Living Church Primer
It is always good to review the basics of church which is, by nature, organic and living. Church is the people of God organically connected to God. At Pentecost, when the Spirit breathed upon God’s people, this organic connection came to life. Thus we see terms for the church like: ‘living church,’ ‘body of Christ,’ ‘seed planted that produces fruit 30, 60, 100 fold.’
When church is understood this way, its development becomes less about planning ‘how to build’ and much more about learning to facilitate the life cycle that is already inherent within it.
The simple DNA of the living church is evident:
1. Intimacy with Christ. The abiding living relationship with God is at the core of our life with God and the life that grows out of the church (God’s people).
Jesus did not invite us to follow a religion of rules, nor did he mandate an order of service or church structure to follow. He did ask us to follow him. Out of that flows all of the life, joy, and power that we need to live fully in him and for him.
2. Reaching out with love. The experience of being loved by the God of the universe produces an outward desire to love and reach others with the same Gospel love.
This is not a project nor a program, but a way of life that involves an outbreak of Jesus’ love toward others.
3. Disciplemaking as a lifestyle. This is not about what we have to give to others, but it is about relationships in which we come alongside people while they discover that God speaks directly to them. We walk with them but the word and the Spirit of God become the teachers.
The Bible, indeed, is far more powerful than we realize. It has the power to transform hearts and lives, all by itself, through the energizing of God’s Spirit.
4. Gathering simply and in a participatory manner. Gatherings are family-based and allow every person to grow spiritually, care for one another, and exercise spiritual gifts. Healthy missional-family gatherings continue to encourage the upward, inward, outward processes of loving God, blessing one another, and reaching out to others.
What we do see in Scripture are many different types of gatherings which took place frequently, naturally, and often spontaneously… They took place in normal, everyday settings and they fit into the rhythm of everyday life.
5. Empower others to go, reach, disciple, and gather. This is the function of ‘leadership’ as it seeks to serve others who are becoming fruitful, vibrant, and reproductive.
Everything is given away: spiritual authority, recognition, encouragement, opportunities to minister and serve. This leader empowers others so well that his or her own ministry goes virtually unrecognized.
Where does one begin?
It is difficult to get away from the idea that there must be a one-two-three blueprint to follow that will allow me to facilitate the growth of ‘a church.’ But it is more about lifestyle than planning and more about listening to God than following someone else’s map.
Still, there is an intentionality that can move us forward. These five rhythms become essential to discovering how God would have us walk with him in the growth of his church. There are many tools and methods for walking out each of these rhythms (perhaps a subject for another post), but through prayer and listening, God is able to lead us to those tools and methods that will be best for our context. When we are diligent about walking out these rhythms, God will lead:
- Godward Rhythm: How can I root myself more deeply in His love?
- Missional Rhythm: What field(s) am I assigned to sow in? Where is my Calcutta? Who is my next 'person of peace?'
- Discipleship Rhythm: Who has God provided to mentor/disciple me? Who can I invite into a discovery, encounter with God through His word to walk alongside as he/she learns to follow God for himself/herself?
- Community Rhythm: Who am I called to build one-another community with?
- Reproductive Rhythm: How am I empowering my disciples & community to do the same (#1 - #4)?
Five basic DNA elements of the living church and five rhythms to help guide us. Thoughts?
(All quotes are from the Simple/House Church Revolution book.)
The Church That Is Going
I learn so much more from those who take ‘the course.’
One of the participants asked a question referring to this quote from the Simple/House Church Revolution book: "The church is becoming unleashed as Christians are re-discovering the daring adventure of 'going' and taking the presence (love, life, and power) of God everywhere that they are going."
He then asked the question: What does that look like? Can you or anyone here give concrete examples, please?"
Some great comments ensued:
For years, the dominating church growth models have been centered around activity driving attendance to a meeting (inviting) with the hope that as people enter the building and experience God through the church service (having a rightly planned order of service) the invited will come away having been impacted and return inviting their friends and family. Jesus was less concerned about inviting people to experience God through a meeting and more concerned about meeting them where they were as he and the disciples went along the way.
When our neighbor calls me and asks if we can pick up her daughter from day care because she will be late from work. When another neighbor calls at 12 midnight and asks if we can drive them to the hospital because their daughter has an allergy attack. When a neighbor asks if we can accompany them to the grocery because they have a lot to buy. is that "going"?
