Pray and Love
Regardless of how we ‘be and do’ church, our first work is to pray and love. Nothing else will touch others and prepare the way for Jesus to draw them. Nothing else will actually make a difference in the world or in the lives of people. Nothing else can change us or those we love. Nothing else can and will change neighborhoods and nations.
- Pray and seek Him
- Pray and draw near
- Pray and ask for guidance
- Pray and listen
- Pray and ask for the Holy Spirit
- Pray and ask for the Spirit to draw others
- Pray and ask to be used
- Pray and ask for the grace to love others
A relative told me about meeting Billy Graham many years ago when she was a staff person in a government office. She said that what struck her most, besides his wonderfully blue eyes, was the way he had of talking to you like you were the only person in the room. His love was felt by his focused attention.
But love is a bigger topic than a blog post, or a book, or even a thousand books. The bottom line is that we, the church, need much more of it. It is a fruit that we long and ask for so that, when all else is said and done, God himself is glorified because we have grown in our capacity to express his love.
Perhaps if we can get prayer and love in its right place, the church becomes fully what it is meant to be without, really, any further instruction.
Starting Churches is Not the Mission
“Go into all the world and start churches!” You won’t find that in Scripture. “Go into all the world and plant house churches!” You can’t find that either.
You can find mission statements like “make disciples” or “preach the Gospel” or “the task of reconciling people to God.”
But even those statements must first be grounded in the question of “who?”
Our mission always begins with people. The people whom God has called us to. This must be the starting point. That is where we must begin to walk out an organic, Jesus-following, fruitful lifestyle with a Scriptural mission.
And every one of us have different people that we are called to.
- Some of us are called to encourage and support out-of-church believers. Yes, that can be a calling for a season.
- Some of us are called to work with people in prisons, or people on the streets.
- Some of us are called primarily to care for our own family for a season due to a variety of reasons (though generally God brings us to broader missions in time as well).
- Some of us are called to work with international students or to travel and work internationally—often in specific regions or among a specific people group.
- Some of us are called to work with Muslims in our own country or in another country.
- Some of us are called to work primarily within our own neighborhood, or country club, or hiking club, or…
- Some of us are called to work, and maybe live, within the inner city.
Here is my point. The ministry of reaching people, making disciples, and even gathering people into groups and churches begins with the context of the people that God has called you to. There is no other starting point. The ministry processes will look different depending on the context. The principles will be the same. The mission may be the same. But the methods, and tools, and strategies will all come out of the people that you are called to work among.
Start there! Know who you are called to and then you can focus on your mission to bring the Gospel and make disciples (followers) within that unique context.
Then and only then can you begin to adapt these principles of fruitfulness, as God leads, specifically to those whom you are working among:
- Possibly finding like-minded people who share your same mission
- Building relationships and connections among those you are called to
- Reaching out and sharing the Gospel (Good News) in a way that is Good
- Developing discipleship relationships (inviting people into knowing and following Jesus as you guide)
- Gathering in ways that fit with the developing disciples (followers)
- Help the developing followers to engage in their Scriptural mission to those they are called to
Simple Church Online Course: Register Now
You can now register for the upcoming “Simple/House Church Revolution Online Course.”
Beginning date is February 13.
NOTE, you can register immediately as there are only 16 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!
Non-Traditional Ways to Be and Do Church
One of the easy things about being a member of a traditional church is that someone else takes responsibility for providing programs for your spiritual growth. Your job is to choose the program and show up! This can work for us although, after some time, we may find it stifling and religious rather than life-giving.
But one of the challenges of stepping out of traditional church is that we find ourselves in the uncomfortable position of taking responsibility for our own spiritual growth and spiritual connections. The fact is, both of these are necessary for healthy, vital, Jesus-following living: spiritual growth and spiritual connections. They work together.
So, what does this look like when we are not relying on the programmed church to provide the programs for connection and growth? Indeed, more than likely a house church gathering (unless it has a lot of connectedness going on a daily basis) also does not meet all the needs we have for vital spiritual connection either.
Let’s reflect on some Biblical needs we have for sustaining spiritual health and consider the variety of ways we might go about deliberately building connections and gatherings into our life. The point is that there is no one program/gathering that fits every need, thus leaving the challenge to each of us to build in what works for us.
