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

Do we know what it takes to reach your community where hundreds are coming to the Lord? Not really, but we do know what hinders harvest and the making of disciples. Certainly we can try different things that have worked in the past, but it is God who brings the increase. We can learn from those who have gone before us and observe from their examples. In this article I want to talk about those historical and biblical lessons and see how they can help us become effective in reaching our communities and neighborhoods.

If you have read Alan Hirsch book; The Forgotten Ways you discovered in his introduction some simple facts. Here are a few things that Alan mentions:

In the year 100 AD there were less than 25,000 followers of Jesus. By the year 310 AD when Christianity became legal, there were over 20 million followers of Jesus. How did the church grow like this? What caused them to grow so quickly? They grew from a small insignificant movement to the most significant religious force in the Roman Empire in just 200 years. There were no telephones, no newspapers, no TV, no radio, no books, no tracts, no Bible as we know it today, and no church campus!

That begs the question; then how did they do it? They were an illegal religion throughout this period of growth. In some places they were tolerated, but in most places they were persecuted. They did not have church buildings, but they met in homes. They did not even have the scriptures as we do today, but scrolls and letters. There were no Bible schools, seminaries or professional clergy. There were no youth groups, Sunday school, worship bands, or commentaries for study. What an amazing example for us.

This is similar to what we have seen happen in China. During the Communist revolution there were over 2 million believers. The churches during this time were patterned after the those in the west established by western missionaries. The missionaries were kicked out of China, during that time, senior pastors were killed, and all second and third level leaders were either killed or imprisoned. All public meetings were banned and there arose a persecution as never seen before in the history of the Church. There was an attempt to destroy Christianity in China.

In the early 1980’s a small number of missionaries were allowed back into China but under much control. These missionaries expected to see a weak and battered church in this communist nation. Instead they found that the church had flourished and was over 60 million strong! Today there are over 150 million believers (some estimates are putting the number over 200 million) with very few Bibles, no professional clergy, no official leadership, no central organization, no mass meetings, or buildings, but they are growing faster than they can be counted!

Another example is what is happening in northern India today. In May 2009 over 300,000 new believers were baptized on the same day (the day of Pentecost)! The number of simple churches started in some of the most difficult areas of northern India and Bangladesh that are now numbering in the hundreds of thousands! This has happened in the last 20 years!

In the oppressive nation of Myanmar (Burma) I have heard the testimony first hand of a church planter that in the year 2005 had planted 20 churches with 63 believers (these are small house churches). After learning some basic simple church planting principles things began to change. By 2009 there were over 6100 simple churches with over 23,000 believers. This does not include the 1600 believers that were killed and 400 churches were lost in the cyclone of 2008!

How did this happen and what can we learn from them? They kept things simple.

We read in 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.”

Making Disciples has become the missing element of church life. Instead we are consumed with scheduling events, providing services and developing programs. We need to return to the simple task of making disciples. How did Jesus make disciples? He is our example.

We read in John 1:35-39:

 The next day John was there again with two of his disciples. When he saw Jesus passing by, he said, “Look, the Lamb of God!”  When the two disciples heard him say this, they followed Jesus. Turning around, Jesus saw them following and asked, “What do you want?” They said, “Rabbi” (which means Teacher), “where are you staying?”  “Come,” he replied, “and you will see.” So they went and saw where he was staying, and spent that day with him. It was about the tenth hour

 Take note that the disciples started walking behind Jesus; he turned and asked them “What do you want?” What was interesting was the answer to his question. They answered with the question; “Where do you live?” They wanted to know where he lived; they wanted to spend time with him. They did not want to go to a seminar, a classroom, a worship service or follow some curriculum, they wanted to spend some time with Jesus at his house. Jesus was fulfilling a promise that God has spoken throughout the ages.

This promise began with Adam and Eve and then to Shem and then the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. This promise was spoken by the Lord in several ways. This promise of God is can be summed up as this:

  1. I will be your God
  2. You will be my People
  3. I will dwell in the midst of you. Dwell – tabernacle

This is the central theme to the whole Bible! The promise is a declaration of assurance, a proclamation of what God has planned for all nations, tribes and tongues – for YOU! This promise is declared a number of ways throughout the scriptures over and over again. Consider this promise and how it has affected your life:

First: God will be Your God. God is a jealous God and he wants you, and he wants to be your only God! God wants to take care of you as a loving Father.

Second: Refers to who you belong to – You will be my people. God wants to possess you. He desires to do nothing less than to own you. He will even put His name on you!.

And third: I will dwell among YOU. As a follower of Jesus, You are the tabernacle of God. Therefore, he is in your midst at all times. Do we have to enter into His presence, to pray, to praise?  Of course not, He is with us at all times!  He is ever present in us.  “Christ in YOU the hope of Glory” – Colossians 1:27. He is with us, “surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” – Matt 28:20.

