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?
God Might Be Preparing You For Global Impact
As we travel in Africa this month, I am reminded that God is doing something special through those who find themselves seeking and living simple/organic expressions of church life. In fact, you might be key to the army God is preparing for needed global impact.
Though progress is being made, some estimate there are still over 6,000 unreached people groups (out of 11,700 total people groups) in which less than 2% are believers. To live within such an unreached group means that it is highly likely you will live and die never hearing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
So, why might simple/organic church folk be the very army that God is preparing for global impact?
1. Training is needed throughout the world in disciplemaking movements that lead to church planting movements so that these large groups of unreached people can be reached with the Gospel. While business/institutional models of church hinder these movements, simple/organic church folk understand the type of church gatherings that can help facilitate and release such movements. This understanding is needed throughout the world.
2. Simple/organic church folk understand that money is not needed for the church to grow and reproduce making it much easier for the Gospel to go forward. Furthermore, much money can be freed up from the west, through simple/organic church expressions to flow into unreached parts of the world.
3. Simple/organic church folk understand that the life of a Jesus follower is a 24/7 lifestyle rather than the passive attendance of church services. This means more vibrant, impactful disciples are made.
4. Simple/organic church folk are committed to hearing and following the voice of Jesus and none other. As we continue to tune our ears more and more to him, it is likely that his heart for ‘all peoples’ will motivate more and more people to reach beyond the comfort of their own people group and extend themselves to reach others.
5. Simple/organic church folk understand that the church is a going organism, not a come-and-sit event. Our mentality is to be involved with Jesus in his mission throughout the world. We live with a readiness to go where he sends!
Hearing From God: Key to Great Gatherings
I posted this several years ago. But it is a good reminder to myself and, hopefully, all of us regardless of what context we are in.
I have found that the key to our gatherings is to learn to listen to the Holy Spirit-- all of us.
In my past life, as a pastor of a traditional church, I felt the responsibility to hear what God is saying and to pass that word along to "the people." Of course, God's word is always God's word and it will always bear fruit. But how much more fruit is available when every Christian discovers his/her gifts and his/her ability to hear the "rhema"-- the living Word through the written word-- and to be able to share those gifts and His word with one another.
The shifts the responsibility for hearing from God to each person-- to everyone-- and that takes some getting used to. But what an explosion can take place as the church worships and listens. Jack Deere (Suprised by the Voice of God) shares this:
The New Testament church was not only the dwelling place for the presence of God, it was also a learning center for the language of the Holy Spirit. People not only worshipped God in church, but they were equipped to hear him, and after hearing God, they were able to give something to someone that would build them up.
In preparation for this, Jack challenges us to consider why we gather as a church. It's not about tickling our spiritual ears or getting a little spiritual lift (though these may well happen), rather he suggests that we gather for four reasons: 1. To hear Jesus and be healed by Him, 2. To worship God together, 3. To be equipped to do the work of ministry, and 4. To be built up in Christ. He contends that all of this can take place only as every person gest involved-- bringing something edifying to share, learning to hear what the Holy Spirit is saying, and ministering to one another.
If you lived in the New Testament times, you prepared your heart to come to church, you prepared your heart to worship, you came expecting to be equipped for ministry, and you asked God to give you a gift to bring with you so that you might be used to strengthen someone else. This was the New Testament way of going to church.
Multiple Micro Communities
Someone noted that “thinking outside of the box keeps you from suffocating inside of one.” We must continue to allow God to shape us and our expressions of his church (ekklesia). He is an innately creative God. It is in this vein that I offer the following thoughts. This is not a definitive way to think of church community or gatherings. It is simply an alternative to a one-size-fits-all type of thinking that may free some of us to be more creative in our experience of church life and community.
I find that my own experience of ‘church gatherings’ involves, realistically, three or more micro communities. I have a couple of house church fellowships that I regularly connect to you. These provide a sense of God-connection, worship, prayer, Bible focus, and spiritual friendship. In addition, I have a specific support group and small network of friends that I frequent providing me with a place for deep community-life where transparent sharing and transformation is facilitated. Finally, I have a number of groups that I spend time with who share my mission focus and keep me accountable and motivated to use my gifts to make a difference in the world.
