In one crisis-ridden area of Northern Nigeria, the following simple document is releasing the church to catch fire in the midst of persecution. Even militant Muslims are finding the simple joy of finding and following Christ. The document: Within this...
‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ ‌ 

House to House - It's That Simple

In one crisis-ridden area of Northern Nigeria, the following simple document is releasing the church to catch fire in the midst of persecution. Even militant Muslims are finding the simple joy of finding and following Christ.

The document:

WhatsApp Image 2021-11-19 at 10.03.59 AM

Within this framework the church is free to be about the business of prayer, helping others, and sharing the stories of Scripture with others. Perhaps it really is that simple!

      
 

God's Graces in the Seasons of Loss

IMG_0345Perhaps it’s the season of life I am in, but it seems to have been a year of personal loss: saying goodbye first to a mother-in-law, then to a good friend, and more recently to two very dear friends. Losses, especially when they seem to pile up, can produce a sense of shifting sand under the feet and a disorientation around those parts of life that once seemed rock solid.

A short post like this cannot even begin to deal with the process of walking through loss, pain, and potential renewal. Such a topic is far too big. I only want to point to three overarching works of grace that I have experienced during this season in order to reflect on how I see God working during this time.

Graces in the Seasons of Loss

1. The sufficiency of who God is. Eventually, at the end of the day, loss does give way to a fresh perception and depth of experience with God leading to a deeper sense that He is sufficient in the fullest sense of that word. Again, I do not mean to make light of the processes of pain and letting go that we walk through during loss. I only want to point to the final stages in which God does work in all things to draw us more deeply to Himself. For me, this means that I discover in a more potent way, that God is father, friend, lover, counselor, caregiver, comforter, king, and the one who knows me fully and loves me more than any other. This grace does not remove the pain or grief or loss, it simply works within me a greater awareness of my own vulnerability, the vulnerability of life, and the deeper sense of eternal realities and God’s presence right in the midst of real life.

2. The recalibration of true-north and what is really important. I have also found that my sense of priorities have again been reset. I find myself regularly asking what and who are most important. I find myself re-discovering the passions and motivations that are in me that are God-inspired and God-gifted rather than internal drives that come from self-seeking and self-promoting agendas. While I often seem unable on my own to lay down self and seek first the things that I believe in my heart are most important, loss often rearranges me internally and allows me to receive the grace to refocus my life priorities. I want to hear God’s voice more. I want to see less of myself in my activities and more of God. I am willing to take more time to seek Him and I am more willing to be content with quietness and spiritual rest rather than frantic activity. Not that I won’t digress into more-of-me and less-of-Him, but I find myself drawn a little bit more toward those things that flow from His heart rather than from my needs for self-protecting or self-promoting.

3. The renewal of community that supports both #1 and #2. This last grace ties in with the overall purpose of this blog: organic (simple) community life that supports the church (ekklesia) to live out a reflection of Jesus in the world. Often, we need to live out our existing commitments to our communities whatever they look like or however difficult they seem to be. Other times, we are called to change, renew, or find/start new communities that more fully support our life-in-God as well as our mission-with-God. Either way, we re-discover that even with the loss of key relationships, we still need community and others to live fully our life and purpose. This may push us into new places, new relationships, and new expressions. This may propel us out of comfort zones and into completely different expressions of Jesus-community. This might re-orient us toward God’s current mission in our life which can drastically change who we find ourselves spending time with. All of these things are good as long as we allow God to reinforce in us our need for each other. As we know, this does not require an institution or a sermon because where two or three gather, Jesus is there. But it does require an intentional willingness to do life, however messy, with others.

Your thoughts?

      
 

House Church Global Report by Simson

HousesthatchangetheworldWolfgang Simson keeps us up-to-date with the house church movement globally. Here is his latest summary:

"In total there are currently (mid 2021) at least 22.6 million house churches worldwide with a total of around 300 million members. They are, considering all internal and contextual factors, by far the most viral, adaptable and multipliable segment of Christ‐followers globally. If their number continues to grow at a very realistic rate of 20% per year, they will reach a membership of more than 4 billion people within the next 30 years – while most traditional church systems are in overall decline. This is why the author (Simson), in his publications called Starfish Vision and Starfish Manifesto, encourages all servants of Christ worldwide to work together to see half the population of the planet discipled in our lifetime (see Mt 24:39‐41) through the massive planting of house‐based Kingdom Communities."

      
 

Church at Home: What is a Home Church?

Many years ago, as we began inviting people to consider 'church at home,' I wrote the following description. It may still be relevant for stirring up our imagination for what God can do in and through His people.

ChristLikeImagine Being Excited Again About Living For God!

House Church Life is not a new kind of church… It’s not “a church.” It’s not even a specific group of people. It’s a movement. It’s re-discovering what the Christian life is meant to be: alive, Spirit-filled, Spirit-led, a movement of Christians going and gathering as God leads.

Church is the people of God. Take down the walls and fire up the passion—it’s a movement!

Imagine Your Heart Beating Wildly For God--And Your Life Making A Difference!

Sometimes our Christian life starts to feel like a religious treadmill—step, step, step—lots of effort but going nowhere. What a contrast to the Book of Acts: “believers met together constantly,” “shared their meals with great joy and generosity,” “the building where they were meeting shook,” “many miraculous signs and wonders,” “believers greatly increased.”

Does “going” to a house church “produce” this? Not at all!

