facility could be rented by several congregations which would help to pay for the upkeep and expenses of having a facility and possible supplement the cost of any staff including the senior leader. See the facility become more of a community center for the surrounding area. This would lead towards the facility being used throughout the week rather than one or two times.

It would be continually affirmed in word and practice that the facility is merely a tool of the Lord, but not a sanctuary or temple. It would be clear that the body of Christ, the people, is the only temple or house of the Lord.

CONCLUSION

As mentioned previously, this is not an exact science, but an experiment in doing church in a way that is familiar to many who are meeting in houses and are detached from a traditional denominational structure. But many are now attempting to bring the simple, organic way of being the church into their traditional context. This will not be easy; in fact organic, simple church can be more difficult than what we are used to doing. This is not because in its methods or practices we find greater difficulty, it is really much simpler. But, it is because we are not used to going in that direction or doing things that way. It is so much easier to do things the way we always have done and know how to do them. We have all heard the famous quote; “The definition of insanity is to continue to do the same thing over and over and expecting different results.” In this age we live in, we must seek and do something different in order to get different results. This dilemma is truly at the heart of the challenge.

It reminds me of when I used to drive in the snow before the roads where plowed and the ruts in the snow were deep and if you went into them you were sure to get stuck. Therefore you had to force yourself to drive out of the rut, straddling the ruts and fighting the tendency to fall back into them. This was very difficult, but fighting the wheel and staying out of the rut was the only solution. It is the same regarding changing the way we “do church” as we make our way in these changing times to reach our communities and bring transformation to those who live among us by the simple gospel of the Kingdom. We can drive into the ruts with ease. In fact we can just drift normally right into them; we don’t even have to fight the wheel! But if we do this, we find ourselves stuck and going nowhere.

I believe the simple, organic way of being the church is more than a model, but it is the way God intended his church to be and be seen. As we see our nation become more and more distant from the gospel, plus embracing a more post-modern worldview, we must be brave and trust the Lord to lead us beyond our previous understanding and traditions. Thus we see the changes around us as a tool of the Lord and not a barrier to the gospel and relationship with Jesus.

What do you think? What have you experienced in attempting to assist a congregation to function in a more organic, simple way?

[1] Cole, Neil, Church Transfusion – Changing Your Church Organically From the Inside Out, Jossey-Bass, 2012

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

[3] 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

[4] Source: Dawn Ministries, 2007

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

[6] Cole, Neil, Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens, Jossey-Bass, 2005, pg. 95

Other Sources:

Frost, Michael and Hirsch, Allen, The Shaping of Things to Come: Innovation and Mission for the 21 Century Church, Hendrickson Publishers, 2003

Hirsch, Alan, The Forgotten Ways – Reactivating the Missional Church, Brazos Press, 2006

Many years ago I became aware of unreached or least-reached people groups and it changed my whole view regarding my purpose and calling. I would like to share with you how this came about, but first let me give you a simple definition of the unreached (also called least-reached). According to Joshua Project and many others who have also embraced this definition, it is

“An unreached or least-reached people is a people group among which there is no indigenous community of believing Christians with adequate numbers and resources to evangelize this people group”.

Now a people group is simply a group of people who have a common affinity with one another in which the gospel can spread without encountering barriers of understanding and acceptance (also from Joshua Project).

I was serving as pastor of a small church that we planted in 1983 in West Chester, PA. After about five or six years we began to prepare ourselves and others in the congregation to take a team into inner city Philadelphia to plant a church in the Kensington/Northern Liberties area of Philly. I enrolled in the Center for Urban Theological Studies in Philly (part of Geneva College) to hopefully prepare me for the road ahead. I had always had an interest in missions, and it was during that time that I subscribed to Mission Frontiers magazine. One of the issues I received contained a chart of all the unreached people groups in the world. As I began to read the over 7,000 names of these people groups from nations around the world I began to weep and desired to know more about what it would take to reach these who know nothing about Jesus, and no one is going to them to tell them about Him. I also had “ears to hear” when I read Matthew 24:14 which says:

“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.” (NIV)

It was not long after that that I received and invitation to go to Indonesia and serve in the development of a recently established indigenous bible school. My strategy to go to the inner city and plant a church became pointless since there are thousands of churches in Philly, but my heart was now consumed with the fact that there were over 7,000 people groups that had no gospel witness available to them in the form of a church in their own language and culture.

Within two years my family (my wife and four daughters) moved to Indonesia to serve for the primary purpose of assisting the students of that bible school to focus their efforts on those people groups in Indonesia and other nations who have no gospel witness. Our adventure in Southeast Asia began and continues on to this day even though we do not presently live there.