Having considered this, I am reflecting on three elements of church community that one does well to be intentional about, though there may be a variety of ways to incorporate these elements into our lives. Sometimes I, and others, refer to these three aspects as Up, In, and Out. They are also clearly outlined in Acts 2:42, 47.
- Up. This refers to fellowshipping with others in ways that encourage and build our vertical relationship with God: prayer, worship, Bibles discovery, etc. (Apostle’s teaching, prayer).
- In. This refers to sharing real life with one another. Transparency, ‘confessing of sin,’ and sharing our burdens and real-life concerns with one another. (Breaking of bread, fellowship).
- Out. This refers to our mission in the world to see others impacted by the power and love of God. (Favor with all the people).
There may or may not be one, specific group of people that provides us with all three elements perfectly, and multiple ‘micro communities’ may best suit us at certain times. I love the house church gatherings that I connect to. But those who gather are involved in very different missions out in the world. Therefore, I find it very powerful to also connect with those who are more specifically focused on the type of mission work that I am involved in. Thus my own need for a different micro community. Furthermore, I also find that the kind of deeper sharing that continues to bring healing to my heart and soul is best facilitated in specific types of groups or with a friend or two whom I can be fully honest with.
Again, I am not trying to prescribe everyone to my current ‘gathering’ scenario. But I have discovered that being intentional about all three elements of church (ekklesia) has given me a foundation for, perhaps, the strongest spiritual life I have had in my life. I believe the principle is that, yes, we need each other and that these three prongs provide us with strong community support for our walk with Jesus. The ‘how to’ of walking that out… well, that’s where there remains much room for creativity and exploration.
Share your experiences with this?
Sometimes we can look at the church here in the west and wonder if we, as followers of Jesus, are impacting people at all. Is the leaven of our lives working its way into the lump of worldly dough that we are surrounded by? Of course, such a pessimistic view is not warranted. Each of us, as salt and light, is always making a difference in the lives of those around us and we are finding wonderful ways to be used by God wherever we live and serve. God is surely at work and He will continue to use us to bring his kingdom to those who are ready.
But it is also good to step back and look at the global picture and realize that amazing things from a worldwide perspective have been happening, are happening, and will continue to take place.
Wolfgang Simson reports:
Our own continuous research has shown that the single largest apostolic initiative in the last 20 years is the house church movement. It has now crossed a historic threshold and milestone of 10 million new house churches planted globally since 1998 and has added at least 100 million new souls to the Body of Christ. This is why it is crucial that this momentum continues until it reaches what we call the “Starfish goal” of 200 million house churches/Kingdom communities (see: The Starfish Vision).
He also reports on this development in his own country of Germany:
Only recently (2018) one house church network, Hope Germany, has grown to more than 1,000 newly planted house churches, and there are about 40 other networks in Europe with typically between 50‐100 house churches.
Our own work, that takes us to many continents, allows us to see beyond our western world and remember that our own home-country is not the only consideration in God’s global plans. As such, clear progress abounds much of which is coming through movements of disciples making disciples resulting in hundreds and thousands of simple/house church gatherings starting in many parts of the world.
This article reports on the impact taking place by “movement ekklesia” which are disciples, as in the first century, multiplying rapidly without the need for dedicated buildings:
- Recently Credible organizations and networks reported approximately 2,500 movement engagements, including nearly 500 movements that had produced millions of new disciples. As 2017 ended, the count was nearly 650 movements with 50 million disciples!
- New disciples in ‘multiplying movements’ among the unreached are ‘increasing many times faster than any other large population on the planet.’
This report concludes that ‘thousands more movements are still needed, yet there are many reasons to hope expectantly for their continued multiplication.’
So, are you and I part of kingdom progress that is exciting, clear, and on the increase? Most definitely.