There are many different ways for individuals and simple church communities to express missional impact in the world. But, both mission and community-life are important and there is an intentional rhythm to both.
Recently I was talking to a friend who shared his own experience in living out a regular rhythm for himself and for his community. He meets with seekers and non-believer-friends weekly for food and friendship. They eat together with his family in their home, share stories about their lives, and deepen connection. Out of this, he has found that many people want to discover more about what it means to be a follower of Jesus. At the same time, he meets once or more times a week with those who already are Jesus-followers. At these simple-church gatherings they make time for Acts 2:34 — breaking bread, fellowship, prayer, and the word.
We all have different ways of expressing the mission of Jesus in the world. There is no one-size-fits-all. But I love the way my friend is intentionally balancing between times of mission and times of community shared life.
What does your rhythm look like?
Francis Chan - Letters to the Church
Francis Chan, always an engaging writer, provides a current and fresh look at God’s design for what we commonly call “church.” Rather than comment myself, let me share several quotes and just encourage you to make this a must read!
God designed the Church to be much more than what the majority of us experience in America. There are many of us who believe this and want change. The good news is that God wants this change even more than we do.
The early church didn’t need the energetic music, great videos, attractive leaders, or elaborate lighting to be excited about being a part of God’s body. The pure gospel was enough to put them in a place of awe.
If you think that sitting back and letting the church staff feed you will bring you the most fulfillment, you are so wrong. God promised that those who give will be most blessed (Acts 20:35).
When the Bible describes the power available to you, doesn’t it sound like hyperbole? It seems so extreme, yet we see so little of this in our own lives and in the Church. The discrepancy could challenge your faith in the Scriptures—how can the Bible promise things we never experience in real life? But are you willing to consider that the Bible is accurate and the Church has domesticated us to the point where we doubt our power?
Church, the answer is not to build bigger and nicer cages. Nor is it to renovate the cages so they look more like the wild. It’s time to open the cages, remind the animals of their God-given instincts and capabilities, and release them into the wild.
Alan Hirsch said, “In so many churches the mission of the church has actually become the maintenance of the institution itself.”
It’s time to train people to live in the wild again.
There are elements of modern churches that on the surface seem like good ideas, but they can actually keep us from the biblical vision of unity, true fellowship, mutual love, and pursuit of the mission. Too many look at these elements and insist you can’t have a church without them.
I believe God is leading a movement in this country toward simple, smaller gatherings, and I long to see this movement gain greater traction. I get so excited when I dream about the Church spreading in small, invigorating expressions that look and feel like the early church. My goal is to get you dreaming about this as well.
My hope is simply to convince you that there are compelling ways of living as the Church that look nothing like our traditional models. My goal is to get you dreaming, to keep you from settling, to affirm that nagging sense you can’t shake that God wants something more for His Church than what you’re experiencing.
Simple Church Online Course: Register Now
You can now register for the upcoming “Simple/House Church Revolution Online Course.”
Beginning date is January 22.
NOTE, you can register immediately as there are only 12 spaces remaining on a first come, first served basis!
The goal of this course is for participants to discover more fully God's story and the nature of His church in a way that fully celebrates the freedom of the Gospel and the simplicity, reproducibility, and joy of simple, participatory, 24/7 church life.
- It’s interactive with lots of opportunity to share and hear from others who are on a similar journey.
- It provides a lot of great material that challenges our perspectives and paradigms in order to help us shape our own non-traditional journey.
- It can be life-changing as it sets our course as pursuers of Jesus in the context of simple church life.
Who is this course for? It’s ideal for those who are newly exploring simple/house churches or who are in the process of starting simple/house churches or networks of simple/house churches.
This course helps move us from head knowledge to the practice of principles that can release the DNA of living, reproductive, Jesus-led, simple-house churches that are making disciples who make disciples.
We continue to offer this course when possible because of the feedback we have received from people who have participated in the past:
"A unique and extremely insightful collection of resources, experiences, and other people who will finally let you know that you are not crazy for hoping that there is more of Jesus to be known and shared in a way that is actually simple."
Read more of the description and register here. Look forward to this journey together!
What's Worth Dying For?
I have been thinking that my longing to see unreached people continues to be a driving passion in my own life—especially those who have never had the opportunity to really hear and understand the Good News that Jesus has for them!
But I have been asking myself… Is it worth dying for and am I willing?
Why am I thinking about this?
Maybe it’s the recent story of the 26-year-old American missionary who was killed by a remote Indian tribe. He had planned the trip for two years knowing that his own death was highly likely. His friends didn't stop him because 'that’s what God is calling him to do.’
Or maybe it’s our recent trip to Africa where good friends are now routinely going into dangerous situations:
- Our friends from Rwanda are now making their third trip into a remote area of South Sudan. If someone there had not taken on the role of their personal bodyguard, they likely would have been killed the first time in.
- Our friends from Kenya are routinely going into areas of Turkana and Pokot (remote north) where children carry guns and deadly cattle rustling is the norm.
So, this has brought me to some measure of self-examination. Do I still truly and fully believe deeply that the unreached and the mission that Jesus initiated is worth dying for… and worth giving up my life for?
I hope to say, ‘yes!’ I think back to oh so many years ago, when I was lost. I mean really lost. 19 years old and alone. And confused. And terribly misguided. Headed for more and more trouble. Without purpose or direction or hope. When Jesus sought me out, reached in, and poured grace and forgiveness and unimaginable love. And I went from lost to confidently saved, from pauper to prince, from prisoner to free indeed, from orphan to adopted by Father. From death to life everlasting. How can I not still want this for others with the willingness to pay any price!
But then the follow up question is, ‘so what does that mean?’
For now, I suppose it means that I do not want my focus and passion for the lost to diminish. This is a blog about ‘church’ in the sense of desiring to see expressions of church that reflect life without institutional trappings. But, at the end of the day, none of this matters if my heart is not reflecting that which Jesus himself died for: those who do not know Him including those who are currently beyond the reach of the Gospel.
Maybe this season of Advent is a good time to reflect and renew my own heart in the focus that led to Jesus’ own coming and how I want my coming year to walk out as a result.
Something worth dying for gives life a passion and focus that makes life worth living for!
(Readers, forgive me if I add one more thing on a ministry note. I rarely mention our work and efforts through Appleseed Ministry on this blog, but we have a special year-end focus related to unreached areas and helping the Gospel go to where it is NOT. These funds go 100% directly to field work, not to us, not to our organization, and not to administration. Your partnership here--as well as many other wonderful efforts around the world--can impact directly those who have not heard.)
The Art of Risk
No matter what stage of my walk with Jesus I am in, I find myself frequently challenged to 'take courage' and step out of the boat when Jesus calls.
Have we lost the art of risk when it comes to our faith? Are we settling for play-it-safe, cookie-cutter religion that has no life, teeth, focus, or power to it?
I know risk and faith can be used by irresponsible people to do irresponsible things. But not risking can be used by overly responsible people to avoid the adventure God has called them to. I can fall, all too often, in this latter category!
It’s almost impossible to see God-things happen while we are playing it safe.
Most churches are playing it safe. Many Christians are playing it safe. Yes, risk can sometimes bring with it the element of danger. But, then again, not risking when faith calls us forward could be even more dangerous!
So, today might be a great day to pray about getting out of the boat, burning that play-it-safe bridge, starting that new God-venture or God-inspired adventure, going after that dream even though the stakes are high. Really, what do you have to lose? Really? And, really, what might you have to gain?