BUT House Church Life IS about pursuing what God intended the church to be: not a PLACE but a LIVING-WITH-GOD LIFESTYLE.

Church at Home: What is a Home Church?

Imagine a close spiritual family. 

  • One young family said: “We have developed some meaningful friendships and the group has become like an extended family.”
  • A single woman, mid-twenties, said: “Home church is a place where I belong, where people are concerned for each other, and where I can be who I am without any façade.”

Imagine food, caring, love, and simple heart-felt worship among friends. 

  • "We hear each other's stories."
  • "We learn to walk with God together."
  • "We pray for each other's healing."
  • "We cover each other's back."

"When Scripture talks about church, it means community. The little fellowships of the heart that are ouposts of the kingdom. A shared life. They worship together, eat together, pray for one another, go on quests together.” John Eldredge

“LOVE ONE ANOTHER” is meant to be at the heart of our Christian gatherings!

Aaron, “This understanding of the church excites me. It leaves the floor open to what the Holy Spirit wants to do. Not just in a far off future sense, but right now, right here, today. It forces us to leave our preconceived agendas behind and move as the Spirit moves us.”

“I just want to love God.”

Recently, a woman admitted how frustrated she had become with some of the complications of her church life. She blurted out, “Why can’t I just… worship and love God… that’s all I really want to do.

We want to get back to the simplicity of our faith. Just Jesus, simply Jesus, all Jesus. Love God with all your heart. Seek first… just Him.

CAN CHURCH BE THAT SIMPLE?

Take a fresh look at Scripture

  • “Church” = “ekklesia” means “people” not “a place”
  • Wherever they gathered—Jesus was in their midst
  • They lived simple, worshipful, shared lives—in caring communities
  • They demonstrated the love of God everywhere they went

Church at Home: What is a Home Church?

Everyone discovers his/her gifts, vision, calling, and life-in-God while living the House Church lifestyle. That’s what makes the diverse Body of Christ so powerful. It’s not about the vision of one man or one church, it’s about releasing the calling and gifts of every Christian.

"Note that the only way that Christ can be properly expressed is if every member freely supplies that aspect of the Lord that he or she has received. The Lord Jesus cannot fully disclose Himself through only one member. He is far too rich. In fact, His riches are inexhaustible (Eph. 3:8)! When every member of the Body functions in the meeting, Christ is seen. He is assembled in our midst.” Frank Viola

What a Single Mother Has To Say: “I have found it very healing to be a part of a church community where I am not invisible and can contribute to the life of the group… I am given the opportunity to walk in the gifts that God has given me…”

LIVE PASSIONATELY FOR GOD—SURROUNDED BY A SMALL FELLOWSHIP OF FRIENDS AND ALLIES

  • It’s not a fad—it’s a movement
  • It’s not a church group—it’s a lifestyle
  • It’s the Holy Spirit leading
  • It’s His love, it's simple, it's family

Church at Home: What is Home Church?

It is the missional base, the place of care, from which the Gospel and love of Christ is extended out to a hurting world. They know us because of our love, and we are the followers of Jesus living daily to impact the world like salt and light.

      
 

How the Power of the Gospel + House Church Transforms a Nation

Consider how God goes about changing a nation (taken from this op-ed in Newsweek) and what we can learn from this for our own local contexts?

Something religiously astonishing is taking place in Iran, where an Islamist government has ruled since 1979: Christianity is flourishing. The implications are potentially profound.

David Yeghnazar of Elam Ministries stated in 2018 that "Iranians have become the most open people to the gospel." The Christian Broadcast Network found, also in 2018, that "Christianity is growing faster in the Islamic Republic of Iran than in any other country." Shay Khatiri of Johns Hopkins University wrote last year about Iran that "Islam is the fastest shrinking religion there, while Christianity is growing the fastest."


Notice the shape and focus of the church in Iran that is producing this transformation:

Iran-secret-Christian-ChurchAs a clandestine phenomenon, the practice of what are sometimes called Muslim Background Believers (MBBs) lacks clergy and church buildings, but instead consists of self-starting disciples and tiny house churches of four to five members each, with either hushed singing or none at all. Its lay leadership, in striking contrast to the mullahs who rule Iran, consists mainly of women.

Notice also that such a transformation of a nation is not taking place within an environment that is friendly to Christianity:

Iranian authorities routinely arrest and jail MBBs, often for extended periods; for example, the United Nations reported in 2013 on "more than 300 Christians" who were arrested in the prior three years, mostly for vague security-related offenses. An inquiry found that "those arrested have been subjected to intensive and often abusive interrogation."

Finally, note how extensive this ‘revolution’ might become:

Indeed Lela Gilbert and Arielle Del Turco argue that the [Khameini] regime considers Christianity "an existential threat." And it should, notes Reza Safa, the Iranian-born founder of Nejat TV ("ministering to Muslims living in Farsi-speaking nations"), who titled a book The Coming Fall of Islam in Iran. He sees Iran's Christians as "an army of God" who are bringing Iran to "the brink of another revolution, this time orchestrated" by a Christian spirit.

Possible lessons to be learned?

  • The church and its influence is shaped by the power of the Gospel and the disciples of Jesus committed to its cause, not by governmental or political powers-that-be.
  • The church can and often does flourish in environments that are not welcoming to its message.
  • The church is not defined by clergy or buildings, but by ‘self-starting disciples.’
  • God is still in the business of transforming nations.

His revolution continues...