Over the years, we have found ourselves involved in ministries overseas as well as here in the states that have reaching the unreached as their primary task. But lately, another passion has developed while serving in Asia assisting others to reach the unreached; and that is, seeing the church function in a more simple, organic way that focuses on making disciples. While training workers to go into the unreached areas of Southeast Asia we had to first “un-train” them regarding how to do and be the church and learn how to make disciples in a simple, organic way that fit the culture and understanding of the people they were reaching.

Upon returning to the states, I was “ruined” for church as I had always known and even served as leadership in the past. I longed for a more simple, organic expression focusing on making disciples rather than all the other “stuff” churches find themselves invested in.  So I began to familiarize myself with those who are part of the simple, organic and house church movements here in the USA. What a blessing to meet those who had come to the same conclusions as I had regarding church. But something was lacking: the zeal and burden for the unreached. This new direction caused me to be involved with many who have no present tangible desire to reach the unreached. Fortunately, I had met a few who were personally sacrificing and doing what they could to reach unreached peoples in India, China, and other nations, but these individuals are few, and congregation and networks are hardly nowhere to be found although I am sure there are some out there.

This is why in 2007 we started House2Harvest Network to serve, network and assist simple, organic churches and house churches to do strategic missions in order to finish the task of reaching all peoples with the gospel. Needless to say, the results have been slow. Unfortunately I have not been able to devote as much time as needed to accomplish our goals, but we are praying that this will soon change. I am still deeply moved when I read the list of unreached people groups, and I pray that our role in the near future will become more productive in seeing hundreds of teams from the simple, organic, house church movements take the gospel to these pioneer regions and begin making disciples where there are no disciples.

You can find the most recent list at: Joshua Project’s Unreached Listing

Will you weep with me!

In the times that we live in, it is easy to drift away from the Lord and his direction in our life. We can get overcome by circumstances, disappointments and doubts. We can get caught up in theological debates, or trying to “do church” the right way, that we miss the basics. In our reaction against a system that can be abusive and controlling, we can easily enter into a state of self-centeredness and forget the call to reach those who have never heard the gospel, or have not heard the complete gospel of the Kingdom. The important thing is that we run and finish the race that our Lord has set before us.

Several years ago I heard this illustration (I forget the source, so I apologize if I get some of the details wrong.): During the Olympics in Mexico there was an amazing track and field event where a runner from Africa arrived to the finish line, which was in the stadium, long after the race was finished. He came limping into the stadium barely able to walk. He had fallen during the race and broken his leg. His arrival into the stadium was so late that everyone was packing up and cleaning. There were less than 1,000 folks left in the stands. The runner refused to stop and makes his last lap of the race around the stadium track. As he approaches the final turn, people stopped what they were doing and begin to applaud. Everyone left in the stadium gave him a standing ovation. Years later he was being interviewed about his experience in the Olympics. This runner, who was a poor farmer in Africa, was asked; “Why did you insist on doing that final lap around the stadium that day knowing that your leg was injured and you were the last to arrive, and it was very late? This humble African farmer answered; “My country did not send me to the Olympics to start and run a race, but to finish the race!”

Are we prepared to finish the race that the Lord has set before us? One of the portions of Scripture that speaks to me that helps me is that Psalm that is used many times in traditional services that speak a blessing over the congregation as a benediction. This is usually spoken at the end of a service, but it is really the Lords blessing over us as we are sent out with his blessing, his benediction! It reveals our Lord’s desire for his people.  In these short seven verses God reveals his heart for the nations and his desire to involve you in the process by blessing you.

Psalm 67.

v.1 May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face shine upon us, Selah

The Lord give you grace and he blesses you like an affirming parent, looking at you with endearment. Why does he do this?

v.2 that your ways may be known on earth, your salvation among all nations.

He blesses us so that His ways will be known on the earth, this includes all nations. The result of this promise or this blessing is found in verse 3.

v.3 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

The nations will praise God because his kingdom has come to them. Will you reveal Jesus to them?

v.4 May the nations be glad and sing for joy, for you rule the peoples justly and guide the nations of the earth.  Selah

v.5 May the peoples praise you, O God; may all the peoples praise you.

When this is happening, great things happen! Harvest will come!

v.6 Then the land will yield its harvest, and God, our God, will bless us.

v.7 God will bless us, and all the ends of the earth will fear him.