This promise is why we have been called to go and make disciples. Should we keep this promise to ourselves? Never! And there is urgency to this call, Jesus said in Matthew 24:14And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come.”

It is clear that God is doing new thing today, which is really an old thing. He’s changing the way we think! He’s causing us to look at what He wants rather than what we want. We are in need of a change in the Body of Christ! I am sure you have heard the quote attributed to Albert Einstein that “The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results”

Why do we keep doing things the same way? We have erected walls to limit who we can reach, both physical and cultural walls. We have established traditions that keep out those who are not religious or like us.

Consider this, The Church is called to reach the lost within a given community or city. The Church is not just one congregation, but it is all the congregations within a given area, city or county who are faithful to the Lord and His Word. Who makes up these congregations? First, individuals, then their families, and whole households make up congregations within any given region or city. So, who really reaches the people within a community or city? The individuals, families, even whole households! These reach the community, not the organized or institutional Church. It is people that reach people!

How do we usually try to reach our communities? We try evangelistic programs. But, less than 10% of all new believers come to Christ via an evangelistic program, the rest are brought to Jesus through relationships. Or we try events to get people to come to the Church building. Those who come are usually believers already. If we do this, we have to get them to like what we do in Church and like us before we can get them to know Jesus! This is so complicated.

Now consider this: we are to make our homes ministry centers, the place where we reach out from to reach our community! If we look at the book of Acts as our example, we see who households not only coming to know Christ, but reaching out to others. (Acts 20:20; 2:46-47; 5:42; Acts 16:13-15, 31-33)

Is it possible to reach a community house by house! Absolutely! “But that’s not the traditional way of ministry in the Church” Then we can remain to be accused of being insane!

Jesus said, ““By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.” (John 15:8-9) The Kingdom of God is a kingdom built on right relationships, first with God and then with each other. Then fruit is born. We become a healthy household (Oikos) living life together reflecting the love, care and compassion of Christ to all those in our sphere of influence because we are his disciples, and disciples are being made. Can you see the fulfillment of the promise: I will be your God, your will be my people and I will dwell among you?

Some big questions to ask ourselves:

(1)   What are we willing to do or change to see those in our community come into the Kingdom? Our traditions and our fears can keep us from becoming the people of God who with humility and gentleness can be used by God to deliver His message of love and redemption to a hurting and dying world.

(2)   How do we view the Church? Is it the new lifestyle of the redeemed, where we share life with God and each other in the Power of the Holy Spirit? Are we truly a supernatural people, happening 24-7, not just 2 hours in a 168 hour week? Are we living The Way of Life, as it was once called where we are essentially a family, not company or business. Are we organic and not organized? Are we relational, not institutional? In other words are we a church as God wants it, rather than a Church as we know it?

(3)   How can our homes become ministry centers? It starts with who you are. In your very being you become a ministry center from your own personal treasure in Christ. Then where you live becomes a ministry center. Your home is a reflection of who you are. You are a minister of what is in you and your home will become a ministry center. Then, your neighborhood, friends, family can be reached as the opportunities open up and you have a real rather than contrived vision and purpose to reach them. What happens then is that you begin to fulfill what the Church is called to do by YOU doing it in your own home where God dwells in you.

(4)   Can you do it? Yes! That is God’s plan in 1 Corinthians 1:26-29 we read:

26  Brothers, think of what you were when you were called. Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth. 27  But God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise; God chose the weak things of the world to shame the strong. 28  He chose the lowly things of this world and the despised things– and the things that are not– to nullify the things that are, 29  so that no one may boast before him.

(5)   What hinders us from opening our homes?

To open our homes, we must see ourselves as servants in the midst of our society. We serve the message of the Kingdom, making disciples. This means that we must learn to be hospitable and open our lives up to others.

(6)   What happens when we only do this in the Church Building?

  • People think they have to attend a meeting or go to a building to hear from God.
  • The powerful truth of the priesthood of every believer is forgotten because we have become dependent on clergy for our spiritual health and truth.
  • People become temple focused rather than people focused in their service to the Lord.
  • People become temple focused in their worship experience rather than it being a part of their life throughout each day.
  • People see the Church as an institution or a building rather than a family – the people God.
  • We become business driven in ministry rather than service driven.
  • We must do some activity in order to attract customers or prospects to come into our meetings, rather than taking the Gospel of the Kingdom to where we live – which is where the world lives!

(7)   What should we do?

  1. We need to dedicate our homes – ministry centers to the Lord.
  2. Cultivate a godly atmosphere in our homes and cultivate hospitality.
  3. Allow our home to become homes of His glory, His manifested presence.
  4. Our homes are to be houses of prayer.
  5. Our homes become homes of the promise that HE will dwell with us because He is our God and we are his people.