1. Spiritual Food - “Man cannot live by bread alone.” This is obviously a need that we can meet ourselves individually as we read and meditate on God’s word for ourselves. But others help us in the feeding process:
- A house church gathering where the word is broken open and shared with one another
- A Bible study with friends
- An online study or video or teaching - especially if there is additional interaction involved
- A discipleship group focusing on eating, digesting, and applying the word of God
2. Spiritual Friends and sharing life with one another - “Love one another…” and “Bear one another’s burdens…”
- A house church gathering of spiritual friends
- Coffee or a meal with spiritual friends
- An activity (hiking, working out, or anything) shared regularly with spiritual friends
- Prayer groups
3. Healing Community - “Confess your sins to one another that you may be healed.”
- A house church community that is safe and open so that vulnerability with one another can be shared
- A 12-step meeting or Celebrate Recovery group
- A very good, spiritual friend with whom we can share openly and be honest with one another
- A close-knit group of spiritual friends who meet regularly for open sharing
4. Worship, Prayer, or Deeper Spiritual Life. This is, again, an area where we are able to pursue this on our own but spiritual connection with others help.
- Small group worship times whether house church or others
- Large celebration worship events
- Prayer meetings
- Spiritual / prayer retreats
- Contemplative prayer groups
- Nature retreats
5. Personal Mentors, Disciplers, and/or Spiritual Directors - “I am a father to you in the Lord…” This is probably one of the most important and least sought-after connection whether people are in or out of traditional churches.
- A discipleship group in which I am being discipled
- An informal or formal relationship with a mentor or spiritual director
- Any ‘elder’ that you have invited into your life to guide, direct, challenge, or support you
6. Mission - “Go into all the world…”
- A house church that shares a common, spiritual mission
- A house church that encourages us in our own personal mission and missional lifestyle
- Any group of people that we share a common, spiritual mission with
- Involvement in a local mission cause or organization
- Connection/involvement with others who are going on mission
- Going on mission to other places or peoples
Note that some of these connections can be done virtually and thus do not, necessarily, require a face-to-face encounter though the latter is often much more potent.
The point? We were never called to ‘go to church’ where others program our spiritual life. But, we have been called to an intentional Jesus-following lifestyle which does include regular spiritual connections. We need these to live vital, spiritually growing lives. Without the programming of traditional churches we will need to step into rhythms of connectedness that work for us.
Have you lost intentionality in several of these areas and feeling the dryness as a result? It may be time to ask God for some direction as to how He might refresh you and connect you to others who might support you in one or more of these areas:
- Spiritual food
- Spiritual friends
- Healing community
- Worship, prayer, and deeper spiritual life
- Mentors / Disciplers
- Mission partners or encouragers
What is your experience with taking responsibility to develop healthy spiritual connections with others? What can you add to the different lists of ways to connect?
Seeking Out the Poor
Someone recently asked me what our African friends do at Christmas time.
First I replied that most of them travel, if possible, to spend time with extended family and enjoy those relationships. There is no expectation around gifts that cannot be afforded, but a few extra dishes for the Christmas meal turns it into a family feast.
But then I commented that many of our African friends, with a heart for those poorer than themselves and a passion to reach the lost, seek out opportunities to spend time on Christmas day in remote areas. They take a little extra maize flour or vegetables with them to help those who are living on bare subsistence to enjoy something a little more for their Christmas meal. Oh, and it makes for conversations around the meaning of Christmas very rich.
They intentionally seek out those poorer than themselves to be with and to encourage!
This was a reminder to me that Jesus, above all else, modeled what it meant to give up his own riches to seek out and spend time among the poor. Christmas is, above all else, a celebration of this incarnational heart of God.
I am not suggesting that every one of us needs to forsake our Christmas traditions and spend that specific day among those more needy. But we who espouse, the organic Jesus-following lifestyle might at least consider how, when, and where we may seek out those who have less-- spiritually, emotionally, or physically--and demonstrate God’s heart as he leads.
Oh, and let me give a shout out to our own December project that provides clean water for villages in Africa where disease from contaminated water is common. I hesitated to mention this here, but it seemed appropriate knowing that 100% of what is raised goes to directly to filters for families.
May Jesus be seen through us in all things...
Share your own comment about how you hope to see the reality of Christmas incarnated through you during this season or upcoming year!