The race set before us is really the Lord’s race, and we run with Him to take his gospel to the nations and to our neighbors.  He blesses us to be a blessing to the world around us, not forgetting the nations. Are we willing to finish the race regardless of how we perceive our condition, or our position in the race? As a proponent of simple, organic church life, let us not forget our Lord’s purpose for blessing us.

What should we do? Where to do we begin? This is something we do together with those we fellowship and serve. Do you need help finishing the race? That is why we need one another, provoking one another in love to do the Lord’s will. If you or your fellowship needs some help in this area, I would be glad to correspond with you or come to your group and talk about it. May you be blessed to reach those who do not yet know Jesus! You can contact me at dondavis@house2harvest.org

Blessings to You!

Don

Many who are involved in simple, organic, house church soon come to the conclusion that there is tremendous value in networking together. (I will be referring to this as “simple church” for the remainder of this article, but certainly include those who prefer to describe themselves as organic or house.)  How this networking is administrated is usually the sticky part. We don’t want to establish some hierarchy, a “good-ole-boys (and gals)” network, and head down the path of “death by institution.” But we do want to link together with our family in Christ to accomplish those things that may be too difficult for one simple church to do.

If you are involved in a simple church you know that there are many things that you can freely do now that was impossible to do in the more traditional or institutional church expression. But there are a few things that cannot be done in a small gathering by itself. That is one of the reasons why it is important to network. Some of these reasons would be; sharing the five-fold (apostle, prophet, evangelist, shepherd, teacher) giftings in a region, building relationships from church to church for encouragement, training events, celebration events, fellowship and holiday events, and assisting one another through tough times and situations. I am sure there are others.

One of the greatest values of networking is the ability to pool resources, both financially and with members of the body to accomplish mission both locally and internationally. Now it is my conviction that mission is at the core of the church’s cause. Therefore it should not be such a strange thing to consider being missional, or doing missions or simply obeying Christ’s command to “go and make disciples of all . . .”. The question is, how do we apply what we believe? Isn’t that where we usually have the most difficulty!

The networking of simple churches will lead to an increase of sending, and supporting mission teams. How do we do this? What will it look like? How do we guard from forming something that will lead us away from the main thing? How do we balance our intentional goals and dreams with the leading of the Lord as we obey him by doing only what we see him doing? These are not easy questions. They cannot be answered in a vacuum. As we seek the Lord together and dialogue regarding what we have heard and perceive we can come to some consensus and serve our Lord together in varying degrees of relationships. For clarification, when I speak of networking, I am merely referring to connecting together relationally to the point where we are willing to share resources, and ideas in order to accomplish the Lord’s will.

Therefore, I have an idea or a proposal that may help us accomplish this networking among simple churches. What if we had a “roundtable” face to face get together? Why do we need to do this?

Several reasons:

  1. To strengthen our relationships for the purpose of doing mission together.
  2. Learn about what we are doing in mission.
  3. Discover how we can improve what we are doing in mission via our networking and partnering relationships..
  4. Discover what is acceptable in regards to raising funds and mobilizing individuals for missions projects and sending teams.
  5. Establish some clear guidelines regarding how we can effectively fund the missions effort via simple churches and networks.
  6. Spend some quality time listening to what the Lord is saying (via prayer) to us regarding what we should be doing together.
  7. And I am sure there are other reasons.

This would basically be an informal roundtable/retreat setting, possibly over 2 days at most. Of course there will be some costs involved regarding lodging and facility, but I think we can secure a reasonable location. No dates are being considered yet. We have discussed this on the simple church and missions networking site: House2Harvest Network, and there has been nothing but a positive response to this idea. It would be great if you could share your ideas, concerns and such as we begin to make plans to have this gathering.

Please remember that there is no desire to gather a large number of people, but the right people. It will not be a preaching or presentation time, but dialogue, discussion and sharing what we are hearing from the Lord.

What do you think? Let’s share our thoughts together here are go to the House2Harvest site and reply in the forum section. You will have to join the network in order to interact with others on this topic and many more. Logistically we will not be able to cater to everyone’s geographic, calendar and economic preferences, but by the end of December we hope to have a time secured as well as a location.

So I put a shout out to any of you, if you have or know of a retreat center that is available at a very low cost that would not be difficult for folks to get to from throughout the USA please let me know. Also, if you would like to attend and there are some dates in 2012 that would be impossible for you to participate, let me know those dates as well. We will try to choose a date that fits the best. Reply to me personally if you would like at dondavis@house2harvest.org

Hope to hear from you soon!

Don Davis

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!

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