Whatever we have expected our churches to be, our homes must first be. Why do we expect our experience in our churches to be different than our homes? Are we not the Church? We are the condition of the church; it is not our methods, our structures, or activities, our programs or our church’s name. The church is who we are in Christ. We are the body of Christ. Do we believe that?

Let’s examine our lives, our homes so that they can be the source of life, light and love in our community where every believer a disciple maker, every home is a place for making disciples, every church building (if you have one) is a training and celebration Center.

A STRATEGIC PLAN EXPLORED – Part Four

[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.]

                                                                 

PHILOSOPHY OF MINISTRY – GUIDING PRINCIPLES AND GOALS:

This is a brief and not exhaustive overview of the philosophy of ministry that would be held to attempt this transition from traditional/attractional to simple/organic:

Jesus is Primary – Jesus is the center of all that is said and done. Jesus is Lord will be the core affirmation, everything else will follow.

Revelation of Jesus   →  →    Mission – Disciple Making  → →   Church Happens.

Traditionally we establish church, and then we attempt to make disciples so that they come to an understanding of who Jesus is. Knowing Jesus comes by revelation. This revelation of Jesus comes first, and then discipleship happens focusing on the mission of the disciple. This activity causes real church to happen. Jesus’ will is to always remain the head of the church. So we reveal Jesus, 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.

 Be Incarnational/Missional – It has been said that “What we draw them with is what we draw them to.”[1] 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 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.

We focus 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 Christ using the Bible and his relationship with Jesus 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.”

We will 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.

We will 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.

GOALS

Here are some basic goals that would guide the congregation to a more simple, 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 gathering.

Now what are some of the steps we should take? I will discuss this in my next post.

Blessings,

Don


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

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

[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.

[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.

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 . . .
So far we have discussed adopting a people group and funding the work to reach an unreached people group. Here are a few more points of a strategic plan for you to consider.

• Discover Other Cultures in Your
Area Another part of the plan could be to take outings into some of the areas of your city that are outside of your own culture. You could take a trip to Chinatown in a large city to observe what the Lord is doing there, eat there food and learn to appreciate their culture. You could walk through these areas and pray and seek the Lord to see what He may have you do. This is best done in conjunction with several churches in your network. If your unreached people group is Muslim (most of them are) you could take a short term trip to Dearborn, Michigan and partner with several other groups who are attempting to reach and plant churches among the large Muslim population in Michigan.

• Hear What Others are Doing.
In your church gathering, invite a missionary guest to come and share regarding their experiences on the mission field. When the opportunities arise, have several churches in your network gather together for a special meeting to hear the stories and learn from one another. You could eat together serving the food and pray for the unreached people group you are called to reach.

• Extend the Vision Throughout Your Network and Beyond
Those in your network will catch the vision to reach the unreached and begin to learn from you. Everyone will get excited that they can do missions to the unreached as well. Many of these churches begin to develop their own strategic plan which includes adopting an unreached people group or joining together with other churches to partner together.

• See The Vision for the Unreached Grow
As your network begins to recognize those who have sensed a call to reach out cross-culturally; provide books, videos and trainings to equip one another to communicate the gospel cross-culturally. (Contact info@house2harvest.org for recommended resources.) Those who are called cross-culturally may begin to meet from time to time to pray, learn and share their experiences with one another.

The church may begin to make efforts to reach into other communities within their city. This will allow your church to successfully make disciples in these other areas. (See the videos “Planting Simple Churches IS Making Disciples” at https://dondavis.wordpress.com/2010/06/28/planting-simple-churches-is-making-disciples/) Therefore, you may see several house churches started among different cultures in their region. The network will now expand beyond your Jerusalem to your Samaria! How does this happen?

A network may realize that they should never neglect the opportunities they have to reach out in their own local area. They came to the conclusion that the local church should be engaged in the discipling of new believers in “Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the ends of the earth.” Therefore they also need a strategic plan to reach out into their local area. They may consider those who are immediate friends and family of those in the church as well as the many internationals that moved into their region. They may also realize that one of the greatest needs evident in the church today is the ability to prepare the congregation to reach the multitude of ethnic groups within their own community. This goes hand and hand with the need to kindle within the hearts of the congregation a godly burden to go to the nations who are unreached. The opportunities that the Lord gives us to reach out into these ethnic communities will cause this burden to become a reality.

There were many opportunities for the church to be a blessing to those in your neighborhoods and communities. As in many regions, you may see an increase of diverse ethnic groups. These groups talk different, they eat different, and some even worship a different god. The Lord has brought the mission field to your doorstep!

In my next blog (part 6) we will be discussing being a “bridge builder.” Link to Part six.

[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 ]