A group of us go out onto the streets and offer to pray for people, we pray for healing, personal circumstances, ask God for words of knowledge and prophecy, we sometimes lead people in a prayer of salvation if and when we discern they are ready, we have just started meeting in McDonald's every other week so we can invite people for a free cuppa and connect them up, we're trying to be intentional and build community where they are.
80% of Canadians today will never enter a church. So how can we reach these 80% if we use the strategy of inviting them to come? The only way is to invite them to our homes where they do not feel threatened and do not think they will be bombarded by church stuff. It still starts with our going to where they are, start a relationship so that we come to a point where we can ask them to come to our home for a meal.
…a phrase we have been using in our house church is 'making disciples who make disciples', it's not a hanging on to people to build up an ever growing pyramid system of structure and leadership but an equipping and releasing mind-set.
Add your own thoughts and experiences with the ‘going church.’
Simple Church Online Course: Register Now
You can now register for the upcoming “Simple/House Church Revolution Online Course.”
Beginning date is February 2.
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 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!
Toward His Highest and Best
As we head into the new year, I have a simple thought based on a quote from Oswald Chambers. This quote is the basis for the title of His resilient book “My Utmost for His Highest.”
Not often, but every once in a while, God brings us to a major turning point--a great crossroads in our life. From that point we either go toward a more and more slow, lazy, and useless Christian life, or we become more and more on fire, giving our utmost for His highest--our best for His glory.
I cannot determine what the church at large will do as it continually comes to these turning points. I cannot decide for others how they will face life when such crossroads present themselves. But I can ask myself, as I head into 2017, am I at or near such a place of choice. And do I want to settle into the predictable and comfortable Christian life that I inevitably slosh into over time, or am I willing to face forward into whatever adventure God is calling me to in order to give myself fully to it?
For me, the paradigm of simple/house/organic church is not about a way to do church but a calling to continue to find Jesus in the stuff of life, follow Him, and pursue His adventurous calling while refusing to get boxed in by anything that wants to pull me back into the lazy boxes of yesteryear.
I invite you to face forward with me toward His highest and best.
Failure to Launch
You may remember the 2006 movie where Matthew McConaughey played the thirty-something who was not ready to leave home and launch out into the responsibilities of adulthood. This is a great picture of the church in the west. We are just not ready, in many ways, to grow up and take responsibility for our own spiritual lives and the mission/purpose of being ‘church.’
It may be that our backs are not up against the wall yet.
It may be that we have lived too long on comfort foods and easy spiritual programs.
It may be that we just don’t want to grow up and take on that responsibility for our spiritual lives.
Whatever the reason, the church in the west resists walking in its true nature of every-member-a-world-changer. Apparently the alternative-- easy participation in an institutional church program (whether regularly or from time to time)—is too readily available and too easily relied upon.
In the arena of our spiritual life, we have developed a dependency mindset. Easy to do. Offerings abound of amazing teachers, inspiring conferences, and events that spark—at least temporarily—our spiritual fire. Or, there are the comfortable gatherings, of people we are familiar with, that we can stop into, enjoy, and feel assured that we have done something significant even though others have prepared the food, set up the venue, and provided the welcoming atmosphere.
It is so much easier to look to others to feed us, prop us up, care for us when we are needy, and provide a spiritual program for us to consume. But have we done ourselves a disservice by not recognizing that our comfortable reliance on provided programs and institutions are keeping us from growing into the place of living dynamically with God in such a way that our gifts are overflowing to others? If so, we are perhaps missing the greatest joy in life.
Does that mean that change will finally come when our back is up against the wall? Neil Cole posits that forms of persecution are coming sooner than we think which will, inevitably, move us in that direction:
I do not think persecution is so far off. What would it take? Not much. I believe the pieces are already on the board and being pushed into play…
Like the Russian church prior to communism, our churches are dependent upon holy buildings (remove property tax exemption) and holy men (remove parsonage allowance) that perform holy practices in those buildings (remove tax deductible donations). Our vulnerability is quite obvious. These three areas of dependence will kill us.
I firmly believe that the more we move toward an incarnational, missional and movemental expression of ecclesia the better prepared we will be. We must be aware of our vulnerabilities and shift toward a form of church that is less easily destroyed.
Maybe this is, ultimately, how God will work. I can’t say for certain. But I do know that God’s plan is for a church that is fully mature. Therefore, in His way and timing, He will get what He is aiming for.
The full launch cometh eventually, ready or not! And with it, perhaps, the church’s most powerful and joyful time.